August 9, 2019 by Ville Raivio
Kamakura is a Japanese shirtmaker founded in 1993 by husband and wife Yoshio and Tamiko Sadasue. They began as a small store in the namesake city, Kamakura, and have since expanded into 25 outlets around Japan. The greatest inspiration for the company’s designs and detailing is the all-American Ivy League style of the 1950s, which reached Japan in the ’60s. In 2012, Maker’s Shirt (the formal name of the company) braced itself and crossed an ocean to branch out to the USA. This is all fine and dandy for any company, but the most important points for me, when I read about Kamakura first some 7 years ago, were their Ivy inspiration and price-quality match. Not too many Japanese shirtmakers have successfully reached out to international customers, but Kamakura seems to offer something sweet.
Kamakura uses single-needle stitching, 22 stitches per inch, shell buttons, and take pride in using un-fused collars and cuffs. Chest pockets are sewn askew to appear straight when worn, and sleeves are sewn curved to follow the natural line of the hands. All shirts are made in Japan, though this excludes Kamakura’s Neapolitan lineup which wouldn’t be very Italian if made elsewhere.
The company has a made-to-measure program that allows small changes to stock sizes, and free range with the choice of collar and cuffs. Kamakura offers 11 collar models: Semi-Spread, Open Collar, Spread, Cutaway, Tab, Round, Pinhole, Button-down, One-piece, Straight, and Wing. The last two only on black tie shirts. Cuffs are limited to 3 options, a rounded button version, french cuffs, and a convertible one. Currently the Kamakura web store has 35 pages of shirt models, which makes for some 700 permutations. Few companies have such a range, though this does overwhelm the man who’s unsure.
As for lineups, Kamakura offers casual shirts which are not really meant for tie pairing, vintage Ivy models, Italian cotton models, a laid-back 134-collection, shirtings with 200 or 300 or 400 yarns per square meter, short sleeve models, black tie shirts, oxford cloth button-downs, Indian Suvin cotton shirts, easygoing traveller shirts, Chinese Xinjiang cotton shirts, Neapolitan shirts, even corduroy shirts. The company has grown into ties, bags, coats, trousers, belts and others but the core remains in shirts with a great price-quality deal. The maker has four cuts: a slimmer and regular Tokyo as well as a slimmer and regular New York. The Japanese one is closer to the body in both versions. The webstore delivers to all locations, free of charge for orders over 138USD. The company reimburses part of the customer’s VAT payment as vouchers, though this needs action from the customer as proof must be provided. Kamakura never has sales.
In today’s post I am reviewing a button-down shirt from Kamakura’s regular lineup. The only difference with this one is the fabric as seersucker is rarely used in finer collar shirts. This really is among the most interesting points with Kamakura: their range of models and fabrics is so large that there’s bound to be something for most men, if only the cuts appeal. Regarding the cut, this Tokyo slim fit is definitely among the most form-fitting I have tried, both on the body and sleeves. The closest comparison I can offer is Suitsupply’s extra slim fit.
The chest in size 38 has the usual measurement of 56 cm, but I wager that the front panel has been cut smaller than usual, with more room at the back. This makes the chest fit very close and very clean, though only on a slim body. The sleeve is only 40 cm at the top, 32 cm on the elbow, and 22 cm on the wrist. While I’m at it, I must note that the cuffs fit closer than on any other RTW shirt I’ve tried, at only 20 cm from button to hole. As for the collar, it is 4.4 cm tall with 8.6 cm long points. This is enough to make it stand out, more so with the wonderful collar roll which is only possible thanks to the un-fused construction. The lining is strong but bendy.
Most Kamakura shirts retail for 89 dollars on the web store, but this quickly rises to more than 100 euros after customs duties and VAT are added. All stripes have been carefully matched, a fine feat especially on the sleeve tops as the sleeves have been sewn in an angle. Buttonholes are clean, seams straight, the fabric feels soft and nice. The placket is swell and wide, without fusing. The cuffs have the usual rounded end, but they have also been sewn on in an angle. I’ve rarely seen a similar construction. The buttons are generic.
The only negative point with this shirt is the button attachment, likely all must be sewn on again within the year. The threads are loose and shoddy. Only time will tell how the shirt wears and behaves after a few years of washing, the fabric’s manufacturer is not mentioned and it only has a single-ply thread. Still, all this combines to make a shirt that, in my view, is the best damn price-quality deal I have found so far. It is not the finest in make or fabric or rarity, but offers so much for the price point. It is a very well made shirt with an interesting fabric and a truly slim cut, delivered to the doorstep from Japan in less than two weeks. The Japanese show once again that they must be taken seriously in men’s classic clothing.