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Anatomy of a Mercer&Sons Button-down Shirt

5

February 22, 2019 by Ville Raivio

Mercer&Sons is a very American shirtmaker founded in 1982. It’s helmed by David and Serena Mercer, who founded the factory as a direct slap on the face of Brooks Brothers. BB once sold “The” American button-down shirt, but from the 1970 onwards began to make ever more small changes in order to make their shirts quicker and increase the profit margin. BB finally moved most of their production to lands on far away shores. This simply wouldn’t do for the Mercers, who wanted quality and American manufacture. Thus, they drew their own patterns in the 1980s but kept the details that most good American button-down shirts had held on to over the decades. Offset cuff buttons, lowered second placket button, dense buttonholes, loose fit, and an unfused, rolling collar. The hallmarks of Ivy League-style shirts.

Mercer’s 2-ply Pima cotton fabrics have been specially woven for the factory for decades. Today, Mercer offers boxer shorts as well as their RTW-selection. They only make four collar shapes, though, but the 8.7 cm long button-down version is clearly the most popular one. This one can be had without the collar buttons as a “Button-less” model, then there’s a spread collar with 7.3 cm long points, and a straight collar with the same measurement. By default, Mercer shirts come with barrel button cuffs. All shirts are hand cut and hand made in America, with single-needle stitching. On average, their sizing is very loose but customers can also combine collar sizes to body sizes. The example shirt has a 15.5-inch collar on a size 14-body, along with a taper of 4 inches on the hem. Mercer sent over this OCBD-shirt, or oxford-cloth button-down shirt, for Keikari’s perusal.

First, the fabric. It drapes extremely straight even on a hanger. There is enough heft and body in the yarn, so I will call the fabric a heavy weight. Unlike, say, on a flannel shirt or an overshirt, the oxford cloth that Mercer uses has a very smooth and flat surface. The yarns seem to be woven with a small unevenness, so the fabric looks interesting and reacts well to light. It doesn’t crease much and the weave is loose enough to allow heat as well as moisture pass. I believe this is the kind of oxford cloth that the better shirts used to be made from.

Then, the collar. It is 4,3 cm high at the back, which makes it an extra high one, and the points are 9 cm long with a spread of 8 cm. Combined with the soft construction and hefty fabric, this collar truly rolls. It has one of the most beatiful rolls I’ve seen.

Next, the make. The seams are straight, the plastic buttons are small and clean, the French seams are dense, there are no loose threads, the buttonholes are extremely tight, the box pleat at the back has around 5 cm of loose cloth for comfort, the front and back hems are long to cover all naughty parts. On this custom size, at least, the cuffs are slim and fit close. This is not common enough these days. The shirt is well made in my eyes.

In short, this is the best damn RTW button-down shirt made in America. Just like I had read elsewhere and now seen with these own two eyes. The only things I would change is the extra large cut, which is a default option, and the plastic buttons. Otherwise it puts the things Brooks Brothers calls a shirt to shame and shows what dedication and commitment can achieve. If there truly is a better OCBD-shirt, do let me know in the comments.


5 comments »

  1. J.M. Louis says:

    Even my swaddling was OCBD, but do not burn me at the stake when I say that there is life beyond a button-down. In addition to Mercer’s OCBD, I would recommend, from extensive personal experience, that Mercer’s modified spread collar is also a perfect compliment to the soft construction. The modified spread lies perfectly on the chest. As a change of pace, the modified spread is my preference for Mercer tattersalls and checks. Also, it is especially convenient that, on request, Mercer will send a small swatch of a fabric in order to eliminate the guess-work. My custom modifications include a 15 X 33 standard shirt that substitutes a size 15.5 collar, a 7 button front, and adds gauntlet buttons.

  2. Ville Raivio says:

    Heya!

    I won’t provide them because I don’t like the American units. Ten-digits are mathematically clearer.

  3. Jan Liboure says:

    I bought my first shirts from Mercer in 2012. I now have 35–about half my shirt wardrobe. Need I say more?

  4. JoelVau says:

    Great shirts. Thanks for the thorough description. But do you provide a metric conversion version of your text into American measures? :-)

  5. J.M. Louis says:

    I have worn Mercer shirts for a number of years. The quality and style are impeccable. David and Serena Mercer place great emphasis on personalized customer service that is rarely found anymore in todays world. In my opinion, Mercer shirts have no equal. Of course, I may have a bias in as much as there are dozens of Mercer shirts in my closet.

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