The art of tailoring: What makes the perfect shirt?

Charles Tyrwhitt Design Manager Spencer Riley believes that the trick lies in the right collar.

Nicholas Charles Tyrwhitt Wheeler started his menswear shop in 1986 because he thought he could make a better shirt than anyone else.

His shop, Charles Tyrwhitt, is based on Jermyn Street, famous for its resident luxury shirt-makers. They also have shops in Paris, New York, Washington DC and Chicago. They call themselves ‘the home of proper shirts’.

After years focussing on the basics, getting the finest materials, building their collection to include shoes, suits, and accessories, they are now looking to take their wares online, including delivery to Ireland.

We spoke to Spencer Riley, the Design Manager for Charles Tyrwhitt about the art of tailoring and what it takes to find that perfect shirt...


Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at Charles Tyrwhitt shirts?

It is my job as Design Manager to make sure that the team at Charles Tyrwhitt are highly technically skilled, well versed in our customer’s likes and dislikes, and with curious minds. And that they make a good cuppa, of course. They have everything they need to do it brilliantly.

What was it that attracted you to the world of tailoring?

I’m not really one for fast, disposable clothing and I love making things ‘properly’. Over the course of my career I’ve designed all types of menswear, but my ‘specialist subject’ is shirts. That’s because a great shirt is more than the sum of its parts. Each and every detail, including fibre, yarn, colour, fabric, cut, styling, pattern and finish, is meticulously designed. The knowledge, history and traditions held within the tailoring trade fascinate me so the opportunity to work for one of the best tailoring brands was something I had to take up.

As offices around the world are starting to become more relaxed about dress codes, do you think there is still a place for suits and shirts in day-to-day life or is it becoming more of a specialty?

A Tyrwhitt shirt or suit is researched, designed and built to perform every day. So while traditional suits and shirts still take pride of place, we offer more relaxed options too (like our business casual range) and show our customers how to adapt their wardrobe for the modern workplace.  Ultimately it is about helping men to look smart and dress properly, whichever kind of office they work in.

What are the characteristics of the perfect shirt?

Personal comfort maketh the man. Quality from fit to finish. The right collar for the way you will wear it.

Is there any trick to keeping your shirts looking like new? Dry cleaning only? Or can this be done at home?

Dry cleaning can actually be really bad for your shirts, so try to wash them at home at a low temperature for the best result. Or you can pop one of our non-iron shirts in the tumble dryer for a quick spin and they come out looking like new.

What do you think are the three main shirts every man/woman should have in their wardrobe?

My favourite three are the perfect white shirt – a non-iron twill or poplin would be a good choice; a dress down Friday shirt, which can be anything from our Business Casual range, although I favour a royal gingham; and a unique shirt, where you can have fun with colour or texture, something like our Imperial Weave that still looks smart but is uniquely different.

What’s the best tip you would give to someone looking for that special shirt?

Quality should always come first, but you don’t want to be recycling the same couple of shirts every week so always make sure you have enough choice and more than one ‘good’ shirt. The right shirt will make you feel confident because you are comfortable – don’t let anyone else tell you what to wear.

From now until the 16th of July, Charles Tyrwhitt is offering readers an exclusive deal of €29.90 shirts, plus free delivery! Visit to claim this offer or call 1 800 939 400 and quote ‘Newstalk’. T&Cs apply visit website for full details