Monday, November 24, 2014

Mercer Shirts

Classic Pima Oxford in Blue on the left, and the James Bond Favorite Racing Green British Brushed Cotton Tattersall on the right.  Mercer Shirts are famous for their collar roll....
Mercer & Sons is a small company that makes shirts the old-fashioned way, offering traditional style and fit.



There was one reader of TDP who was so exasperated there had not yet been a post on Mercer shirts..  He had been "euphorically happy with Mercer shirts for years", and viewed the world somehow not right until these "real deal" shirts graced these virtual pages.

He loved the 100% cotton, with its thread count and non-non-iron feel.  He loved the pure, classic cut.

And there was one detail he loved most of all.  He wrote,
Something that only a true purist cares about is the collar roll, on the OCBD. Absolutely the best, IMO. Others have tried to take the shirt apart and copy the collar, but the roll that competitors come up with never approaches the perfect "bell shape" of the Mercer roll. 
Maybe the most compelling advantage of being a Mercer customer involves the fact when you call the 800 number, you talk to Dave Mercer, in person. He seems to know you personally after a short time, and will do whatever it takes to make you a satisfied customer. Could be the Maine heritage. 
He signed off, "Just one customer, with no interest in Mercer, with the exception that I hope that Dave and his wife Serena never decide to retire."

Along the way, this reader also described the shirts as being a great value.  He was not the first person to say this, which seems like a strange compliment for a shirt that is by most accounts not cheap.   This is because these last a very long time.  And for many people, the total cost per wearing will be significantly less than even much cheaper shirts.

Finally, for those thinking ahead to the holidays, while Mercer shirts are individually hand cut and custom ordered, Mercer stocks their heavyweight Pima Cotton oxford button downs, with their generous cut,  in both blue as well as white.

Links:
...as well as the button placement on their barrel cuffs.


Made in the USA, they arrive jauntily tied with a "ribbon" of shirting fabric.

25 comments:

Michael said...

Dear Muffy,

I want to second everything your exasperated and euphoric reader has to say about Mercer & Sons shirts. I only have six or seven of them in my closet right now, but that's because they wear so well that I haven't needed to replace them. They make the nonpareil, archetypal, classic OCBD. And it is an absolute throwback pleasure dealing with Dave and Serena. They were still in Little Compton, RI, just over the Sakonnet Bridge from me, when I first bought one of their shirts. Their personal service, grace, and exemplary shirts deserve to be rewarded with all the orders TDP's readers can send their way. Michael in Portsmouth

ChildDoc said...

Unfortunately, for the somewhat less than corpulent, the "artchetypal, classic OCBD" offered by Mercer is frequently an awkward and unsatisfactory fit. While I would wholeheartedly agree with assertions re. the beautiful roll of the button down collar, there is way too much fabric throughout the rest of the shirt body--as Mercer & Sons would laud, this is a very "full cut" shirt. For point of comparison, their full cut would equal or exceed the already excessive cut of the Brooks "Traditional Fit" (translated--need to watch the diet and exercise more regularly). To get around this issue, I have tried ordering a 14.5 body with a 15" neck (in Brooks I would wear a slim or extra slim shirt, 15/33). Even with this gracious accommodation on Mercer's part, there is still way too much fabric around the waist.
For point of reference, I am 5'9" and weight 150 lbs., with a 39" chest and 31-32" waist. My BMI would be around 22 (i.e., very appropriate and desirable for my height/weight). As Mercer's shirts are otherwise extremely well made, it is a shame that they cannot branch out a bit to offer shirts with a fit more appropriate for those in the market that try to stay reasonably fit. The fabrics offered, and the workmanship, are indeed superb--if not designed for a body type like mine.

Michael said...

I'm much the same size as ChildDoc--5'11, 150, 32 waist, 16 neck--but I like Mercer's traditional baggy fit. That's what makes it classic. As with the sack jacket and the regular-rise trousers, traditional, Ivy League-style clothing isn't slim-cut, form-fitting, or European in its tailoring. De gustibus non est disputandum, but Mercer's trademark, after all, is "Baggier and Better." The company is making shirts for those customers who still appreciate the traditional cut. Any number of shirtmakers offer the fit ChildDoc prefers. Even Brooks Brothers is making it hard to find their classic, full-cut, must-iron OCBD's. I'd hate to see Mercer & Sons do what everyone else is doing, rather than what it does superbly, in its own way. Michael

Anonymous said...

Not trying to cause a stir but there motto is, "Baggier is Better"

If you want a slim fit model and go to Brooks.

My two cents...

Joyce N said...

I think shirts or any piece of clothing that is so snug that the material or buttons/holes strain, is too tight. It is not a classic look. One needn't look sloppy but the fit of one's clothes should look classic. I think this applies to both men's and women's clothing. Just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

These shirts look terrific. I love that collar roll. I'm another who prefers the traditional, baggier fit of J. Press and BB. These are now on my list to order.

I have to ask as I see Muffy's drawers so neatly stacked and stocked with well-pressed shirts: Do you send out to a cleaner or launder and hand iron your OCBD shirts? I ask this as a serious question and not just to Muffy, but the community, too.

Cheers,
Gary

BlueTrain said...

Well, I for one do all of my own laundry. My wife is a schoolteacher and has no time for stuff like that. She doesn't understand why I just don't send my shirts to the laundry. There are two reasons.

One is because the laundries I've used don't do any better than I do, although their cost is actually quite reasonable.

The other reason is because I've had things go missing at the cleaners, things that I went to a lot of trouble and expense to have. For a time, a long time ago, I bought shirts from a shirtmaker in England. I wasn't crazy about what we now call "classic" clothing and I wanted British made things. I liked the stiff collars better than the soft button-downs that were for sale in the college shops where I went to school. I'm still like that.

I looked at the Mercer website. Yes, their shirts are fairly expensive but I think I've actually paid close to that for a few of my shirts, though they're not dress shirts. But I must have justified it to myself somehow. Anyway, at this point in my life, I don't really need anything that's going to last a long time.

ChildDoc said...

Not to belabor, but rather clarify my comment, I am not suggesting that Mercer & Sons eliminate or replace their full cut ("Baggier is Better") fit, I am rather suggesting that they might broaden their appeal/market (and accessibility of their product) by including a somewhat trimmer cut as well. After all, if it is getting harder to find "classic, full cut" it may well indicate that there is a significant demand for well made products like Mercer--just many people, no matter how nice the fabric and construction, do not want excessive ("bagginess") to their any of their clothing.

Will said...

Corporations have been working tirelessly to reduce the amount of fabric to save on construction costs and shipping from China, and spending a lot trying to retrain our eyes. Preppy is classic, and I will be wearing classic clothes well after this trend blows over and all of the tight clothes go the way of the Brady Bunch.

Anonymous said...

Own some tattersalls. First rate shirts. Reminds me of vintage B2 with collar roll & full cut. Old school grownup shop. Definitely not for J Crew -AF hybrid metrosexuals.

scotmiss said...

Your clothes should fit your body - no gaping, pulling or need to wear Spanx 24/7! As one who refuses to buy anything with spandex, the thought of an all spandex garment makes me ill. Personally, I prefer my clothes and those of my husband, to be a good fit but definitely not sloppy. We found a custom shirt maker and a good tailor and that has worked for us for more than 30 years. Most of the time we launder our shirts - dry cleaning does too much damage to the fabric.

WR said...

I am short and thin and adore the Mercer baggy fit, and have for years. These shirts are a great value. The oxford cloth boxers are also simply the best I have seen. Same great fabric as the shirts, and a waist band that is covered. This prevents this dryer from damaging the waist band. With most boxers, the waist band usually gives out, long before the fabric does, because of dryer heat.

Patsy said...

My husband can thank exasperated reader for either his Christmas or birthday gift this year - these look right up his alley.

@scotmiss, most cleaners will launder, not dry clean, shirts. I wash and press my husband's play shirts from J Crew (apparently he is a closet metrosexual!) and send the nicer dress shirts out. It's also a lot easier to pack them, since we get them boxed, not hung.

Anonymous said...

Patsy, thanks! I meant to write dry cleaners not cleaning. I think they use excessive heat and that seems to weaken the fabric. Gobble, gobble everyone!

Sayford Ford said...

it would be nice if they sold the shirts at a retail location here in nyc

Sartre said...

Who cares if choosing a shirt is a rational decision or an emotional one? Did we all miss the memo?

In any case I've been purchasing from Mercer for years and I don't believe the shirt has any competitors. The Mercer shirt is a completlely different garment than (for example) anything on offer from Brooks. And I mean anything. The blogger Heavy Tweed Jacket did an in-depth analysis of Mercer vs. Brooks (for all you left brained folks) and the differences are substantial. Now, whether those differences are worth paying extra for is up to you.

As for the full cut: I've noticed that they no longer include the slogan "Baggier Is Better" on the label of their shirts, but I hope that this is their only concession to current fashion. A bit of bagginess in an oxford is essential.

Anonymous said...

A link to The Trad's thoughts on Mercer:

http://thetrad.blogspot.com/2010/03/off-my-back-mercer-sons.html

Samuel said...


I was thrilled to see this and even happier that I ordered four this week and they won't be scheduled behind the new customers. These shirts are a bargain. As for fit I have the 17-5 neck placed on a 16-5 torso and it meets my needs as well as a custom fit. David is absolutely candid when discussing orders. Just yesterday we debated the 7 versus 6 button front and the placement of the top button. For those of us who don't fit well in the sport shirt s/m/l world their fabrics are perfect. Brooks isn't in the same league.

Paul Connors said...

Muffy,

In the second photo down, the blue shirt shows a "moire" pattern, probably caused by the way the light refracted through your lens. It gives an interesting effect to the Blue OCBD.

Paul Connors said...

I agree with anonymous @ 7:24 PM: if you want slimmer, go to Brooks Bros and by the Slim or Extra Slim fit, another of the styling monstrosities inflicted on us by "if you don't like our products, go somewhere else" attitude articulated by the extremely arrogant and pedantic Claudio Del Vecchio, who every day comes up with new ways to destroy a storied brand.

John G said...

Good discussion. I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who could compare the fit of the Mercers to the J. Press (which fit me almost perfectly).

Cathie said...

What about women? I want a comparable women's oxford with the same grade of material?

John Rosevear said...

I so wanted to love these shirts. I took careful measurements, emailed back and forth with David, placed my order -- and was both thrilled and completely disappointed with the result.

The collar is indeed, the best in the business, hands-down. (Distant second place at twice the price: BB Made to Measure ordered with *unlined* original button-down collar.) But even though I'd ordered it with 4" slimmer body line, my Mercer shirt was so over-cut that I looked like a little boy wearing my Dad's shirt. Tucking didn't help: the pocket was in my armpit.

I am 6' tall, 200 lbs, 43" chest, 33" waist -- but 17.5" neck, which was likely the reason it didn't work. Those old BB fitting charts didn't contemplate the possibility that a man with a big neck might not also have a substantial belly. If David ever relents and does something akin to a modern BB Slim Fit (which is, on me, very traditional-looking), I'll be first in line -- but until then, I must sadly shop elsewhere.

NaturalShoulder said...

For those with fit issues consider ordering a small body size than neck size and ask David to further trim the body. I still get what I consider to be a full cut shirt without substantial excess fabric.

ECHE said...

If you want cheaper shirts made to a lower standard, the world beckons.