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What Makes an Expensive Dress Shirt So Expensive, Anyway?

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Shirt gusset image via <a href="">Thomas Pink</a>
Shirt gusset image via Thomas Pink

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Remember a couple months ago when Thomas Pink gave away shirts at Rockefeller Center and the line stretched for hours and hours? A lot of people wondered what was the big deal about some shirts. Well the Wall St. Journal took a look at what exactly makes an expensive shirt expensive, and it turned into a shopping guide for high-end ready-to-wear shirts with London designer Brian Clarke, who says that most customers don't understand about 75 percent of the elements that go into making a high-quality ready-to-wear shirt.

Fabric, of course, is one of the major differences, but it's possible to treat a cheaper shirt with chemicals that will make the fabric look more luxurious, at least until it's washed. The fabric should feel smooth yet firm, and Clarke recommends holding the shirt up to the light to check the density of the weave. Higher-quality fabric is made of a denser weave that lets through less light than a more inexpensive option.

Next up, check the cuffs and collar for some slack between the outer and inner layers of fabric and interfacing. On a striped shirt, make sure the pocket stripes match up with the background, and that the sleeve stripes match those on the yoke (that part on the upper back, across the shoulders.)

He recommends looking for gussets on the side seams where the tail splits. It will be a little triangle or square of extra fabric, and the ones on Thomas Pink shirts are pink. Clarke also says to check the size of the stitches and make sure there are at least 15 per inch, but you'll probably look a little crazy if you are in a store counting all the stitches on all the shirts all day.

There's a lot that goes into making a shirt, and every step has higher- and lower-end options. Apparently it even comes down to what kind of sewing machines are used to make them. Brioni's shirts are sewn on older machines that create only 150 to 300 stitches per minute, while newer machines get up to about 3,000-4,000 stitches per minute. So obviously there's a bunch of reasons behind the higher price tag on certain shirts. Our question for you is: Will anyone notice, and is it worth it if they don't?
· A Shirt's Tale [WSJ]
· Lineblogging: Thomas Pink Shirtpocalypse Rages On [Racked]