The Jeff Banks Shirt is probably among the best in the world – a premium cotton number that’s loaded with detail. What makes it so special? The man himself is here to take us through it…
I think – arguably – Jeff Banks makes some of the best shirts in the world.
It’s a claim that I often make, and it’s because I know the background of them; they really are a bit special. So, I’m just going to open up this one and just talk a little bit about what the ingredients are that actually make these particular shirts so special and different.
The first thing is the fabric itself; all Jeff Banks shirts are made in 100% pure cotton. They’re not only made in pure cotton, but they’re made in a very fine gauge of yarn of pure cotton which actually means they have a wonderful handle to begin with, but then on top of that, every meter of fabric that we produce goes through a liquid ammonia treatment at -50 degrees. If you look at a natural cotton yarn under a microscope, it’s like a hairy leg; it’s a natural fibre.
The liquid ammonia at -50 freezes that hairiness off the leg, so it makes it particularly smooth, as if you’d shaved your legs – and that makes the fabric extra soft to touch, very easy and very comfortable to wear – so it doesn’t feel abrasive.
In addition to that, the liquid ammonia compacts the yarn of cotton, which has the effect of pre-shrinking it – so again – when we weave our cotton fabrics, they’re already pre-shrunk. It makes ironing very easy. So that’s – first of all – the benefit in the fabric.
All of the designs of the fabric are absolutely exclusive to me. I take a lot of time and care working with our manufacturers, so we get exclusive designs that are not available anywhere else, and it’s something that I’m quite proud of.
Next up is lots of interior features. So, again, on the armholes of all the Jeff Banks shirts, there is an interlining which is placed on by hand, and that interlining means that you always get a very smooth shoulder to the armhole, and that means that you don’t get what’s called ‘roping’.
I’m sure that all of you have seen a shirt where you wash it once or twice, and it’s got this rope defect on the armhole. The same applies down the side body of the shirt – so – down the side seam, we apply individually – by hand – an interlining, that means the side seams of the shirt are absolutely perfect.
The next element of it is a lot of what I call hidden secrets, that – again – every shirt, every detail in it, I fuss over, to make sure there’s something which is individual in every shirt.
So, when you look, first of all, at the inside of a Jeff Banks shirt, you might not see it until you open the packet, but there’s always an element of contrast fabrics that I’ll be selecting, that tone together to give an added piece of interest on the inside – you might not notice it, but when the shirt is open, you will do.
When it’s closed with a tie, it’s hidden, but you know it’s there. Also, things like this stab stitching alongside the inside collar – I choose the contrast colours in all of these, individually, to make sure there’s something special about them.
Most shirts, when you actually look at them right the way across the price range, they always have white buttons on.
Why? I’m not sure… Whether it’s laziness or whether it’s convenience, I’m never too sure.
On a Jeff Banks shirt, I make sure that we dye the buttons to either contrast, or to match, with the fabric that we’re doing, even down to the colour that we sew the button on with. I choose the colour of the thread, and not only do I choose that, but I also choose the colour of the thread on the buttonhole.
Look at some other shirts and you’ll find they just sew them with white thread, white buttonholes, white buttons… minimum of effort. You don’t get that on one of my shirts.
Then in terms of detail, if you look at this shirt that I’ve got here – down the side of the placket, inserted, is a bias-cut contrast strip, which is 2.5 millimetres wide, sewn in with absolute precision.
So, along the length of that placket, that little contrast strip never varies; it’s absolutely 100% accurate. On the inside of the shirt – again bias cut – there’s a binding on the inside – and the precision that has gone on to sew that in… absolute accuracy.
If you look at the back – we always have what is called a split back neck on one of our shirts, and the reason for that split is, if you cut the back yoke of the shirt in one, the grains run in horizontally, and when a man puts his on – whose shoulders are never absolutely 100% horizontal – there is a slope to the shoulder, and this bias cut and the yoke of the shirt takes that slope in the shoulder into account.
So, an expensive shirt has always got a split back yoke, but on this one, not only do I do a split back yoke, but I’ve made a contrast feature of it, so inset into the yoke is this extra bit of special detail, so when you take your jacket off, there’s just something about this that makes it special.
When you look at the cuffs – again – on the cuff detail, we could’ve just had a straightforward ordinary cuff, but I’ve put a contrast strip across the cuff, I’ve also cut the cuff through the centre and then had our workshops make the cuff up so that all of the cuff fabric are cut on the bias, and all the diagonals of the stripes absolutely match identically.
So, when you look at the pattern that is created here, where all of these stripes match exactly, they come together exactly with 100% accuracy – that’s real craftsmanship, and when you look on the inside of the cuff, it’s actually got the contrast fabric that was on the inside of the collar.
So, those are all the special elements within a Jeff Banks shirt which I think make it very special and I’m especially proud of.