I’ve now gone through two cycles of ordering shirts from Modern Tailor, and am sharing my thoughts on the experience so far in this review. Briefly, Modern Tailor is an online men’s clothing merchant, and typifies the trend towards Internet shopping and doing away with the hassles of going out to a store. Everything in life has its tradeoffs, and shopping is no exception. It’s not hard to think of things that take the fun out of shopping in person – traffic, parking, crowds, crappy service, poor selection, messy stores, rude shoppers, etc.
So, before getting to Modern Tailor, I’m building a case for online shopping – of any kind. I’m not a big shopper, but if there’s a way to avoid those hassles, you’ll get my attention. To be fair, there are things about going out to shop that I enjoy, and sometimes the overall experience trumps the shortcoming, especially if you get what you wanted – and even better if you get some unexpected surprises along the way like a sale or purchases of things you didn’t plan on.
Interestingly, those unexpected surprises are just as likely to turn up online these days, and the better online shopping sites get at replicating the in-person experience, the more successful they will be. Every bricks-and-mortar business has its KSFs – key success factors – and you don’t have to look much further than book or music retailers to see what happens when online alternatives improve on those KSFs.
One could argue those are easy businesses to take online, and clothing is just too personal to work this way. There’s a lot of truth to that, but this hasn’t stopped virtually every major apparel player from going down this road – either directly with their own websites, or through retail distributors like department stores. So, if you think that buying men’s shirts online is a bad idea, keep on reading.
The two strikes that come up right away are getting a good fit and how the material looks and feels. Personalization is one of the Internet’s virtues, and Modern Tailor addresses these issues pretty well. Let’s start with the first strike – getting a good fit. When ordering shirts, their website has a well defined and easy to follow process. Once you’ve selected the shirt type and style (more on that later), you have two options for sizing. The easy route is to just go with standard sizes – just as you would in a store with whatever is in stock. This is a good option if your build is pretty normal, or if you’re not too fussy about fit.
However, Modern Tailor is a tailor, right? Nobody shops at a tailor for off-the-shelf clothes. This brings us to the second ordering option, where you are prompted to provide exact measurements for all the elements that go into crafting a shirt. It’s a bit of work, but you only have to do it once. The menus clearly lay out each step, with instructions about to take all the measurements yourself – arm, neck, sleeve, torso, etc. Once all the measurements are entered into your profile, you’ve now created a blueprint for future purchases. This brings me back to personalization – thanks to the Internet, you can now get shirts that fit more precisely than anything you’ll get walking into a store – unless of course, it’s a tailor.
However, Modern Tailor is much less expensive than your neighborhood tailor shop – these shirts run about $60 – many are less - which is about what you’d pay in a store, but here you’re getting a custom fit. The only risk is that if you provide inaccurate measurements, the shirt won’t fit so well. So, I guess if you don’t trust yourself here, either go to your local tailor and pay a lot more, or settle for an off-the-shelf fit.
If you’ve ever had made-to-measure clothing, this is a no brainer. There’s nothing like having clothes that fit 100% right, and based on the two shirts so far, Modern Tailor delivers on that brand promise. My shirts fit great, and unless my body changes materially, I can keep ordering shirts with confidence, knowing they’ll fit right every time.
This brings me to the second issue – look and feel. One of the best parts of shopping in person is seeing a shirt that you just know right away you like – and want to have. Then you pick it up to feel the fabric and look it over more closely. You can’t touch the fabric on Modern Tailor, but you can do just about everything else. When you select a shirt on their site, they provide multiple views of the garment, including close-ups to highlight the pattern and detailing, such as the collar or the cuffs. For my liking, they provide enough views to get a pretty good idea of what you’re going to get.
Once you select the shirt style, then the fun begins – and this is where the personalization really comes into play. There is a seemingly endless series of options to customize every facet of the shirt – collar type, cuff type, color of buttons, breast pocket type, inset stitching, monogram – just to name a few. Most options are standard – no cost – while a few are a la carte. There’s absolutely no excuse to get a run-of-the-mill shirt here. If you want your shirts to have personality, you can’t do better than this, and there no way you’ll get this shopping retail.
So, aside from not being able to touch the fabric, there’s not much missing here. Perhaps the biggest plus is the selection, which I haven’t mentioned yet. There are literally thousands of shirt styles and patterns to choose from, so this takes the personalization theme of the Web to a level that no store – or tailor – can possibly match. Of course, the onus falls on you to scan through them all, but if you’re looking for something different – business-style or sporty – get a coffee, sit down and go to town.
Once you get by these issues and buy into the premise of online shopping, there’s one psychological issue left to address. Buying in person has one advantage you just can’t beat – the best part of shopping is taking the purchase home and getting to use it right away. We rarely buy things and put them away for six months – the fun comes from enjoying them right away.
With online shopping, you have to live with the anticipation of waiting for the product to arrive. With Modern Tailor, you just know it’s a global operation, and the garment is made overseas somewhere. These days almost everything in stores is made overseas, so why should this be any different? As such, you would naturally have some anxiety about how long it will take not just to have your shirt made, but to receive it.
Both are very real concerns, and for both my shirts, Modern Tailor was great – not only was the overall process fast, but they managed it very well. Once my order was confirmed online, they provided regular email updates as to when the shirt was made, when it was shipped and when I would receive it. All told, I had my shirts in hand within 10 days of placing my orders. When you consider that the tailoring is done in Hong Kong, and I live in Toronto, this was a pretty impressive turnaround.
As for the shirts themselves, I’m really enjoying them. The fit – as mentioned earlier – is great, and the quality of workmanship is very good, especially for the price point. When ordering online, I knew the shirts were 100% cotton, and my only suggestion is that the shirts have a label confirming this – along with washing/care instructions. This is standard practice, and I’m not sure why they don’t do that.
Otherwise, I would recommend Modern Tailor to anyone who likes shirts and wants to stand out from the crowd. I should add this is just the beginning – there are plenty of online sites that only offer shirts, but Modern Tailor has it all. Their selection of ties is excellent, and of course, they can make you a suit. So, I look at shirts as the first stage, and if they provide great fit and quality there, that’s a big step towards earning my business for a suit – and I won’t have to fly to Hong Kong to boot! So, can they take your order?