man’s shirt speaks volumes about his character. That’s not flight of fancy, you only have to look through history to see its power. It has been used to denote class and profession (blue collar, white collar, pink collar, dog collar), has implied solidarity with certain movements and has evolved as a literary symbol of extreme generosity or penance, patience or greed.

That the shirt is used to describe so many elements of someone’s identity derives in part from the fact that it sits closest to his heart, so why demand anything less than a tailormade approach?

Budd Shirtmakers hand-make the most beautiful shirts in their sewing rooms in Andover, Hampshire, which are then sold from their Piccadilly Arcade shop. Founded by Harold Budd in 1910, they are one of the last shirtmakers in the West End to still maintain a cutting room above the store, manned by three cutters with over 80 years’ experience between them.

Budd’s Piccadilly Arcade premises are something of a one-stop shop for dress wear, stocking everything from bow ties and braces to evening scarves, but especially those hard-to-find items, such as waistcoat slips, stiff bibbed shirts, detachable collars, sock suspenders and white leather gloves.

They can trace their history back to 1847, when two brothers founded Webster Brothers on Lombard Street, dressing the City of London’s bankers and stockbrokers. They continued to produce shirts in London until a compulsory purchase of the workshop in 1965, which was almost certainly in preparation for the World Cup. It was then that the sewing rooms moved to Andover.

The team there is still led by Di, who started in 1969, and Gwen, who joined in 1976. Both trained under the watchful eye of the Websters’ forewoman Fanny Moore, who instilled in them the attention to detail that comes with 100 years of bespoke shirtmaking heritage. Having finished the cut shirts for Harold Budd for many years, Webster Brothers merged with Budd in 1983, though both shops retained their trading identities until the ’90s. A recent change of hands has ensured that all of its inherited values have remained the same, from the cutting room to the sewing rooms to the shopfloor.

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Most details of a Budd shirt are invisible to the untrained eye – the thread count, the overlap of fabric in the shoulder tuck, luxurious shirt linings, single-needle stitching, pleating at the cuff or the hand-turned collars. But the real excitement for most Budd customers is the incredible breadth of fabric choices. Budd offers in excess of 3,500 variations from the world’s very best textile mills. So whether your travels take you to the hottest tropics or arctic extremities, Budd can ensure that you have the lightest linens or the warmest wool and cotton blends to keep you comfortable. It’s no surprise that Evelyn de Rothschild, Harry Oppenheimer, John Hurt, Edward Fox and Lord Mountbatten have all relied on Budd for the perfect shirt for any occasion or climate.

Then there are the cuff and collar size and shape decisions to be made. Finally – to monogram or not to monogram – then where to put it: on the left breast but you could go continental and have it stitched to the hip, or, as they do across the pond, on the cuff.

Perhaps most importantly, the company’s buying decisions are made in the shop, where you receive the respectful, experienced guidance that flows naturally from the cutters and shop managers. Budd’s Piccadilly shop today is a treasure trove of the essential classics for a man’s wardrobe, be it wonderful silk squares, hog skin gloves, socks in three different lengths and five different fabric blends, or custom boxer shorts. However, Budd’s best-kept secret is its selection of piped PJs and silk-lined dressing gowns, made exclusively for them.

Ultimately it’s the hands-on, tailor-made approach that keeps customers returning for generations. And while many shirtmakers, let alone their workrooms, have long since closed, Budd’s longevity proves that its shirts are a cut above the rest.



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