Hamilton Shirts's long tenure as America's standard-bearer for bespoke shirting is all the more impressive considering that the brand hails from an unlikely place. Hamilton's handsome workshop in Houston is home to an attentive team of pattern makers, fabric cutters, and seamstresses who turn out what's been called the best custom shirt in the country, without succumbing to the temptation to embroider horseshoes onto every shoulder. That almost Italian tradition of quality and craftsmanship is alive and well in Texas thanks to the efforts of a hardworking frontier family that is increasingly determined to make its products more widely available.
The original Hamiltons, brothers Edward and J. Brooke of Virginia, were on their way to raise sheep out West when they got sidetracked in Texas and helped found a men's clothing store. A century later, in the 1980s, the company's shirting arrived at Barneys New York, where it did so well that the influential retailer asked if Hamilton would handle its custom business as well. Hamilton Bespoke, a limitless level of customization, and Hamilton Made-to-Measure, a more limited range of options, are now aspirational mainstays at Barneys and other destinations nationwide. But custom shirts are a relatively small corner of the shirt market: Most American men buy off the rack.
According to David Hamilton (co-Hamilton-in-Chief with his sister Kelly), the company's new ready-to-wear lines (dress shirts and the versatile 1883 sport shirt collection) are its fastest-growing segment. "Hamilton has always been about commitment to craft and making the finest shirt possible," David says. "Classicism is the foundation of all we do, but the 1883 line, particularly, has given us an outlet to explore more contemporary designs and create the 'new classics.' "
Our fall button-down of choice might well be Hamilton's 1883 Western shirt in luxurious brushed twill. Traditional details like a curved yoke, flap pockets, and engraved mother-of-pearl buttons are pulled together in a more subdued, slim-fitting design, avoiding the faux cowboy look of Western shirts past. The subtle herringbone pattern in Italian cotton walks the line between rough-and-ready denim and high-end menswear in the same way the Hamiltons have walked the line between their Texas roots and high fashion.
Also worth checking out is the new Lyle Lovett for Hamilton range, a fresh collaboration with the musician, actor, and longtime client, who's currently guesting on the border-crime drama series "The Bridge." Lovett's button-down is basically his own neat-and-trim custom shirt extended to the public in 22 print and fabric variations, all with the native South Texan's trademark touches, such as three-button barrel cuffs and dark-horn buttons. The man's got a good eye. [$245; hamiltonshirts.com]