Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Tale of Two Gitmans

Superlative quality plagued by sizing inconsistencies



I picked up a couple of Gitman Vintage oxfords recently, and I have to say their attention to detail, quality of construction/materials, and their sturdy oxford fabric in particular are all great. Gitman Bros are known for their craftsmanship and completely Made in USA production from start to finish. Their Gitman Vintage branch incorporates interesting and archival fabrics into a "more contemporary silhouette," or slimmer than their main line, to oversimplify things. While I've never been a fan of some of the louder, crazier patterns GV is famous for, they also make some simpler oxfords with the same loving care put into the rest of their work.

Hmm...

Back locker loop, box pleat for movement
Gitman uses the same Cambridge oxford cloth today they used for their first stock shirt made in 1978, which hasn't changed at all over the years. A longer button-down point collar than we are used to seeing today, back locker loop, split yoke, and center box pleat, rear collar button, pleated cuffs, durable chalk buttons, and double track stitching with a stitch density of at least 18 stitches per inch all translate into a shirt that feels substantial in hand and miles apart in construction and fabric from cheap oxfords available, let's say, from a place like Uniqlo (of late cheap oxford fame).

Split yoke, rear collar button

I'm not knocking Uniqlo, as there's only so much you can do at a $20 price point - I own some myself actually - but the discrepancy in build quality is noticeable, and in retrospect I wish I had just spent a little more on something of higher quality to begin with. I also don't buy $165 shirts, but a lot of guys swear by GV and they're not wrong. I picked mine up for ~$40's on clearance at Century 21, at which price I think they're a tremendous value...

...If you can get them to fit you. In person. That shirt that you tried on yourself. In that color.

Left: Uniqlo Slim Oxford, Right: Gitman Vintage
Stitch density (almost twice as dense as Uniqlo), chalk vs. plastic buttons

Pleated sleeves, angle-cut cuffs
This is what the title of this post is getting at. Great product, but the rumors seem to be true: the proportions may be different than what you are used to, sizing is often off, and I've seen personally they can differ substantially from shirt to shirt. Here's a third-hand quote from a prior customer as related to me: "Gitman Vintage's sizing is like an alien tried to design clothes for what he was told humans look like." For their part, GV note on their site that they've "updated the fit [of Gitman Vintage] for a more contemporary silhouette. With a trim body, higher armhole and narrower sleeve, it’s neither super-slim nor crazy boxy. In other words, it fits just right."

Placket and curved hem detail
Most of the shirts I tried on myself fit a good size smaller in the chest than your average mainstream brand like J. Crew, with a narrow cuff and smaller collar size as well. I'm more of a standard small in most brand casual shirting, and trying to button on a small in GV I could imagine what Victorian ladies felt like lacing up their corsets. I went up a size in the oxfords to a medium, which surprisingly still had a collar more snug than I would like on my ~15.5" neck but otherwise fit pretty well with a fairly narrow sleeve cuff.

Hmm...

However, when I tried on a couple other GV shirts in medium I was swimming in them - enough that I checked the tags again to make sure I hadn't grabbed the wrong size. I've read plenty of comments as well from customers who have had problems with sizing variation, even between colors as well as complaints about the proportions. It's enough that I would be very hesitant to buy Gitman Vintage online without a risk free return policy, though some sites like Unionmade have individual measurement charts on many GV shirts they sell (though you should note that their oxford measurement differs from the experience I had in person with a different color oxford). I'm not going to pretend there aren't a lot of brands out there that having sizing inconsistency issues, but this is one of the worst in recent memory.

So, on the one hand, I think Gitman Vintage clearly make a high quality product, and if you can nail down your fit I think you'll be impressed with their more traditional fabrics. On the other hand: there is that big "if."

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