About the Author: Adam Terry is a 30-year-old Technical Trainer in the heating and manufacturing industry. He’s #menswear by day and #workwear by night. He enjoys raw selvedge denim, Scotch whisky, and working on maintaining his dad bod.
After three years of regular wear and tear on my Banana Republic Tailored Slim Fit dress shirts, I’m finally in search of a replacement. For me, a good dress shirt should fit well off the rack with minimal tailoring; should be made well enough to stand up to years of weekly wear; and should be easy to care for. My budget for a workhorse dress shirt is about $50.
J.Crew’s new Ludlow stretch shirting with neck and sleeve sizing looks good on paper, but how does it compare to other budget-friendly options? I tried some of their new end-on-end cotton stretch shirts for a week. Here’s what I found:
- Maker: J.Crew
- Cut: Ludlow Slim Fit
- Style: Semi-spread collar
- Size: 15.5″ x 34″
- Fabric: 98% cotton, 2% elastane
- Construction: Collar and cuffs are lined and fused
- Country of Manufacture: Mauritius
- Price: $69.50 or 3/$150
- Specific shirt shown in this post: Fairweather Blue End-on-End Stretch Cotton
15.5″ x 34″ on 6’0 and ~180 lbs
Measurements, Fit, and Details:
- Chest: 22″ (pit to pit)
- Waist: 20.5″ (6″ down from chest)
- Bottom Hem: 21″
- Shoulder: 18″
- Back Length: 31″
- Collar: 16″
- Collar Width: 2.5″
- Sleeve Length: 34″ from center back
- Sleeve Length: 25″ from shoulder seam
- Cuff Width: 4.5″
- Placket Width: 1.25″
At 6’0 and ~180 lbs., I’m about as “Average Joe” as it comes. For Alpha-sized shirts, I normally go for a Medium. For shirts with actual neck and sleeve measurements, I go for 15.5″ x 34/35″. I prefer slim to trim-fit cuts, as classic-fit shirts wear like a tent and those skinny-fit shirts feel like compression underwear. The Ludlow shirt in 15.5″ x 34″ fits really, really well off the rack.
The Ludlow cut is pretty trim. I’d compare it to Charles Tyrwhitt’s Extra Slim Fit, although it’s not quite as trim. The Ludlow shirt noticeably flares out at the hem, causing the excess fabric to bunch a little at the back when tucked in. The CT ESF shirting doesn’t do this – it has darts down the back helping to keep the waist and tail very tidy. You can minimize the look of the excess fabric with a Military Tuck or a tailor can add darts. I find the overall length perfect for tucking into dress pants. This shirt is not meant to be worn untucked.
Semi Spread Collar. Nice shape.
The collar has an excellent semi-spread shape, which should work well with various ties and tie knots. I’m partial to the Windsor and Four in Hand knots – both look great here. If you prefer wider or fuller knots, the small 2.5″ collar may not be the best choice. The collar and cuffs are lined and fused, which seems to be standard on budget dress shirts. A full, non-French placket is surprisingly rare these days and a welcome addition. Sleeves have a single-button barrel cuff measuring 2.5″ tall and 4″ wide when buttoned. The lack of a chest pocket helps keep this shirt on the “business” side of business casual.
The end-on-end cotton/elastane fabric is surprisingly nice. It’s a bit thinner than your run-of-the-mill twills, but it’s not so thin that you can easily see your undershirt through it. Color wise, I’m a huge fan of this shade, aptly named Fairweather Blue. If you close your eyes and try to imagine “light blue dress shirt”, you’ve got it. The slight cross-hatchy weave adds subtle visual texture but the fabric remains flat and smooth to the hand. The hint of elastane in the fabric mix adds a touch of stretch without compromising the overall look, drape, and feel. Some of the modern performance fabric dress shirts look like they belong on a boat, not in the boardroom (I’m looking at you, Mizzen+Main).
The end-on-end, cross-hatchy weave on this particular shirt.
For those of you who like non-iron fabrics and easy-care shirts (let’s be honest, most of us hate ironing), it doesn’t get much easier than this. When washed on cold, dried on low, and allowed to hang up overnight, there were no noticeable wrinkles or trouble spots. Shrinkage was minimal as well. Over the course of the day, wrinkles stayed away. That’s a win in my book.
Overall quality, fit, and finish, is typical for J.Crew and definitely a step up from your entry-level options from Target, H&M, or Uniqlo. When compared against similar shirts from Charles Tyrwhitt, the reigning champion of budget-friendly dress shirts, things get a little more complicated. I do believe the J.Crew Ludlow shirts are superior, but it’s a very, very small step up in quality.
At full price, I think $69.50 per shirt is asking too much. Charles Tyrwhitt shirts are perpetually on sale for ~$40 each, and Brooks Brothers shirts regularly drop to the $60 range. For a little more coin, you can even go full made-to-measure through sites like Luxire, Proper Cloth, Ratio, Ledbury, etc.
The J.Crew Ludlow stretch shirting with neck and sleeve sizing is a $50 shirt all day. They fit pretty well off the rack, come in various colors and patterns, seem to be made well enough to last a while, and are easy to care for. If you can catch them on sale or grab them during a multi-buy offer, I would recommend them. I’ll be keeping this one to see how it ages over the next year.