Variety is the spice of life, right? This charming platitude might have some value when it comes to what you’re going to have for dinner or your weekend plans, but unfortunately when applied to fashion, it’s all too often used to justify fits of sartorial excess. Case in point, attempts to jazz up an otherwise acceptable custom shirt with tacky embroidery in a misguided attempt at originality and distinction.
We should tell you right now that by the word “embroidery”, we’re not talking about simple monograms or sewn corporate logos (which aren’t likely to cause much controversy and are largely considered acceptable ways to add personality and individuality to a shirt). We’re referring to mens dress shirts which showcase intricately designed needle-work graphics that go above and beyond the standard accents most tailors can offer.
Broadly speaking there are three types of embroidered shirts, for three types of people. First, you’ve got shirts with flowery, sage brush-style bib and yokes for square dancers, folk singers and aspiring cowpokes. Second, you’ve got the more “hardcore” shirts for death metal fans, which usually feature some kind of scrolling Gothic or skull-and-brimstone motif sewn into them. Finally, for retro-minded hipsters, or aging hippies who actually lived through the 1960’s, you’ve got vintage (or “vintage”) embroidered shirts which usually feature some kind of psychedelic, multi-colored pattern available in thrift shops and a growing number of ultra high-end retail shops.
Of course, shirts like the Guayabera (aka “the Mexican wedding shirt”) and various forms of traditional clothing from Europe or Africa also feature embroidered patterns, but fall outside of the rules of style and are exempt from our thesis, which is this: embroidery does nothing for a man’s shirt. Much like screen-printed shirts, it’s well nigh impossible for a man to wear a shirt covered with needle-work and be taken seriously – try wearing one when you go to meet your girlfriend’s parents for the first time and see for yourself. If you want a distinctive shirt that won’t cost you your dignity, we recommend overlooking embroidery.