Old Money Essential: Mercer and Sons Shirts

Mercer and Sons Shirt

As you know, I rarely recommend products of any kind on this blog because living an Old Money life is not about being a consumer. Quite the contrary.

However, there are a few products out there that warrant mentioning.  One of them is the shirts made and sold by Mercer & Sons, a company based in Maine, run by David Mercer and his wife Serena.

The company has been in business since 1982 and is famous for its traditional button-down collar dress and sports shirts. You can visit the website at www.mercerandsons.com.

David Mercer was educated in Boston. Like Old Money, he buys articles of clothing for himself that are going to last a lifetime and never go out of style. His blue blazer is 30 years old, and he has shoes that are even older than that. Nevertheless, he’s incredibly well-dressed.

Not surprisingly, the quality and value-oriented philosophy that informs his personal style carries over into his shirt making. Mercer shirts are incredible comfortable and durable, and seem to get only better with age.  The fabrics are among the best available, and the craftsmanship in the construction is world-class.

They are not inexpensive, but do the math: a Mercer shirt that sells for $135.00 (or less) and looks great for 10 years (or more) is a much better investment than a cheaper shirt that might last 2 years. What’s more, Mercer and Sons shirts are made by hand here in the USA, not in sweatshop conditions somewhere overseas.

The only potential downside to owning a Mercer and Sons shirt is the distinct possibility that it will be confiscated by your Significant Other frequently, and she will look better in it than you do. C’est la guerre.

So when you’re ready to invest in your next shirt, consider Mercer and Sons.

– BGT


9 thoughts on “Old Money Essential: Mercer and Sons Shirts

  1. For years the only shirts my husband has worn to work have been Brooks Brothers. He has sort of a system: shirts in good condition he wears to the office, slightly frayed he wears to the club and for informal social occasions and tattered he wears around the house and for extremely informal get togethers. Recently he mentioned that he needs some new shirts for work. Because I had recently read this post (I know, I’m reading them out of order), I asked him if he was familiar with Mercer & Sons. He said he had heard of them but didn’t know much about them.

    The other day he told me that he had looked into them and was delighted to find that Mercer & Sons makes shirts with an unlined collar which Brooks Brothers used to do but no longer does. I wasn’t aware that this was something anybody cared about, but apparently some men do. He says it gives the button down collar a soft, bell shaped roll that he likes. Anyway, he says he’s going to order a couple (if I know him, one white and one blue) and we’ll see what he thinks. Thank you for the recommendation Byron, and if you’re interested, I’ll let you know how he likes them.

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    1. Thank you, Amy. Yes, if your husband orders a couple, please let me know how he likes them. Two things to be aware of: when you buy Mercer shirts ‘off the rack’ (the white or blue oxford cloth button downs they have in stock for immediate shipment) you’ll get a shirt that has a very full cut in the body and sleeves. So know that. If your husband chooses to have some made to order, David Mercer will work with him to discuss fit options and custom details.

      Second, the fabric on the Mercer oxford cloth button downs is initially very stiff, almost canvas-like. Don’t be alarmed. Just wash and wear them a few times. They’ll soften and hold up forever.

      Finally, it is true that some Old Money Guys who seem incredibly nonchalant about their wardrobe in general are absolutely obsessive about details involving the collar and cuffs of their dress shirts. Your husband may be one of these men. I know that I am, but I have no idea why.

      Keep us posted! Thanks again… – BGT

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  2. I wonder whether you have a checklist of specs (fabric weaves, etc) when you buy MTM/bespoke.

    I have considered M&S shirts years ago, and again, recently. But on me, full cut (even with trims) looks sloppy rather than nonchalant. Import duties are a drawback.

    Indeed, there are a few acceptable ready-to-wear brands. But there is no longer anything American about them: made in Bolivia, China, the Philippines, etc. Plus, the logos are ubiquitous. Unfortunately, Cordings shirts don’t fit me.

    If you ever find yourself having too much time, please start an OMS (Old Money Shirt) business in Paris.

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    1. As coincidence would have it, I have been investigating MTM bespoke shirt options here in Paris. The Mercer and Sons shirt is a distinctly American style. As I don’t want to stand out as an American all the time here in Paris, I find myself wearing Eton shirts from Sweden. They are very well designed for slim torsos. The fabrics have a fine finish. The construction is top shelf.

      Regarding vendors here in Paris, I tripped upon JLR, a tiny shop down the street from San Sulpice. The owner appears to have a wide variety of collars, cuffs, and fabrics at reasonable prices (130 to 390 euros, depending on the fabric). He has a minimal amount of square footage in his shop, which means his overhead is low. And I think it may be a one-man operation in the store, with the shirts actually made in France (which is important).

      He does fused collars and cuffs, which are convenient for ironing and travel. While I doubt the shirts don’t approach the artistry or variety of colors and fabrics that, say, Charvet or Turnbull & Asser might offer, the prices don’t approach those eye-watering levels, either.

      As for my Rules of the Road, I tend to have only one shirt made after an initial fitting. Wash and wear that a few times and see how it adjusts. Then I go back to the shirtmaker and say, 5 more just like this one, or, let’s adjust this here and that there. If the fabric is rare, I have an extra collar and cuffs made. When the original collar and cuffs begin to fray (years later, one would hope), I simply return to the shirtmaker and have the extras put on. Bingo: new shirt.

      I usually go for a balance between quality and price on the fabrics, getting the softest and most subtle fabrics I can for a moderate price. I like unlined sport coats to slide easily on and off against the shirt fabric.

      I don’t really do oxford cloth for MTM. That seems more like an off the rack purchase. But that’s just me. As I age, I’m also allowing more room in the torso and sleeves. Not a full cut, but not the Italian-tight cut that I once favored.

      I also favor a higher collar, slightly longer sleeve, and longer tail than what is usually available off the rack. I’d hesitate on the two button barrel cuffs. I always have trouble buttoning those. And make sure you consider what kind of watch–if any–you’ll be wearing with the shirt, as one cuff might be larger in diameter than the other in order to accommodate the timepiece. Monograms on the inside of the collar or left rib. Extra thick mother of pearl buttons.

      I may be telling you things you already know. If I do decide to purchase from JLR, I will let you know via email. We can discuss. Thanks again… – BGT

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  3. Great tips, Byron. Eton would be an option if I had regular sizes. A serious brand and EU-made, which I find a plus.

    JLR sounds like the kind of shirtmaker I am looking for. Small-scale, no frills, informative website. I like the collar lining/height options. At the cost of sounding pedantic, I would prefer in-house confection. 165€ for made in France seems correct, but there are shipping costs. Purchase could combined with a trip, though.

    I have been looking into a small, family-run Portuguese MTM atelier, which has been active for over 30 years. They are known to deliver to the Portuguese elite. Prices are up to 120€. Most fabrics are around 60-70€ for Egyptian, 2-ply cotton, 100 to 120 thread. However, there are only 4 collars and 2 cuffs to choose from. I will send you a link, since I don’t want to share brands I have no experience with.

    The Rules of the Road are clever. I always start with one shirt for each new fitting. Since I benefit from tailoring, I tend to go MTM, even for an OCBD. The price might be higher, but the shirt will be more versatile. I feel that a better fit, without standard logo, is easier to dress-up. You are right, I won’t order 2 button cuffs again.

    I have been ordering at an MTM shop in Belgium. Downside is that the shirts aren’t EU-made. I might try a Portuguese OCBD, if not only to update my measurements. Would be interesting to compare the confection quality afterwards with e.g. JLR.

    Thank you for sharing.

    PS: For shoes, I can recommend Paris-based Septième Largeur, which you may already know.

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  4. Hello Byron,

    I was in communication with Serena Mercer a few moments ago and placed an order for my second shirt from them. I told her about your book and that I had met you. (She’ll look into your book.) A great company. Really nice to have personal contact in this day and age.

    Regards,
    David.

    Like

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