How to extend the life of men’s shirts

How to extend the life of men’s shirts

Q. I remember you wrote something about turning a shirt collar inside out, or having a tailor do so. How does that work and how much would that cost? Is it worth it?

A. “Turning a shirt collar” and other tailoring refurbishments are options to extend the life of your clothing. The repairs are almost always less expensive than purchasing an entirely new item; but if the wear and tear is more involved, you must decide if you’re merely buying yourself a few more wearings.

I generally recommend repairs for either: 

  1. pieces where an unusual stain or damage to one area has left otherwise-excellent clothing unwearable and may not be worth the effort, or
  2. An item so favorite and irreplaceable that those few more wearings are worth the expense to you. (It’s always interesting to look on eBay or a similar site to see if you can purchase a used item in better condition to replace it.) 

Turning a collar is indeed an old fashioned term, but the concept still makes sense and it is still being­ done. ­ The actual process involves knowledge and skill. There must be enough fabric so what will be seen at the end will look perfect. Though wearing a shirt with a frayed collar may seem like a small detail, it is a flaw apparent to anyone who sees it, and it does not reflect well on you. 

Turning the collar of a shirt is just what it sounds like. The collar is removed and reversed so the inside is out and the outside is in. Obviously, this is not a simple or inexpensive project. Still, if you’re dealing with a very fine shirt, it can certainly be worth it.

Very often a man’s favorite shirt frays at the collar and gets worn looking, while everything else about it is still in perfectly good condition. Collars take the most abuse because that’s where the fold is repeatedly ironed, because when starch is used on collars it wears down the fabric, and also because a man’s beard or stubble rubs the fabric and puts more strain on it there. If you wish to continue wearing an otherwise fine shirt without embarrassment, this may well be a smart way to go.

Back in the days when everyone’s grandmother turned those collars, good men’s dress shirts might cost as little as $25. Today, many fine ready-made shirts cost from $120 to $250, and it’s not unusual to find designer shirts at Ralph Lauren that go up to $500. Obviously, you can find tons of shirts from major brands at far lower prices, but this sort of pricing is not unique. So, if your shirt is a luxury brand and/or you are really fond of it, why would you want to throw it away (and then shop for a replacement) just because the collar is frayed?

Because not everyone’s grandmother can do this, and the local seamstress may not be up to doing a perfect job, I often suggest a professional establishment that has for years been making this and other types of alterations, L. Allmeier. These professional shirt surgeons can be trusted with anything that can be done to a shirt: turning a collar, replacing collars and cuffs, adjusting the neck size, shortening sleeves, tapering, and monogramming. Individuals, as well as fine men’s shops, have been sending them shirts from across the country for decades. L. Allmeier’s email: or call (516) 652-3232. 

Options for tailored clothing refurbishment include tapering excessive fullness, shortening trousers, adding elbow patches on jackets, and button replacements. Oriental Alterations in Little Rock can handle all manner of repairs and refinements, and they also turn collars (501) 758-7155. Since even the finest men’s tailored clothes do not look good if they do not fit well, it is wise to seek out the very finest tailor you can find. This is an area where it is worthwhile to get the best!

Accessories are commonly refurbished, repaired, or re-tailored. I have frequently mentioned Tiecrafters, a unique shop in New York City that has been in business for decades with their unusual  techniques for widening, narrowing, lengthening, shortening, and cleaning neckties. These make sense for an excellent or favorite tie with a color or pattern that you are especially fond of or that has always been just the perfect something to complete a handsome combination. Since ties have become outrageously expensive in recent years (some well beyond $200), paying $37 to alter a tie that you really like is a wise decision. And they clean a tie perfectly for $11. Tiecrafters: (212) 629-5800.

You might be interested to know that a really knowledgeable and skilled dry cleaner/tailor can make your not-so-new suit or blazer look like a recent purchase.  

Finally, shoes — depending upon the wear or the issues – may be brought back to much of their original glory in the hands of a skilled shoe repairer. However, hats may be in a category that is just not worth the effort.  

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