Review: Ratio Clothing’s “Handcrafted in North Carolina” Dress Shirt
Over the past several months, Modern Fellows put two of Ratio Clothing’s custom dress shirts through the motions. We found a remarkable and competitively-priced American-made dress shirt that uniquely balances convenience, fit, fabric and a desire to make sure the customer is happy with the final product.
Read on to find out why it’s been a pleasure to get to know founder Eric Powell as well as to understand how Ratio differentiates itself from other online custom clothiers — and to discover a handful of design options that are available but not emphasized on its website.
Why Ratio Clothing?
Ratio Clothing was born of several frustrations founder Eric Powell felt when it came to finding a well-fitting dress shirt. Off-the-rack garments never fit quite right, while online custom clothiers often required extensive and cumbersome self-measurements to pinpoint that unique fit. Eric’s solution was to found Ratio Clothing, which emphasizes ease of ordering and quality fabrics. Ratio also promises a perfect fit and manufactures their shirts in North Carolina, and has garnered some glowing reviews from everyone from Dappered to Valet. All of these things made the company a great candidate for Modern Fellows’ custom project. (For more on Ratio Clothing, see Modern Fellows’ interview with Eric Powell.)
The Daily Hookup first alerted Modern Fellows to Ratio Clothing. Modern Fellows purchased a voucher from the Daily Hookup to put towards Ratio’s Harrison Tattersall shirt with a spread collar. Eric subsequently offered to provide a White Signature Twill shirt with a semi-spread collar at no cost to Modern Fellows for the purposes of a review. This article is based on impressions of both shirts.
Ordering online from Ratio Clothing is remarkably — unusually — simple and straightforward. The reason? You only need to know three pieces of readily-available measurements: sleeve length, neck circumference, and suit size.
You then choose between several simplified options for shirt length, fit (tailored or regular), collar (English spread, button down or semi spread — my favorite and not always available from online custom retailers), cuffs (one-button barrel, two-button mitered or French), back (center, side or no pleats), pocket (yes or no), and placket (standard or seamless). The shirt is then ready to go in your cart.
The entire process can easily be accomplished in under 5 minutes, and requires virtually no self-measurements, assuming you are already familiar with your neck and sleeve sizes.
Alternately, if you would prefer to incorporate more precise measurements into the process, you can order via a separate set of instructions available elsewhere on the site.
Upon opening the box, the most striking feature of the shirts is the fabric, particularly of the blue and orange-hued pink tattersall, a Zepher weave popularized by Thomas Mason. Ratio sources fabric from all over the world, including Italy, India and Japan. Most of their core fabrics, including my tattersall, come via direct relationships with Indian mills that also contract with high-end Italian operations, which helps ensure high quality operations and fabrics. The tatterall is light and silky, while the heavier weave of the twill is soft and substantial. Both feel terrific to the touch.
Eric told Modern Fellows that he estimates that Ratio’s simplified method gets a perfect fit for customers “about 85-90 percent of the time.” For me, the process produced a garment that was about 90 percent perfect the first time around.
Overall, the shirts, which variously arrived two to three weeks after placing the orders, fit very well out of the box, and I adore them. They look great and feel well-constructed. The buttons are large – but not oddly so – and easy to fasten. Both collars, the spread and semi-spread, sit well and do a good job framing your face.
As for that other 10%: The shirt sleeves ended up just under a quarter inch too long after repeated washings, which proved long enough to be noticeable. The second minor issue is that the forearms are a hair too snug, which causes slight rippling between the elbow and the wrist in the photos of the white twill shirt below.
Ratio’s fit guarantee, described below, can resolve these minor issues and pretty quickly get anyone to a shirt that fits 100% perfectly in the event that it doesn’t right out of the box. (I have to admit I am doing the company a disservice here by not taking them up on the fit guarantee. It’s easy to nitpick about minor issues but, since Eric has offered to make it perfect and I haven’t taken him up on it, that’s on me.)
Ease of ordering versus precise fit and customization
There is an unavoidable tension between ease-of-ordering and the ability to customize and accurately capture measurements and fit preferences. Ratio’s primary ordering portal is refreshingly simple, and impressively gets a lot right with very little information. In particular, sizing via suit measurements is ingenious. Combined with the choice of tailored or regular fit, Ratio managed to capture my size and fit preference well without requiring many details.
At the same time, the current interface omits or obscures a couple of key pieces of information that would improve a customer’s ability to specify more precise fit and personalization of a garment.
For instance, Ratio is able to tailor the fit of a dress shirt further through shoulder shape adjustments (to account for square, uneven or sloped shoulders), forearm adjustments, and more precise shoulder, sleeve and shirt length, bicep, waist and cuff and collar circumference measurements.
They also have a few other cuff and collar options in their back pocket. For collars, Ratio offers a “Londoner” (6″ cutaway spread), forward point (3″ spread) or club in addition to what you see on the website. For cuffs, they can also do a 2-button rounded barrel, 1 or 2 button square barrel, or 1-button mitered cuffs.
Eric told Modern Fellows that Ratio is working to incorporate several of these design options into the main ordering portal, though will be careful about how and how many options are presented to preserve the ease of ordering that distinguishes them. For now, you can order via the above link to instructions or contact Ratio’s customer service who can walk you through the various options and adjustments that are available.
The best advice here is, if you don’t see an option or a way to capture a particular fit preference or sizing issue, talk it over with Ratio before putting that shirt in your cart.
Customer service, alterations policy, and reorders
At the moment, Eric handles customer service directly. He has been quick to respond to inquiries about shirt orders with offers to address fit issues and emphasizes that he is “as fanatical about fit as our most nit-picky customer. We’re not going to roll our eyes over a guy who wants to take in a quarter of an inch. Our number one goal is to make someone a perfectly fitting shirt.” While I have not yet taken Eric up on the offers to tweak the fit, I have no doubt about his sincerity in keeping to his company’s commitment. The long-term challenge, as Eric acknowledges, is to be able to maintain the high level of responsiveness and overall attention that he has set as business grows.
Ratio maintains a generous “first time customer guarantee,” which permits customers to return their first purchase for a full refund, store credit, or alterations within 30 days, minus return shipping costs. (If a shirt needs to be altered or remade, Ratio will re-ship the shirt at no cost.) Ratio’s liberal return policy, focus on quality fabrics, and strong commitment to making customers happy with the fit should inspire more than sufficient confidence to give them a try.
At the time of writing, Ratio Clothing does not offer the ability to save personal fit profiles on its website. Customers who wish to order additional shirts must follow the same process as the first time they logged on. (The company used to offer a saved profile system, but it was limited to core sizes and options, and did not allow customers to save advanced options.) Ratio plans to roll out a new profile system in 2013 that will include the ability to save a detailed profile on the site to make it easier to order. In the meantime, Eric suggests customers leave a note with any changes to the standard sizing options in the “Special Instructions” box when ordering.
White Signature Twill, 100’s Two-Ply 100% Cotton, $115.00; Harrison Tattersall, 100’s Two-Ply Poplin/Zephir, 100% Cotton, $125.00; shirts from $89; free shipping — a key benefit in a business where some peers charge up to $15.
Ratio Clothing produces an exquisite and competitively-priced American-made dress shirt that uniquely balances convenience in ordering, fit, high-quality fabrics and a desire to make sure the customer is happy with the final product. Slightly widening the range of options available on the main selection page — in particular, permitting customers to select 0.25″ length increments for sleeve lengths — would help to improve the fit further. It would also be nice to see more clearly highlighted on the website the fact that a broader range of cuff, collar and fit options exist, including the ability to more precisely customize sleeve lengths and to account for shoulder and forearm variations, but these are minor nits.
Bottom line: Having honed my fit profile with Eric, I would enthusiastically order from Ratio again, and sincerely look forward to keeping up with their new shirting fabrics, website enhancements and the day when Eric Powell takes the company into other menswear essentials.
How to order
Ratio Clothing, LLC, 100 Fillmore St., 5th Floor, Denver, CO 80206, email@example.com