Steven Quin is a well-dressed man. His lightweight blue wool suit fits his trim frame graciously. His sleeves show just enough cuff, his trousers drape neatly, nipping the tongue of his shoes, and his handkerchief contrasts boldly. He unbuttons and re-buttons his coat unconsciously, in a reflexive gesture that emphasizes the ease of his stylishness the way an actor might when readying to deliver his lines. The getup complements his smooth blond hair and blue eyes. But it is Mr. Quins shirt that makes the man. It ought to. He is wearing a handmade Turnbull & Asser bespoke shirt of blue-striped poplin. The material is exclusive to Turnbull & Asser, and only 240 meters are made enough for just 120 shirts and then it is retired. It is the sort of shirt youd expect Mr. Quin to wear. He is, after all, a master shirtmaker and Royal Warrant holder meaning His Royal Highness, the Duke of Windsor, a.k.a. Prince Charles, wears shirts made at Mr. Quins home office, on Jermyn Street in London. As have Winston Churchill, Robert Evans, Alec Guinness and Sammy Davis Jr. (whose first order was for 50 shirts at $75 each).
Mr. Quin, in from London for a brief stay, is at T&As new store on Brighton Way in Beverly Hills to show prospective customers what it means to have a custom-made and -fitted shirt. In Mr. Quins capable hands, a man feels as if he is choosing his own shirt even if Mr. Quin really is guiding his taste. Thumbing the leaves of leather-bound books of cloth patterns and colors the way a croupier counts money, Mr. Quin gently insists, Every customer here is an individual.
As I watch, Mr. Quin takes out a tape and then calls out the measurements of a casually dressed man not the sort youd expect to find in a Savile Row establishment. He measures the neck, down to the quarter-inch; he checks the centerline of the sternum to place the placket where it belongs; he carefully seeks the mans counsel on how, exactly, he wears his shirts, tucked in or out, to get the right length. Your left shoulder slopes a bit down, not like the right, he notes when he measures each side of the yoke. The man explains that hed once rolled his car, and this was the lingering result. Do you always wear a bulky watch? Mr. Quin asks when he got down to the gauntlet the part of the sleeve where the buttons are and then made an allowance in the circumference. From these measurements a paper pattern will be cut in London, a sample shirt sewn, the customer fitted, and, for anywhere from $350 on up, shirts will be made.
Turnbull & Asser is known for its daring hues, purples and oranges, which dress up even a drab physique. Mr. Quin, however, provides a caveat. I wouldnt say our shirts would cosmetically change someone. It might give a bit of shape.
Mr. Quin is speaking in his seemingly unflappable tone when in walks Alan Harris, a 50-year-old deportation lawyer who obviously works out a lot. Dressed in a white T-shirt, black jeans and red Converse All-Stars, Harris immediately undermines the staid tenor of the plush mezzanine salesroom when he announces, I have a shirt fetish. He lays three pages hes torn from the latest Vogue on the zebrawood table where Mr. Quin is working and asks, Whats going on here? He points to the collar of a Ralph Lauren shirt on one of the pages. Its more extreme than a Regents collar, Harris continues. Im not appalled by this. I like it.
Mr. Quin interjects softly, I think its too extreme, Mr. Harris. He knows Harris well. It doesnt look good. If that were a light tie, that would look terrible.
Thats the doctor of shirts talking, Harris says, slipping on his dramatic black-horn-rimmed glasses. Mr. Quin seems to wish the encomium had never been uttered, but remains cool. Do you want to try one of those? he asks, referring to the collar. It wouldnt kill me, Harris answers. This is whats in my head: Ill at least be in style until February.
Harris then jumps to his next concern. These ties have a lot more material, he comments, again pointing to the Ralph Lauren ad. Theyre more Victorian. Thats not what youre selling me. His phone rings. Its his wife. When he finishes, I ask him if he likes solids or T&As famous striped shirts. Im a very certain person, Harris states. I do not do stripes. He adds, sponte sua, If you want to be precise about it, Im wearing $8 shoes from Shoes for Less. Theyre seconds. And then, to a man and his wife waiting to receive Mr. Quins advice, he repeats, The doctor of shirts is in the house.