My friend, I am PUMPED. You know why? Because today I get to give you a sneak peak of something I've been working on for a loooong time…
The first item in The Modest Man clothing line: the casual button up shirt.
A little background…
Back in 2012 when I started this blog, I had no idea if anyone would read it. I knew that shorter men were underserved when it came to style advice, and I wanted to change that.
But I've always had this nagging desire to take things to the next level and help TMM readers in a more concrete way.
Guidance is powerful. You have to know how to dress before you buy clothes. But when it comes time to buy, you need more than knowledge: you need options.
Historically, there weren't many options for shorter gents. But over the past few years, a handful of apparel brands for men under 5'9″ have emerged.
I love that we have multiple options these days. In fact, I keep an updated list of these brands right here.
Seeing these companies grow and getting to know their founders fueled my desire to start a TMM line, so I finally took the plunge.
Here's what has happened so far:
#1: You Told Me What You Want
Back in August, I sent a survey to every TMM subscriber to find out what they needed most. Jeans? A shirt? What kind? Something dressy? Casual?
The overwhelming preference was for a casual button up shirt. Specifically, one that's designed to wear untucked.
I also asked about colors, patterns, pricing, height and weight, and I got lots of great responses.
If you took this survey, know that you played a big part in the design of these shirts. I can't thank you enough for your help!
#2: I Found Some Experts
Since I don't know anything about the apparel manufacturing industry, I partnered with a product development company called Trunkist to get this first line of shirts created.
Why not go it alone? Well, here's what I knew:
- Production had to be ethical (no child labor or unfair treatment) and environmentally friendly
- Quality of materials and construction had to be top-notch
- Designs and patterns has to be created from scratch for the shorter build
- Funding was limited (I couldn't buy a ton of inventory upfront)
- Shipping and returns needed to be hassle-free and professional
- Cost had to be reasonable (no crazy markups)
What I didn't know was how to make any of this happen, and I didn't want to spend a year or longer before actually launching the shirts.
Sure, I could try to become an expert in manufacturing, fulfillment, etc. But I'd rather focus on what I know, which is dressing the shorter man.
In a moment of serendipity, a friend and fellow entrepreneur introduced me to Trunkist.
Founded by Dustin Hindman (who happens to be 5'8″), Trunkist helps people like me turn their idea for a garment into reality.
They're a small team of designers, pattern makers and consultants with very impressive backgrounds (my designer, Stephanie, honed her skills at Abercrombie & Fitch).
Plus, Trunkist is dedicated to ethical, sustainable production.
#3: We Designed the Shirt
Before choosing fabrics and talking about size, you have to design the garment. This means deciding what it's going to be (a casual button up shirt) and nailing down every little detail.
When it comes to styling details, the options are virtually unlimited. I'm talking about pleats, plackets, yoke, seams, collar types, buttons, contrast stitching, cuff styles, hem shape, gussets…the list goes on.
It's easy to go overboard with this stuff, but I wanted to keep these shirts simple. So we chose a couple of unique designer details that would make these shirts special in an understated way.
Notice that there's no visible logos or branding on the outside of the shirt, just one tasteful logo on the inside of the placket. You're a gentleman, not a billboard!
#4: We Picked the Fabric
Originally, we were going to go with one type of fabric in three different colors. But it's hard to find the exact right colors in one type of fabric.
Plus, everyone has different preferences in terms of weight and feel. So I chose to give you a choice* between:
- White Heathered Cotton Twill (soft, textured)
- Grey Broadcloth (light, crisp)
- Blue Chambray (durable, inky)
*You're more than welcome to buy all three!
These are three of the most versatile and interchangeable colors you can have in your wardrobe, and they aren't going out of style anytime soon.
My favorite is the “white” cotton twill:
It has subtle blue undertones that make it way more interesting that plain white.
#5: We Created the Pattern
To create the pattern, you use a cheap fabric called muslin.
This is the hardest part of the process. Who should the shirt fit? Obviously, it's for shorter men. But is it slim fit? Relaxed? Athletic?
It's tough because you can't please everyone. I'd love to have a bunch of different fits (slim, athletic, stocky), but that's just not possible right now.
It's an inventory problem. Say you have four sizes and three colors – that's already 12 different shirts:
4 sizes x 3 colors = 12 combinations
Add another variable like “athletic fit” and you've doubled your inventory:
4 sizes x 3 colors x 2 fits = 24 combinations
For now, we're keeping it simple: four sizes in three different colors/fabrics. The fit is on the slim and modern (but not skinny).
It should work for most short men, but I won't lie: it's not going to fit perfectly on everyone. Which is why all returns will be free.
How Does the Sizing Work?
I was really torn about what kind of sizing system to use for these shirts. Would it be best to go with the standard sizing system that men are used to (S/M/L)?
Or should I develop a proprietary system like Peter Manning's 1-5?
For this batch, I decided to go with chest size (36, 38, etc.). In theory, this is a great system because most guys know their chest measurement by heart, but we'll see how it goes!
When Can You Buy Them?
The shirts will be available for pre-order from November 30th to December 30th. This means that I won't have the shirts mass produced until you order them.
Why do this? Two reasons:
- I don't have enough cash on hand to buy lots of inventory upfront.
- I don't know which colors and sizes will be most popular.
The second reason is important. What if everyone loves the grey shirt, but no one wants to blue one? What if no one orders a particular size?
A pre-order model solves both of these problems, which is why lots of companies use this model to launch new products. Some companies, like Gustin, use this model exclusively.
I know you want to see how the shirt looks on a person, but I want them to be perfect before I show you how it fits.
We're almost done making some final fit adjustments, and I'll have more photos for you on November 30th. Stay tuned!
Do you like the colors? Leave a comment below!