Over the years, by the simple virtue of having been in this hobby for a period of time, I’ve accumulated a closet full of Japanese made reproduction work-shirts. I must confess though, I don’t wear them anywhere as often as I really should. The fabrics are nice, the designs combine well with denim, and the details are superb……yet, I cannot say that these shirts fit me particularly well. Indeed, my Uniqlo shirts get much more of a workout than my Japanese chambray shirts, purely due to goodness of fit.
The problem is my build – despite having East Asian ancestry, my physical build is a fair bit more solid than my Chinese/Japanese kin. In fact, I’m above average even here in Australia in terms of height and bulk :-S
So it is little wonder the boxy, tubular cuts of my beloved Japanese work-shirts don’t fit me as well as I hope they would – sleeves that are too short, armholes that are cut to high and tight, backs that are not wide enough, shirts that are not long enough, etc.
With the goodness-of-fit dilemma in mind, fellow Superfuturian Bryan (Iron Horse) has come to our rescue with his new shirting brand – The Rite Stuff.
The basic idea behind The Rite Stuff is the modification of proportions and alterations in the cut – to create Japanese work-shirts that are better fitted to “Western” body builds. To achieve this, The Right Stuff utilises Japanese, narrow-loom selvedge fabrics, and via John Lofgren’s shirting workshop, turns them into vintage-styled, modern-fit shirts.
The Rite Stuff first run of shirts is the ‘Heracles’ chambray shirt – available in sizes S to XXL – a mid-century inspired blue chambray work-shirt, a modern take on the Hercules shirts throughout those decades.
In this review, I’ll try and include photographs taken under various lighting conditions to give you an idea about the possible colour tones this chambray might show. Let’s take a look!
Fit & Pattern
Fans of work-shirts would be able to tell that this ‘Heracles’ shirt is not a strict reproduction, instead it combines elements and details from the 1930s to 1950s, though in overall appearance could be considered a mid-century inspired shirt.
From the front, the ‘Heracles’ looks to be an offspring of mid-century Hercules chambray shirts. Though the yoke details and the appearance of the back hint at inspirations from other brands such as POWR HOUSE.
The fit tells a different story however…
The Rite Stuff’s shirts are certainly cut for the build of a 21st century man. Japanese fabrics made into a shirt fitting the ‘Western’ physique is the general idea here, though larger Asian blokes like myself will appreciate Bryan’s aim. Too often, the shirts (or even the sweaters and jackets) made by Japanese brands are a terrible fit for me, resulting in many purchasing mistakes during the early years of my hobby. This ‘Heracles’ shirt fits well, no doubt, with a cut that is much closer to contemporary shirting that I might find in an Australian clothing store.
The fit here is not boxy at all, but instead allows for a relatively slimming silhouette on a frame that holds a bit more meat, i.e. a more V-shaped cut. The arms are a little longer relative to the chest size compared with most Japanese shirts. The width across the upper back is larger. The length and tail shape allows for the shirt to look good both tucked in and un-tucked on taller guys.
The V-shaped taper, however, is relatively pronounced. Heavier guys will find the waist to be tight. For me, not being in the best shape, there is a bit of pressure in the waist when I sit down. If you have a beer gut, this shirt is a no go! Bryan has mentioned that the waist of the shirt will possibly be cut a bit looser for the next shirt release – i.e. the V-shape will be less pronounced – in order to accommodate more varied body shapes. The current measurements will likely not suit guys with narrow shoulders, narrow back or a beer gut.
The Large size here fits me fairly well – for reference, I am usually a size 44 in tailored shirts and jackets, and I am 185 cm tall.
The fabric here is a 5 oz cotton chambray, woven in Japan, indigo-dyed and one-washed.
The weave is fairly dense, yet the chambray has a textured and soft hand-feel. The blue is deep, the overall tone reminiscent of mid-century chambray work shirts. The grain is larger and more variegated compared to many other Japanese chambray fabrics.
I own many chambray shirts (I’m guessing many of you do too), and I must say this is one of the nicer fabrics in my collection. Very often, chambray shirts from lower end brands are too thin and the fabric is ‘limp’ or untextured, and yet chambray shirts from the high end reproduction brands can sometimes be oddly stiff and scratchy. I’m glad to say – the weight and comfort for this The Rite Stuff chambray strike a good balance. This chambray is light enough for layering or warmer weather, yet is sturdy enough that the shirt gives a substantial, work-wear feel.
One issue for many chambray shirts is that the fabric can be too heavy, or overly stiff when washed, resulting in poor draping and an awkward silhouette when worn – this is not a problem here. The chambray featured on this Heracles shirt is textured yet comfortable, with a very pleasant hand.
The buttons on this shirt are paint coated metal, which hold the promise of chipping with time & wear, and thus aging in parallel with the chambray itself.
These cat’s eye buttons certainly have old school appeal – notice the tonal stitch which secures the buttons, just like the various chambray shirts from mid-century!
Details & Construct
The Heracles shirt features double & triple chain-stitching along the main seams, with single & double lock-stitching along high wearing seams (hem, cuffs, pockets, etc).
The stitch work and seam closing, overall, are very well done. I did not notice any defects on the shirt, or any obviously wonky stitching.
The collar is two-piece and spear-pointed – nice and retro! The collar is not as wide or as tall as that on many mid-century work shirts, though given the relatively low rigidity of the chambray fabric, I think a shorter collar looks neater and maintains it’s shape better. Reproduction purists may be hoping for longer, taller and wider collars, but in my own experience with vintage shirts, I find the large collars tend to lose shape and crease quickly, especially with softer cotton fabrics such as chambray.
The woven cotton tag is very nicely done here – made in Japan indeed.
A full front placket button down is featured – no funny business, just a straight line going down.
Two simple but functional chest pockets are present – there are no additional pen slots or cigarette pockets, which are not particularly useful in the modern context. These pockets aren’t large enough to fit a modern smart-phone, however.
The yoke is reinforced and curved, with the reinforcement extending to under the armholes and around to the shoulders at the front.
Ventilation eyelets make appearances in these parts of the shirt – there are seven of them in total.
The elbows are reinforced by the doubling of the fabric, right down to the cuffs.
Smaller sized gussets are used to reinforce the shirt, made using the selvedge portions of the chambray. There is no chain-stitch run-off for this first run of shirts.
High stress areas are reinforced with tonal bar-tacking.
The tail is slightly curved, looking rather nice when the shirt is un-tucked.
The Rite Stuff is definitely a welcomed addition to this hobby of ours and it signifies, in many ways, the continued growth and expansion of the denim & work-wear hobbies outside Japan.
Being made with premium Japanese chambray in Lofgren’s workshop, there’s no doubting the quality and craftsmanship of this Heracles shirt. Guys who have owned Lofgren branded shirts in the past know that they were some of the nicest workshirts money can buy, right up there with the Neal Cassady railroad shirts from Freewheelers, and this Heracles shirt continues that proud tradition.
The Heracles shirt being the first product from The Rite Stuff, expect adjustments and improvements to continue over the next couple of shirt runs. With this first-run fit, the Heracles shirt is easy to wear and allows fantastic freedom of movement in the arms and back. The waist is trim, which facilitates the shirt being tucked in, allowing a vintage-style tuck with modern, lower rising pants.
The vintage-inspired features – spear-point collar, double elbows, curved yoke, underarm reinforcements, ventilation eyelets, etc – are very nicely executed and add a lot of character to this work-shirt. Chambray shirts can be a bit boring sometimes, but the Heracles shirt has many eye-catching details and is quite striking both from the front and the back.
All in all, I’ve been very impressed by Bryan’s attention to detailing and carefully researched modifications on this Heracles shirt. The 5 oz Japanese selvedge chambray is top notch, as is the construct of the shirt. The fit of this shirt will likely appeal to those who are tall or athletically built (thicker chest, wider back).
Bryan has hinted that The Rite Stuff may be producing more vintage inspired shirts & tops made with a variety of Japanese fabrics. I’ll keep you guys updated via the blog regarding any future releases!
Definitely check out this Heracles chambray shirt on The Rite Stuff’s webshop!