British Officers Shirt - The Story of 100 Times in the Washing Machine
The Story of 100 Times in the Washing Machine
Nigel Cabourn's classic button-down shirt – The British Officers Shirt
Here at Nigel Cabourn, the sustainability and durability of our products is important to us, because of this we have been producing the British Officers Shirt as a classic item for over 10 years now. With a new delivery of this timeless piece for Spring Summer, we would like to focus on the story of how this shirt came about and the features that make it so special.
At that time, the Head Designer for our Mainline Collection (who like Nigel respected the depth of his knowledge), found a pair of vintage French workwear canvas pants one day. He wondered if he could make a shirt based on this fabric and suggested this thought to Nigel. Of course, even if it is reproduced as it is, it would still be made from a sturdy pant fabric. Firstly, we started by adjusting the thickness of the shirt fabric whilst still maintaining the rigidity. After repeated trial weaving, we created the golden ratio – a special weave that uses warp yarns that are 1/5 of the weft yarn. (Exact details are confidential, I apologise!)
However, that along was still an extension of canvas.
The next thing to be researched was the weft yarn. In search of balance between suppleness and strength, we ended up with a special blend based on extra fine cotton. The more you twist the thread, the stronger it becomes, but the harder it gets. Therefore it was necessary to adjust this twist factor so that the yarn would not be too hard, so I searched for it from the raw material. By twisting two more threads together, a strong, straight and supple thread was discovered (Again, these details are trade secrets. Please forgive me).
Generally when weaving fabric, we weave it at a very high speed, so tension is applied to keep it even. This process is highly efficient and forms a weave that is even and flat. Hand weaving is the opposite of this. Because the fabric is woven at a slower pace, the original texture of the raw material is show, but conversely the process takes a lot more time and effort. Though it is contradictory, we aimed to make a fabric of a reasonable price that kept the hand-woven texture. To achieve this, we approached the factory and specified the specific loom machine and the weaving speed. This cannot be done without knowledge, experience and skilful techniques of the craftsmen.
Finally, we had made a very special fabric that combines the gentle texture of cotton, the natural lustre and suppleness of extra fine cotton, and the durability of the original vintage pants that started this journey.
Special attention has also been paid to the garment sewing process. The thread yarn count and number of stitches have been carefully selected to match the density of the woven material., and we have been very particular about the buttons. We intentionally used a Japanese button sewing machine, which was designed to entwine the threads. We sew the button on with this machine, then stop and sew again to ensure extra durability.
Natural shell buttons have been used, but we carefully selected buttons with a shape that is difficult to break, referencing Military Spec Type 24/25.
It has been more than 10 years since the British Officers Shirt was first released, and there have been no complaints about buttons breaking or falling off. Our team have tried to break them but also found them to be incredibly durable.
Having said that, I imagine you’re wondering how durable that is exactly, right? For that very reason we had a product inspection agency conduct a formal durability assessment using a regular home washing machine.
The standard durability test is 10 to 15 times, so we asked them to wash 100 times! 2 of the 3 garments we tested survived the 100 washing test without any broken stitching, frayed fabric or missing buttons. An amazing result! Even the softness of the fabric improved over time. Unfortunately, 1 piece had a missing button after its 75th wash, though when we converted the test data to actual wear frequency, the button itself would last 2.5 to 4 years or even more, which is still very durable in our eyes.
This was the story of our British Officers Shirt – we strived to make the best product we possibly could so you could wear it for a long time. The shirt is available on our online webshop now in the colours Navy, Dark Green, Sax and White.