Volume 2- Lumina Vs. Brooks Bros

Welcome to Volume 2 of the Battle Royale of the American-Made Shirt. The idea behind this article started with a simple purchasing conundrum; there are plenty of great brands out there and with a few parameters set forth, how can we really narrow down what shirt is the best for our needs as a consumer? Our rules were simple:

  1. We wanted a shirt that would appeal to the masses, though showcased each company’s best effort, that fit the average cut guy very well.
  2. The shirt had to be made in the United States of America.
  3. If it could be helped, the shirt had to be under $200.00

After doing research, this proved to be far more difficult than we had anticipated. When it comes down to it, many brands aren’t familiar with the origins of their fabric or didn’t make the shirts themselves. Most of our favorites – the really distinctive patterns – were typically beyond the allotted price point. You will see that we did make a few exceptions along the way but stayed true to these rules for the most part. Most of the brands were quick to point out that in differentiating between most labels with the exception of a very select few American makers, all shirts are essentially the same. The variables are in the fabric and the cut with only slight variation in construction seen across the board. Once you’ve seen one shirt, you’ve seen most of them; or so it seemed.
We have taken the approach to looking at these shirts as someone who puts average wear on clothing with occasional days working in the field on creative projects and more frequent days sitting behind a desk. We tested all of these shirts and combined our opinions with those of the fit models who wore them for the photo shoots. The brands we will review in this volume are Lumina Clothing Co. from Raleigh, NC. (though manufactured in Chicago) and Brooks Brothers from New York, NY. (though manufactured in North Carolina). Click below to view the full article and photos.

Lumina Clothing Co.

123 East Martin St., Raleigh, NC. 27601
Contact: Barton Strawn, co-founder of Lumina Clothing Co.

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From Lumina

“As far as the shirts, we are just trying to continue to make them more wearable, while still maintaining a slim cut, which can be two opposing ideas. With this last run we changed the way the sleeve sat, as well as made a few of our measurements a little longer/wider. One of the biggest changes was through the body, we actually worked on the tail of the shirt a lot.

On the next version, we are really going to work on the movement through the arms, since that is something we have had a lot of feedback on.”

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Our Review

In the interest of full disclosure, we’ve known the gents at Lumina Clothing Co. for a little while now. We met them at Confirmed Stock in Baltimore, MD, picked up a bunch of their goods, and have been raving about them to our friends ever since. They were a young company then, and granted it’s only been a few months, but they’ve grown up a bit since we first heard of them. Since our first meeting, they’ve launched several new products, revamped their company’s image, and opened a flagship store in North Carolina. Their Kickstarter campaign was a smashing success and we couldn’t be happier for them.

I snagged a blue poplin one with a contrasting pink striped collar and cuff linings in early 2012 when they were still on their first run of shirts. The fabric was fantastic, I liked the idea of the contrasting lining fabric, and was thrilled with the shirt. The shirt features a chunky placket and lacks a pocket. We’ll come back to this one later. For this review, Barton sent us one of their new plaid shirts. The cut is slimmer, the tails are better fitted for tucking in, and the buttons have been relocated slightly.

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Fabric: This isn’t nearly as heavy as the stuff we’d seen from them before. In fact, this fabric is incredibly lightweight and has a pretty snazzy plaid pattern, the central colors of which are purple and maroon. Because it’s a thinner fabric, many parts of the shirt fit together better than the previous one we had received from them. That being said the feel’s a bit odd, almost as if the fabric has been pretreated with some sort of starch. It feels very rigid, yet somehow wrinkles fairly thoroughly when you tuck it in. But somehow it’s comfortable! I wore this thing to the office on three separate days when I’d be doing different activities and it proved to remain just as comfortable as the first time I wore it.

Fit: These new shirts fit well. Their first run, which we spoke about earlier, fit a bit on the boxier side and tucking it in resulted in quite a bit of unwanted parachuting around the lower back area. Parachuting is the worst possible result for any of us dudes who like our clothes to have a tailored appearance.  The new models have been significantly tapered and much thought has been put into exactly how this will function on your body. It accommodates narrow shouldered and broad shouldered gents well; as the profile changes for both, somehow it still looks good. I have particularly wide shoulders and this led to no sacrifice in arm length or tightness in the armpit.

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Construction: The shirt’s put together well. It’s a 7 button front with generous room at the bottom for tucking the tails, though not too much so it doesn’t look ridiculous when it’s worn untucked. The cuffs are pleated as is the center of the back below the collar which provides a better tapered look in the arms and a greater range of motion for your back. All in all, this is a very basic shirt with pretty standard construction that would make a great staple in your wardrobe as an average office worker, student, or general dude.

Overall we’re big Lumina fans. These shirts aren’t anything to go out and blow your bank account over but they’re great staples and at a fantastic price point. As a company, keep your eye on what Lumina is doing. They’ll be making advances in the future and we’re very excited to see them grow.

Brooks Brothers

346 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10017
Contact: None

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Our Review

Brooks Bros. didn’t send us a shirt. Truthfully, our emails requesting a sample or information regarding the fabric, construction, and history were entirely ignored. For the other brands we contacted, this meant we simply didn’t talk about them. But this Brooks shirt has been my favorite for some time. It was a gift from Peter, the lead singer of Eliot & Eads, and I wear it at least once a week. It’s a fabulous shirt and for a long time was, for me, the paragon of men’s shirting. It’s cut long to allow tucking in, though doesn’t look terrible untucked. The fabric’s heavy though has a soft feel to it. It’s trim in all the right places and allows for movement where movement’s needed.

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Fabric: This is a blue and white striped oxford cloth and next to plain blue, this is about as traditional as it gets. It’s a heavy weight, certainly not something to wear in the middle of a midwestern or southern summer, but feels soft so layers well and doesn’t make you itch. Ever.

Fit: This is close to the perfect fit for me. It accommodates a range of shoulder sizes, somehow not appearing baggy on narrow shouldered gents though comfortably allowing us broader-sized fellows to move freely. The arm pit is cut with a little extra room in the upper arm itself, though just enough tightness in the body to feel like thought was put into it. It flares ever-so-slightly at the bottom

Construction: I’ve had this shirt for years and I have yet to see a single thread fall away from the seams or the buttons, after wearing it heavily. That says a lot.

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Consensus

Here’s how this review ends up: it’s a tie. In reality, the quality of the shirts is nearly the same: nothing short of excellent. The real differences in construction, fabric, and fit are somewhat negligible. However, Lumina’s the underdog we’re always rooting for and Brooks Brothers is the big cat that you can purchase in your local airport (really, they have stores in airports). Either one’s a great choice, though the brand you’ll feel better about supporting is Lumina.

Stay tuned for the remainder of the series which will feature Hamilton Shirts, New England Shirt Co., and just added Ratio Clothing.

Make sure you read about last round with Taylor Stitch & Rogue Territory!

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