Somehow over the past few months I have managed to acquire three new show shirts. I don’t really have a good reason for this… one of them was a Treat Yo’self, and the other two were so cheap on sale that I don’t think they even count. Plus I just really like shirts for some reason, so whatever, judge me if you want.
The first one I got, the “Treat Yo’self” item, was the Aila shirt from Valentine Equine. I’ll be 100% honest, I got it because I freaking hate stock ties. I hate remembering to bring them, I hate tying them, I hate pinning them, I hate how floofy they look, I hate washing and sometimes having to IRON them… I just hate them. A lot. I’ve been going sans stock tie at pretty much every event for the past couple years, unless it was a special/more formal occasion. So the Aila shirt, with it’s BUILT IN, TACKED DOWN, PERMANENTLY AFFIXED stock tie was a really appealing alternative for me. I don’t want to wear it all the time, because I still hate stock ties, but for the shows when it’s more appropriate to wear one, at least this way I won’t have to go through all the fuss.
The only thing I didn’t love about it was that it came with short sleeves. I guess I spent way too long in h/j land growing up, but I gotta have some cuff peeking out from under my jacket. I messaged Valentine Equine and asked if they were planning on offering a long sleeve version, and they replied saying that all of their shirts are made to order, so I can get anything I want. Whaaaaat? Ok, sold. I sent my bust measurement (because I am useless at Australian sizing), wrote in my request for long sleeves, and ordered online. There was no additional charge for the sleeves or for having the shirt made to my measurements. All of that, including shipping, brought the shirt to around $100 USD.
Long story short (because we still have two more shirts to get through here), it took about 5 weeks to arrive, which seems reasonable for a made to order item traveling from halfway around the world. It definitely fits small – it’s SNUG on me, so I’m glad I sent my measurements and didn’t just try to guess at a stock size. If in doubt, definitely size up. The fabric is quite stretchy and comfortable, and I like that the stock tie part isn’t too floofy. It’s sleek and simple and definitely very solidly built into the shirt. The zip at the neck makes it easy to get in and out of, and the collar is fairly short, which I prefer. Nothing worse than a tall collar jutting into your second and third chins.
The only two things I would really change are the length – mine is just barely long enough to tuck in – and I would make the zipper at the neck white instead of metal. Overall though, it’s a great option for stock tie haters that might find themselves having to wear one at some point. It definitely takes all the annoyance out of it, so it’s a useful addition to my closet.
The next two are both really similar, so we’ll do a little compare and contrast as we run through their features. One is a navy and white RJ Classics Paige show shirt, and the other is a teal and white Noble Outfitters Madison show shirt.
I actually got both of these at Dover on super sale – the RJ I got online at the end of last season for something ridiculous like $30, and the Madison I got on the sale rack in-store a couple months ago for $40. In general they are really similar shirts. Both of them have a white front fabric, the RJ’s being a tone on tone stripe and the Madison’s being just a plain flat white. Both are a little bit sheer, but not too bad. The RJ’s fabric is a little bit lighter weight overall, both the white front part and the colored stretchy tech fabric parts. The RJ also has snaps that go 1/4 way down the front and the rest is sewn, which is GREAT both for ease and for eliminating any possible boob gap issues. The Madison has regular buttons and covered placket going all the way down the front.
Both have patterned fabric inside the collar and cuffs, which seems pretty de rigueur for show shirts these days. I prefer the colors and patterns of the Paige, I think it’s a little more elegant, but that’s totally personal preference.
When it comes to design details, the Madison has a bit of an edge. On the back of the collar it has a loop (for you weirdos who actually like to wear stock ties) which is a nice feature, and it also has more ventilation. The middle back panel is made from a mesh fabric for breathability, whereas the Paige just has the same navy tech fabric making up the back of the shirt.
What they both need is some real arm ventilation. I find them both to be a bit hot, especially in high humidity, compared to my lovely lightweight cotton Winston shirt. Granted, these don’t wrinkle as easily as that one does.
The Madison does make an attempt at an arm vent, with a little one inch wide strip of mesh on the underarm. This feels more like a joke than a vent, but I guess they get points for trying. I’m not sure that one shirt really feels particularly cooler than the other.
The tailoring and fit are good on both shirts… both are fitted to the body, not boxy (my biggest pet peeve in a shirt) and both have enough length to tuck in securely without having a ton of shirttail leftover to create a Lump Butt situation in your pants. No one likes that, especially not the people looking at your Lump Butt.
I think if you combined these two shirts, you’d end up with the ultimate show shirt. The back vents and the small, thoughtful details on the Noble Outfitters shirt are testament to how much work went into the design, but then that front button situation makes it look a bit cheap. It reminds me of those Royal Highness shirts that used to be everywhere for like $20. I much prefer the 1/4 snap front and general styling of the RJ Paige. It’s sleeker and more streamlined.
For what I paid for them, I’m quite happy with both. They’re nice shirts that look good and are comfortable to wear. They’ve both been really easy to wash, too, no issues in the washing machine and neither of them require steaming or ironing to be wrinkle free.
These three new additions plus my other two standbys, the Winston Vienna and the Mrs. Tutton’s May, have given me a pretty solid show shirt collection. I’ve got something for pretty much any occasion, and they’re all really attractive shirts that have their own unique features. No boring, frumpy show shirts around here!