One of the Boys
When a company has been around since 1883, change doesn’t happen easily. And when that company was Hamilton Shirts, a fourth-generation, family-owned brand that made one product—custom men’s shirts—that was especially true. So when the 135-year-old Houston-based company announced the launch of the Hamilton Women’s collection, it was safe to assume brother and sister co-owners Kelly and David Hamilton weren’t doing so lightly.
“We’ve always had requests to do women’s shirts,” Kelly Hamilton says. “But our biggest issue was that we didn’t want people to be unhappy. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to do it—we just didn’t feel like we could do it well until now.”
The collection, which is currently available at the brand’s Houston storefront and online, includes five base models that clients can then customize: a classic button-down, an oversized boyfriend-style shirt, a longer tunic-style shirt, a western-style shirt and a utility shirt. Every detail, from fabric to sleeve and tail length to collar style to button placement, is customizable. “We’ve tried to make women’s shirts before,” Hamilton says. “But we tried thinking we could do it just like we did the men’s and didn’t put too much thought into it. This time we worked on it for about two years.”
The result is an entirely new shirt—one with a menswear-inspired fit, but that took into account the headaches women often face when shopping for button-downs: dealing with gaping holes between buttons and choosing between a shirt that pulls across the chest and fits everywhere else or one that fits in the chest but is billowy and loose otherwise. “If you line up four men who have a 42-inch chest, they pretty much have the same body type,” Hamilton says. “But if you line up four women who are a size two, they’re completely different. We needed to find shirts that would fit all those women.”
To solve that conundrum, Hamilton is introducing a new sizing system for its classic shirt. Shoppers choose a size (the brand currently carries sizes 00-14) and a cup size, either AB or CD. For a shirt that tapers more at the waist, they can also choose to add darts to the back. The classic shirt comes in petite, regular and tall sizing. The other four shirt styles come in sizes XXS-XXL, and they’re all made by hand in Hamilton’s Houston workshop.
Trying on Hamilton’s sample shirts is a revelation for anyone who’s struggled to find classic button-downs that fit—the sizing system works, and there’s even the option to adjust button placement to avoid the dreaded gaps between buttons that women have typically had to fix by using strategically placed double-sided tape. (If you know, you know.) And once you nail the size down, the rest is fun: thumbing through fabric samples, selecting a collar style and adding an optional pocket and monogram. “I’ve worn Hamilton shirts almost exclusively my whole life, so I’ve been spoiled not thinking about how difficult it is for other women to find a button-down,” Hamilton says. “But once women put on the shirts, it’s like a light goes off. They get that it works—that they really do fit. To see people excited about this makes me excited.”