Emma Willis Linen Shirt


Recently the clothing rules in the workplace debate have made their annual appearance in the press.

No brown in town etc.

Brief respite from the Brexit debate, questions over who is ‘H’ in Line of Duty, and whether Ole really is the right man for Old Trafford. 

On the whole, rules chill my bones. I prefer individual, case by case, situation appropriate, and individual made decisions and conventions. 

So your barrister ought to be in black shoes, but you don’t have to be. 

I write this having just come back from ‘London Town’ in a pair of Edward Green’s Mink Suede ‘Cardiff’s.

Yesterday, out of town I wore a pair of black box calf, polished to within an inch of their existence Mercers also by Edward Green.

In both instances they were the right (and left) shoe. 

What is a slightly more nuanced and interesting debate is whether quality trumps rules, and the important push towards purchasing less but better in a world with ever diminishing natural resources. 

Simply, good stuff lasts and is usually more aesthetically pleasing. 

One man’s enlarged croissant shaped black sheux, footwear which troubles two postcodes with each turned up toe’d step, will always be less aesthetically appropriate than a beautifully made pair of English shoes or boots. The same applies to those orange brown, dachshund dung coloured, things I keep seeing everywhere. 

Oh and those Northampton made wonders won’t let you down at the first sign of inclement weather.

A reminder that not all objects are created equal. 

Great stuff, well that gets better with age, use and wear.


A perfect example of this is the linen shirt I bought when at Emma Willis’ factory in Gloucester a couple of months ago.

I spent my 20s understanding that the perfect outfit mostly consisted of a great grey or white tshirt with the perfect pair of jeans, and a pair of English shoes.

That is and will continue to be an ever winning combination. 

But, last few years, weirdly since I turned 30, I’ve made a curious discovery. I like wearing shirts. Well I like wearing proper handmade English shirts. Not those too tight high street, worn on Easter Sunday numbers, but shirts with an actual collar rather than folded fabric. 

Shirts that elicit praise from the most important people and end up being worn by those praising a la Jacquemus, albeit Wiltshire not Southern France.

I keep stealing this one back. It’s just too good to share. 

The collar and cuff are slightly softer than usual for an Emma Willis shirt, but not too soft. As ever everything is finely, single stitched with real mother of pearl fastening Emma’s characteristic flat front and slightly curved hem. A shirt that contemplates the French tuck, then asks you to be a grown up and work it out for yourself. 

I’ve found that after two months’ wear, washing and air drying it’s softened to my neck but retained a pleasing collar presence whether worn over a white tshirt and under knitwear or on its own with white jeans. 


It’s been a must wear regardless of the weather and that’s why linen, good linen and this is the best, is so wonderful.

It works throughout the year, softly warm in winter with a dry handle and cool drape in summer.

The test with any fabric is after 20+ washes.

This has improved with each wash. That pleasing, slightly starchy, just been dried crunch softening almost instantly with body heat and movement. The micro checked weave catches and toys with the light as the French and Dutch flax woven in Italy slowly melds with each undulating wave of cloth. 


It’s that wonderful texture heavy look. A vision at distance of perfection but up close character and life. I know this irks some, the creases frighten. But, they shouldn’t. 

A fairly wise man speaks to me of stitches in carpets and how they reflect the best of life.

A carpet in which the pattern builds from one single thread to become a work far greater than anyone, other than the artist imagined. 

The best carpets, those either already or destined to become heirlooms, with their vegetable dyed tones have that similar up close, slubby, heavy, deep texture, almost imperfect, perfection that is found in all of the best hand made things. The things like this shirt which want to be engaged with, to be used and will reward repeatedly.