Photography by Chandler Bondurant
If there’s one question we get more than any other, it’s about the Reverse Seam Shirt. It’s by far the most iconic Steven Alan style - an unsuspecting, unfussy shirt with a twisted placket, seams on the outside, and a chest pocket on the inside. It’s perfectly rumpled, giving you a “this old thing?” sort of look. We’ve been working for months to get this shirt completely right and, we have to say, finally nailed it. Instantly recognizable and incredibly loved, the shirt was originally made 22 years ago in 1999, kind of unintentionally, but not entirely by accident. We sat down with Steven in his Brooklyn home to talk about the history and resurrection of the Reverse Seam.
"I wanted the factory to make a shirt inside-out, all of the proportions are exactly the same as our normal shirts, but I wanted them to make it with a seam on the outside instead of the seam on the inside. Just a little design detail. Through the translation with the factory, they basically just twisted the whole shirt inside out. So usually whenever I would get a new sample I would always want to wear it for a few days to wear test it, so everyone that saw me wear it was like “That shirt is awesome” you know, so that was kind of it. So I was like, “I’ll make a small batch to see how it goes”, and then I made that small batch, sold out of that, and then it became one of the signature shirts in the collection.
"It was the first shirt that I started exclusively making with deadstock fabric. So whenever you saw them you’d see them in like 50 different patterns, which is really unusual because even big shirting companies would only have like 3 or 4 patterns so it was unique for us to have so many. The only way we were able to do it was because we were going to jobbers and fabric warehouses and buying like 50 years here, 20 yards there, 30 yards here. It was fun. And I would say it was one of the first shirts that men started to just collect where they would have 10 or 20 of them and it was their signature thing.
"There was this article that came out in NY Magazine, The Shirt That Ate Manhattan, that was all about the shirt which was cool too. It just made it all even bigger. California retailers would buy thousands of Reverse Seam shirts and they were all over Hollywood on actors and musicians - Kate Moss, Thom Yorke, and Taylor Swift to name a few. Then women started wearing the XS men’s shirts and that became a thing.
"On fit, it’s just slightly slimmer than, say, our Single Needle because of the seams being on the outside, but it’s still a short, untucked length. It drives me crazy when collars float, which is why our shirts usually have a button down collar, but I didn’t want that on the reverse seam. So the way I got around that was I stitched the collar along the back and almost all the way across the front to keep it in place. In the past, we did it both with the pocket on the inside and the pocket on the outside. This one is the pocket on the inside to kind of stay true to the original.
"It took us a long time to bring it back because we haven’t been able to find a factory that could execute it properly. It has a lot of specific details, so when we brought it to our NYC factory to test it, they immediately recognized the shirt and told us they even have one of the originals in their closet. It was a really fun reminder how small NYC can feel sometimes. We chose two classic 100% cotton fabrics from Japan for the re-launch and couldn’t be happier to finally share them with you again."