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CEGO Custom Shirts, Part I

— Thu, 1st July 2010 —

To the uninitiated, the idea of custom shirting might seem lavish. CEGO customers — made up mostly of savvy New Yorkers and commuters — know better. To this well-informed bunch, CEGO shirts represent true value and bare style necessity — a testament to proprietor Carl Goldberg and his decades of service at the storied shop. In Part I of a two-part profile, contributor — and Eating Everywhere editor-in-chief — Sam Jacobs uncovers what goes into the making of a CEGO custom shirt.

You walk into an unassuming office space in a Fifth Ave building in the Flatiron district.  The showroom/office/fitting area/storage area is filled with samples, swatches, and spools upon spools of shirting fabric sourced from all over the world.  This is the office of Carl Goldberg of CEGO, shirt maker to the everyman.

Carl Goldberg is just a regular guy with a talent for sizing you up (in more ways than one), and helping you determine the right size, shape, and style shirt for you.  He began his career as a teenager working in his family’s Army/Navy store in Philadelphia.  After school he made his way to NYC — America’s garment capital.  There was a job at Barney’s and a brief stint in the garment center before he decided to go into business for himself.

CEGO – a derivative of his name – started as a custom suit shop, accompanied by his signature shirts, boxers, and pocket squares.  He quickly dropped the suits to do what he does best.  In the earliest days he would bring his swatches into people’s Manhattan offices – lots of financial institutions, “boiler rooms”, and real estate offices.  In fact, he even fit my father at his old 34th Street office in the mid/late 80s.  “Once you get a custom shirt from Carl, you’ll never want to buy off-the-rack again,” said my dad who still has a number of CEGO shirts in his closet even though he hasn’t purchased a new one in nearly two decades.

Over the years the business has evolved.  The cut of the garment has gotten trimmer, and the customers younger.  Carl prefers to sell his shirts at a 2-5 shirt minimum but will make exceptions for guys like Chris — a young, dapper gent who ordered a custom formal shirt for his Boston wedding.   “I hope he comes back for more,” says Carl.  Repeat customers, of course, are key to any successful business.  (My dad went back for years.)  Another guy who walked in, Nick, said he’d been coming to see Carl for about a year now, and had a handful of shirts to show for it.

If Carl is making you your first CEGO shirt, he asks that you bring in what you feel is your best fitting shirt.  In 2006 my future wife got me a gift card for a Liste Rouge custom shirt.  Same deal, fancier platform.  They were more glitz than substance.  I love the shirt, but Carl was quick to point out the imperfections; how the shoulders drooped; how they made the right arm longer than the left when in fact it’s my left arm that’s longer than the right. Looking in the mirror I realized I didn’t look as good in my shirt as Chris and Nick did in theirs.

I let him measure me, and then ordered my shirt – a simple white with French cuffs.  He showed me the small work shop they have on site.  Valentin, a man trained in Oaxaca, Mexico cuts the fabrics before they’re sent out to be assembled locally.  It’s all done by hand at this stage.  No detail overlooked.  Will I be hooked?  I’ll let you know in a few weeks.

– Words and photography by Sam Jacobs

CEGO – 174 5th Ave between 22nd & 23rd – Suite 502 – 212-620-4512 – Map

  1. Yes, I would like to know as well? What is base price and does price go up depending on fabric?

  2. is it one of those situations where the cheaper end differs greatly from the higher end?
    In other words, are the $100 shirts just a custom version of lands end?


  3. Not a chance, I’ve gotten over 11 shirts from Carl. At first I started off at $100 and gradually chose nicer and nicer fabrics. Same method of construction, same pattern and measurements of shirts and same quality throughout.

    Also he’ll be out next week btw.

  4. The $100 shirts are cotton, correct? Not some kind of 60/40 cotton/poly blend?

  5. The cheaper shirts are cotton and, as already said, the construction is identical to the more expensive ones. You are simply paying for more expensive fabric. I have been using CEGO for 2 years now and am about 25 shirts in. Great value, great service, great fit. I will never by a shirt OTR again.


  6. I’m very excited to get my shirt, which is supposed to be ready for me by the 2nd or 3rd week in July. I will be posting more photos and my thoughts on the shirt at that time. Enjoy the weekend, all!

  7. I will answer as many questions as possible. Feel free to ask more questions if they are not answered here.

    Prices range from $95-400.
    99 % of the fabrics are natural fibers. cotton, linen,silk,or wool, as well as various combinations.
    Try not to get caught up on the phrases, custom, made to measure, or bespoke. The most important part, is “Does the shirt fit”
    shirts are made in two different processes. about 85% are made in a medium sized workroom in Newark, NJ.
    numerous measurements are plugged into a computer, and a pattern is created in the computer.almost any alteration can be made to the base pattern including armhole depth, sleeve width, collar height, size and point length.
    cuff size can be changed to accommodate a larger watch.

    we usually quote 2-4 week turn around depending on the time of the year.

    in most cases we make a first shirt sample from the fabric of your choice. we allow for shrinkage in the collar and sleeve length. You will take the shirt home and wear it a few times to make sure you are pleased with the fit.
    You then come back to critique the fit, make any needed adjustments and order more shirts.

    We also make shirts in our workroom in back. one pattern-maker/cutter, two sewers, and two finishers, turn out shirts the old fashioned way.
    here the prices start higher. $195 and up with a 5 shirt minimum. there is even more room for minor fit adjustments.
    there are many details the NJ workroom can not do. there is not much we have not made as long as it looks like a shirt. removable collars, intricate formal shirts, and obnoxiously tight sport shirts. we are even making a reversible shirt at the moment.
    We can also make a shirt in a day, if the need arises.
    hand monograms are available. I also have a fantastic assortment of MOP buttons.

  8. I’m hooked on CEGO. I probably have about 11 or 12 shirts by Carl. I too started out on the low end and inched my way higher. Each shirt is just as well made as the last, the only difference being the quality of the fabric. I’ve had a few different places make shirts for me over the years, and I only wish I had found CEGO earlier. Carl’s shirts fit better than any other shirts I’ve experienced. This has all reminded me that I’m due to swing by again for a new order.

  9. I’m not in a position to take advantage of Carl’s services, but I love hearing about this kind of stuff, especially from the customers. It’s great to know about such places.


  10. I second Max on his enthusiasm for CEGO. The fit of the shirts is near perfect, the fabric selection is huge, and Carl is a gentleman. Beware: owning a couple of shirts from CEGO will render off-the-rack shirts unwearable.

  11. I’ve ordered a few shirts from Carl. He’s first-class and also better looking than in the unfortunate photo above.

    Every guy should have clothing that fits. Nowadays, when office wear is often only a shirt and trousers, a well-fitting shirt is more important than ever.

    CEGO rox.

  12. I went in a few days ago to get my first shirt fitting. It was a nice education on the subtleties of a shirt that you never notice when you buy things OTR. Carl was great and gave me a few local recommendations on eateries in the area. Ended up buying 2 shirts at $150 each… a bit higher than I wanted for my first shirts, but I’m sure it will be worth it. I’d like to keep my shirts in the $100-150 range, but can see it creeping higher as start adding personalized touches to make my shirts unique. Can’t wait to see what the first two shirts look like, hopefully this will be the start a long relationship.

  13. Where do I start….worst experience I have had, got to the point where I just threw my hands up and walked away. When it for a measurement the first time, then we did a mock up, after mock up, the shirt was very tight in certain areas. I was assured that it will be made bigger when the shirts were made. At this point, was uncertain how many shirts I was going to get made, but Carl encouraged me to pick out styles so that he has them. Ok, fine. Went the 5 shirts I liked, and a few other possible styles for another time. Now, shirts are ready, I pick them up, they didn’t fit. Not only did he make the 5 we agreed to, but also made an additional 5, the styles we would put to the side. I kid you not, I had to go back at least 4 or 5 times to get mesaured, change the shirts, measured again, change again, finally I had enough, I took what he had, pad for 10 shirts, have never worn them. It’s a shame…All I can say is be very careful….

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