Lessons on Quality from a Master Shirt Maker

Carl Goldberg is a custom shirt maker in the Garment District of New York City.  His custom tailoring shop CEGO Custom Shirts (254 5th Ave. NYC) has been making shirts for men in NYC and beyond since 1982 and is the go-to resource for wardrobe departments of Broadway shows, major motion pictures, and television shows.  His shirts have been worn on the stage, small and big screen by Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, and Daniel Craig to name only a few.

Teddy Stratford: How did you get into the business of shirt making?

Carl Goldberg: I’ve been in the shirt business for over 30 years, actually 32. I never went to school for it.  I studied business in college, so I don’t cut and I don’t sew. I know how to tell my sewers, who are excellent, how to execute what I want. I could put on a button if I had to. But I am really good with a tape me, aasure; I have a good eye for what works for people, for what doesn’t work for people.

Teddy Stratford: How did you become involved with Teddy Stratford?

Carl Goldberg: Bryan approached me with this project and I found it interesting. Bryan is one of these guys who comes up with an idea that will solve a problem, and you know, guys like him…there are not that many around, but it is special when you meet them, so, I got behind him. We worked on the shirt, a little tweak here, and a little tweak there, we’ve moved a button here, the zipper goes up, the zipper goes down and Teddy Stratford has come to life.

Teddy Stratford: When you look at a shirt, how can you tell if a shirt is well made?

Carl Goldberg: Today it’s kind of hard to tell, because automated machinery makes nearly 90% of shirts on the market look exactly the same, but you should look at the stitching; is it straight? I always look underneath the shirt, the inside, but unless you know what you are looking for, it might be hard to understand. We do a single-needle side close, so there are no open seams, there is no chain stitching, which is an inexpensive way to put a shirt together. So it’s basically a cleaner, stronger way to make the garment.

 Teddy Stratford: If you are an individual and you are looking for someone to make a shirt for you, what are some ways to know a good tailor?

Carl Goldberg: Well, it is really hard because if they have a good pattern, and talk the talk, someone can talk you into something. If they immediately tell you they are going to make you a Bespoke garment, and it’s being made in Asia, they are just sending something off to a factory somewhere.  If someone is using the word Bespoke, then they just picked the name out of a hat and they’ve probably been doing this for about 8 years, at most. If you’re lucky, they’ve been doing this for 8 years; some people have been doing this for 6 months.

Teddy Stratford: Luck and Courage are Teddy Stratford’s mantra do you have any story that would be a good example of these?

Carl Goldberg: I’ve have been at this for a long time, and there was a point right after 9-11, when business really was not that great. People did not want to think about much of anything, but I stuck with it. Of course, back then, if it wasn’t for the opportunity to make Nazi stormtrooper shirts for The Producers on Broadway, then I probably would have gone out of business. But, you know, I just persevered, then the internet found me. I found many spots on the internet with forums where people talk about clothing, and I would answer questions because I had the knowledge, and people found me, so they think I know what I am doing.