Someone asked: That poor John Elliott shirt, how did that go?

Someone dropped me a note the other day asking whatever happened with the ill-fated John Elliott shirt I bought in Edinburgh last year. It’s nice to be reminded, and it’s a clear hint that updating the original post about developments in such a thrilling story doesn’t reach out all that may be interested. So, while you could easily go back and enjoy the full and fresh wrath that the episode brought out in me, you can also stay tuned here for the highlights, the summary, the wider ideas and outright opinions.

The premise of the original post was what you can reasonably expect when you buy a very expensive shirt. The shirt in question was one I found in the sale at Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh. Made by John Elliot in the US, it was dramatically reduced in price from an eye-watering 400 pounds to a still spendy 100. It was a nice short though, in the OG-107 style. And it was made from a fabric which at that point was new to me, Tencel. Nice shirt, super soft fabric, heavy discount. We know how that goes.

Initially, I was very happy with it and could see this being the start of a long and loving relationship. On the second wear though, the cracks started to show. Or rather, it was obvious that the Tencel was not up to the job and the shirt was worn through in the armpits. After an immediate immersion in snot and tears, my inner angry man was fired up. Having had a decent success with my piece about Doc Martens and the splitting soles (and even more gratifyingly, many others found this post useful when dealing with Doc Martens, I wasn’t about to let this one lie.

To fast forward a bit (remember, you can read the original for extra details), there were two counterparts in this issue. John Elliott, the brand itself, and Harvey Nichols, the retailer. I went directly to John Elliott, as my question to them was twofold: What the hell happened here, and is Tencel really a suitable fabric for a shirt?

At this point, I should interject what Tencel actually is. It’s a brand name really, for a type of fabric that really is nothing more than viscose, i.e. made from pulped wood, i.e. cellulose. In the same way as rayon and bamboo is pulped. You’ve probably seen all the hoopla and wild claims about “bamboo fabrics”? Don’t believe the hype, the bamboo is pulped and any characteristics that may once have been there are gone once it’s transformed into cellulose. The end result is nice and soft though like Tencel is. 

John Elliott refused to comment or even give me a proper reply, other than to contact the seller. I gave them more than ample opportunity as well, even including the link to the post that was developing with or without their lack of input.

Harvey Nichols didn’t respond either, initially. Then they did respond and were super helpful, even calling me up. I’d like to think they do this for everyone and not just someone who is publishing their responses on their blog. In any case, they took the shirt back and refunded my money. No drama and while part of me was sad to see it go, another part was pleased to be refunded.


I did keep poking at John Elliott though. There are many ways to do this, tweeting the link to my post and tagging their Twitter name, sending them the occasional email, posting on their Facebook page (looks like they’ve removed public messages now) and posting a link to the article on their Official Afilliate Styleforum page (where you find a huge number of their fans). No response at all. Which is a pretty strange tactic in this day and age. While you might have been ok with ignoring a dissatisfied customer in the pre-web days, it is harder today. One thing is that information published hangs around, the other is that Google finds it. So when I say John Elliott has incredibly poor quality goods and a customer service that treats their customers very poorly, then that sticks around.

I was reminded of this just yesterday when I noticed a hit on the blog from an address that looked intriguing. It was from service that reports on what websites are linking to your site. I followed the link back and who was it checking? John Elliott. Are they getting wise to the poor publicity they are getting? I’d like to think they might be getting a little wiser, but they still haven’t replied to my emails. And for all, I know John Elliott is still making shit shirts and other reprehensible goods. Nothing lasts like a bad reputation, eh?

John Elliott customer service on Facebook, as poor as by email.

John Elliott customer service on Facebook, as poor as by email.

Oh, and I never did get an answer to my question(*), though I fear it may be “no more than for a cheap shirt”.

In a strange twist of what may or may not be a coincidence, I have noticed that Norse Projects have produced an almost identical shirt this season, and yes, it’s also made from Tencel. And even after all I’ve been through, I still feel a small nagging hint of lust whenever I pass one. It’s pretty sad how we never learn, right?

(*) The question was “What can you expect from an expensive shirt?”

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