There’s a classic Oscar Wilde quote that goes: “One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.”
Why not do both?
Lately, I’ve been reviewing a lot of minimalist brands—clothes that match everything and look good in every season. And while I love the simplicity, ethos, and versatility of minimalist clothing, they just don’t cut it when you want to step out and make a statement.
I can’t lie, I like wearing loud patterns every once in a while. I’m not at the “red-velvet suit with no shirt underneath” level, but there’s joy in putting on a shirt that announces itself.
This is Robert Graham’s specialty.
Their bright patterns and inward facing details (like along the inside of the collar and around the cuffs) have distinguished the brand in a crowded market.
Feeling the need to step out of my minimalist bubble and into something a little more in the spirit of summer fun, I gave Robert Graham a shot. Here are my thoughts.
What Is Robert Graham?
Robert Graham launched back in 2001 intending to bring “American eclectic” style to the world.
The name comes from the two founders: Robert Stock, and Graham Fowler. Stock grew up in the Bronx and found his first major success designing clothes in partnership with Ralph Lauren on the massive Chaps brand back in the 70s.
After Chaps, Stock founded a new brand of his own and continued to refine his style.
When Stock met Graham Fowler, a French fabric designer, the two felt there was something missing from American fashion.
Robert’s father, a mechanic, loved to wear bright floral shirts. In the early 2000s, there just weren’t many brands that were making top-quality clothes with loud looks.
Thus, Robert Graham was formed.
The brand became known for their bold patterns. Their signature, though, is the alternate fabric that lines their collars, cuffs, and along the button line.
It’s been almost two decades since, and Robert Graham has left a mark on the men’s fashion industry. You’ll find their influence in brands like Buttercloth and others, who’ve embraced fabrics that seem to shout.
Things to Consider Before Buying Robert Graham
If you like to blend in, it’s better to stay away from Robert Graham.
International spies and folks who’d rather be left alone should move along to another brand.
But if you don’t mind a little extra attention, and quality craftsmanship is a must, it’s worth digging a little deeper into RG.
Each piece of Robert Graham clothing has something unique about it, whether it’s in the pattern or something embroidered. Flat black shirts aren’t their thing.
Robert Graham Shirts Review
Robert Graham launched their company with shirts, so that’s how I’ll kick this review off.
For reference, I’m 6’1” 190lbs and wearing a size medium in both shirts, and a 34 in the shorts.
Carbone Short Sleeve
As I said earlier, I recently did a deep dive into minimalist clothes and really enjoyed it, but this Moroccan tile-inspired short sleeve seemed like a pleasant break from monotony for the warmer months.
My issue with most beachy shirts is that they’re made with ultralight fabric that just drapes over your body. It only looks flattering if you’re a chiseled guy, in which case, even an old burlap sack looks flattering.
And that’s what I expected from the Carbone.
Although it’s made from cotton, it’s much thicker and more structured than I’d expected. Even with the thicker fabric, it’s still breathable and comfortable to wear. But instead of falling over my shoulders and across my chest, the shirt offers a strong, masculine line across the shoulders and fits snug on my chest.
I love the modern spread collar, which is unusual in these types of shirts. They also sew in collar stays which is a nice touch.
The best way I can describe the Carbone shirt is this: it’s like a multi-millionaire that goes surfing every morning. The shirt is super relaxed looking, but it’s meticulous in its construction. Unlike an off the rack Tommy Bahama shirt, which has the same fit and feel as wearing a bedsheet, the Carbone fits more like a modern dress shirt.
Yes, it’s ultra casual, but you still get the structured lines that lend a subtly heightened masculine look.
Bowmont Gardens Sport Shirt Long Sleeve
I also picked up something a little more “classic Robert Graham.”
If spring were a shirt, this is it. I said I enjoyed wearing something loud every once in a while, and this bright pink shirt does the trick. In fact, it’s maybe a little too loud for me. So I’ve been wearing it under a casual blazer. I like the traditional look with a bright pop of color.
They call this a “sport shirt,” which differs from their dress shirts. But one problem I had with the brands online store is that there is very little information on their products. It’s unclear if they make the sport shirts with different materials than their dress shirts.
You can feel the quality when holding these shirts, but that’s not well-conveyed through their web store.
Still, I like this sport shirt, though I was much more taken by the Carbone.
The Bowmont Gardens shirt has the iconic contrasting cuff and collar Robert Graham is known for. A medium fit well in the shoulders and the length of the arms was perfect.
Robert Graham Daywalt Shorts
The Daywalt Shorts encapsulate the brand pretty well: they’re a hybrid between swimwear and casual shorts.
Because they’re made with polyester, they’re quick drying, and the drawstring means you can take a dip in the ocean without losing them (that happened to me once-—ask me about the story).
But they also have a zip pocket in the back for keys, wallet, or your hotel keycard.
I’m a fan. But they’ll only work in a pool, beach, river, or lake setting. You don’t have to be swimming per se, but the swoosh factor you get with polyester definitely announces these as swimwear.
Robert Graham Fragrance Review: Valour
While Robert Graham got their start in shirts, they’ve started making a name for themselves in men’s colognes, too.
They have three fragrances as of writing: Valour, Courage, and Fortitude.
Valour is their most popular, so I gave it a try.
It’s an interesting fragrance—a style I wouldn’t normally choose, but I’m really enjoying it. The strongest notes are amber, coffee, and sage. I don’t think it’s an “everyday” sort of fragrance (not for me, anyway). But for date nights and cooler months, this subtle warm cologne is an excellent choice.
As we’re getting into warmer months, I’ll be wearing more aquatic and fresh fragrances. But in terms of quality, Valour is solid. The brand touts their colognes as a “blended essence,” rather than an eau-de-cologne or eau-de-parfum.
(Update: After wearing this several times over the last month, I think it could be an everyday fragrance. Probably not every day for me, but I’ve gone from enjoying it to loving it. Some guys can definitely pull this off as their signature scent.)
I don’t see how a blended essence is any different from an eau-de-parfum (EDP) and my experience with the fragrance gives me the hunch it’s in the EDP range of concentration.
Valour lasted a good 10 hours and had a beautiful, subtle drydown. It’s on the sweet side, which is part of why it’s such a good choice in the cooler months.
Valour isn’t cloying, but I can see folks who don’t like any sweet smells in their fragrance being off put here.
Voters on Fragrantica rated its longevity and sillage (projection) in the moderate range. I agree on the sillage front—this doesn’t project super far. But I think it has better-than-average longevity as the rich amber note sticks around for about 10 to 12 hours.
What do Other Reviewers Say About Robert Graham?
For a brand that’s been around since 2001, I was surprised to see so few reviews.
I found Yelp reviews for their flagship Venice Beach store—about half are regarding the brand as a whole, and the other half are specific to the store.
Assuming you’ll be shopping online, I’ll stick to what folks had to say about the brand.
Reviewers commented on Robert Graham’s solid customer service. As for the clothes, either you love the style or you hate it. There’s no question about the quality—it’s excellent. But the fabrics they use either speak to you or they don’t.
My Thoughts Overall On Robert Graham
What I Like
The stitching and reverse-side fabrics on the shirts gives them a rich, luxurious feel. Their construction is excellent.
The fit on both shirts is slimming, but versatile enough to work with many body types.
Daywalt Shorts are a fantastic option for hot summer days—they’re stylish, simple, and make a nice balance between shorts and swim-trunks.
Valour eau-de-parfum lasted a solid 10 hours with a single spray.
What I Don’t Like
There’s no free shipping unless you spend over $200.
Many of the items featured on their online store were out of stock when I looked.
Who is Robert Graham for?
Robert Graham isn’t cheap, but if you love the look of their loud fabrics, it’s important to know that there’s tremendous construction quality in their clothing. You’re not paying just for interesting fabrics—the way they fit and the meticulous stitching all play important roles.
If you love to stand out in a crowd, Robert Graham is well worth looking into
When I first saw Robert Graham’s online store, I was shocked. How could anyone get away with these loud prints, I thought.
But as I kept searching, I found a few items that seemed to fit my personality perfectly. So I gave the brand a shot.
I’ll admit, I was a bit disappointed in Robert Graham’s online shopping experience—I’ve seen so many digital native brands that have their stock and shipping procedures nailed down. Not that ordering from Robert Graham was difficult, but I’d like to see free or reduced shipping for all orders, and more robust inventory (to be completely fair, this is written in May 2020 which is a difficult time for brands to say the least).
Yes, these shirts are loud, and that’s the draw. They’re also cut and sewn in such a way that they feel luxurious and compliment a variety of body types. I love the Moroccan tile inspired shirt—it’s among the highest quality shirts I own and the style feels so cool and effortless.
I’ll be rocking the shorts through summer, and the Valour cologne is a new go-to for date night.
There are folks who’ll love Robert Graham the moment they see the brand, and there are others who won’t. If you have any interest in their unique clothes, you won’t be disappointed with the quality.
Robert Graham has built its reputation through loud and unapologetic shirts. As Oscar Wilde said, "One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art." Well, Robert Graham took that challenge very seriously.
Who owns Robert Graham?
Robert Graham is owned by Centric Brands, and was founded by American fashion designer Robert Stock and French fabric producer Graham Fowler.
Do Robert Graham shirts run true to size?
Yes, Robert Graham shirts run true to size. They have a subtle slimming effect that compliments many body types.
How do you wear a Robert Graham shirt?
Robert Graham shirts look great tucked into jeans and under a blazer.
Because of the loud prints, they’re not the best choice for formal events, but for Friday and Saturday nights, these shirts will stand out and look great.
Where is Robert Graham from?
Robert Graham is an American company founded 2001 in New York City. It was created by the designer Robert Stock and the fabric producer Graham Fowler.