Sussex Lane is a destination for two things: business shirts and after-work drinks. On the lane's adjoining streets, which are surrounded by KPMG, Westpac, American Express and Macquarie Bank, you'll find plenty of run-of-the-mill corporate menswear stores. In recent years several new bars have popped up in the area, most notably Small Bar on Erskine Street, Sydney's first official small bar. Now a new store/bar is combining the two.
Husband and wife team Louka and Justin Marmont, along with bar and barista gun Adam Hofbauer, have recently opened Shirt Bar. And yes, it's exactly what you think it is.
The Marmont family have somewhat of a reputation for their finesse with shirting. Justin's father Allan started Ganton, a classic Australian shirt label, 37 years ago. Following in his footsteps, Justin launched Jensen in 2005. Jensen has louder fabrication, bolder cuts and is typically worn by similarly loud and bold men. Last year Louka, too, jumped on board with women's shirt label Louka & Sabina, and these three brands are the only ones that you'll find hanging at the very local and family-oriented Shirt Bar. "We still cover the whole spectrum," says Louka. "There's classic Ganton, the louder more slim-fitting Jensen shirts, and then Louka and Sabina for women. We can pretty much fit everybody in terms of fit and lifestyle."
On the other side of the room you'll find a fully stocked bar. "We're predominantly a whiskey bar," says Louka. "There's been a lot of wine bars popping up, but we wanted to offer something different. We've got 17 whiskeys: 12 single malts and five blends." There's a reasonable selection of wine on the menu too, alongside top-shelf rum, tequila and a selection of tasting plates.
On the walls in-between the racks and the bar you'll find street art from Urban Uprising, all of which is for sale, and old-fashioned Singer miniatures. It's this blend of old fashioned charm and youthful edge that makes Shirt Bar such an interesting place to visit. "Most guys don't like shopping, so we wanted to make it an enjoyable process for them," explains Louka. "They can come in and have a drink after work on a Friday night and maybe try on a few shirts while they're here. That way they don't have to do it over the weekend."
When you visit shirt bar by day you'll find it packed with young corporates meeting over cups of Hofbauer's own F.A.T. coffee, and in the evening you'll see work friends sharing a drink as other customers peruse the racks. If the idea of whiskey-in-hand shirt shopping doesn't quite hit your niche spot, then you'll probably want to kick things up a notch with a bespoke fitting. "People come in and sit in the big chesterfields and we get them a coffee or a drink, measure them up, and take them through different fabric and cut options for their custom shirt." Roger Sterling would approve.