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I get asked this question very often, what difference does a split yoke make? Simply put, a shirt with a single yoke can never fit well. A shirt with split yoke can fit badly too but single yoke will always will.
The big question here is whether or not to have a split yoke on a shirt, or to do without. While many generally agree that the split yoke will make the attire fit better, there are some reservations. Before we go any further, for the benefit of those who do not know what a split yoke is, an introduction is in order.
Go to your wardrobe and pick up your best shirt. Turn it around and study it. Chances are, you will find a panel of fabric at the top shoulder area. This is the dress-shirt yoke. A one piece yoke refers to a yoke that is constructed from a single piece of fabric, while a split yoke refers to a yoke which is split in the middle. The split is of course sewn together, and you can see that the two pieces are arranged at an angle of one another. If the fabric is of check or plaid or stripes, you can see this more clearly compared to if the shirt is of solid colour.
Some wearers honestly do not feel any difference in terms of fit and comfort, so why bother with the split yoke? In fact, some say, if not sewn by expert hands, the split yoke will only result in an uncomfortable shirt, especially if the tailor insists on having the check or stripe patterns meet perfectly at an angle right in the middle. The tailor’s insistence may compromise the shirt’s fit (and subsequently, comfort). On the other hand, if this perfect-match pattern cannot be achieved by the tailor, then a messy, unattractive look will result.
Looks aside, it is still worth finding out for sure if the split yoke actually results in a better fit. If yes, how so? Obviously, an explanation must be sought.
It could be that if there is some unevenness in the yoke, then splitting the panel will somewhat even it up, ensuing an improved fit. A better explanation is that found in the warp and the weft of the fabric. Warp and weft refer to the direction of the thread – warp meaning vertical direction while weft is the horizontal direction. On a good quality fabric, the warp and weft result in the fabric being rather non-stretchable, so that pulling it in the horizontal or vertical direction will not make it stretch very much. This low stretch-ability factor causes the wearer to feel a little uncomfortable when he bends to, say, pick something up from the ground, or tie his shoe laces.
In contrast, it is seen that a diagonal pull will make the fabric stretch. This is where a split yoke add advantage to the shirt. By rotating the fabric so that the pieces meet each other in an angle, the stretch-ability of the material is increased, enabling the shirt (or rather, the yoke) to accommodate movements made by the wearer.
So this is what makes the split yoke add comfort to the shirt. But it comes with a cost. It takes longer to work on a shirt with split yoke compared to the one piece variety. To add, the split requires more material. And that’s not all - the ‘meeting’ of the two pieces of fabric must be just so in order to produce a trendy look. Things can go horribly wrong if the ‘meeting’ is not ‘clean’, which will inevitably result in a jagged, messy appearance.
To put it in a nutshell, a split yoke shirt, while more costly and more difficult to produce, is in fact a better shirt!