My New Shirt

Architetto----Camicia-in-seta“You need a new shirt.”

It never fails.

Just when I finally get my world the way I like it, my wife comes up with something like this.

I do not need a new shirt.

I have all shirts I need. In fact I have a closet full of shirts – though I only wear three.

One shirt is for walking my dog around the block. The thing is, our block is seven miles around, so when Scooter and I get home, that shirt goes into the wash.

The second shirt is for walking Scooter while the first one is in the washer.

The third shirt is for church on Sunday.

All the other shirts in my closet either do not fit or are not fit for walking a dog.

“Why do I need a new shirt?” I ask.

“Because your Sunday shirt is no longer suitable for church.”

“Why? It’s comfortable.”

I admit that the only dress shirt that fits is unraveling at the seams. It is also threadbare, full of holes and permanently rumpled – but is that not the very definition of comfortable?

A well-worn shirt is well-worn because the wearer likes to wear it. Who can argue with that? A shirt that is not well-worn proclaims loudly that it is not worn for a reason.

Somewhere in my closet, there is a shirt like that. It is a long-sleeved white button down dress shirt that I only wear with my blue suit, and I only wear my blue suit to weddings and funerals. The shirt testifies to how much I like going to both events.

“You are getting a new shirt, and that is that.”


At The Outlet Mall

“This is a nice shirt,” she says, handing me a square of plastic bound cloth.

I have no idea how she can tell it is either nice or a shirt.

“Try it on,” she says.

Try it on…..

It sounds so simple.

First I must find a place to do it. Stores frown on using restrooms for that purpose, but while restrooms are easy to find, fitting rooms are not.

“Where are the fitting rooms?” I ask.

“The men’s fitting rooms are right over there,” she says pointing to an unbroken line of wall displays.

I always marvel at how she knows these things, given that the store is sharply divided by gender and no self-respecting man would dare wander into the domain of women, yet every woman alive seems well acquainted with the men’s section.

I squint.

“Look closely,” she says, “between the jeans and the dress pants.”

I see nothing but I walk in that direction on faith alone. Sure enough, somewhere between the jeans and the dress slacks, the fitting rooms present themselves.

I located an unoccupied stall, one that has no occupant because the latch does not work – but hey, I am trying on a shirt, not pants.

Next problem: how to get at the shirt?

This is a mystery to me.

The effort that goes into packaging men’s dress shirts is astonishing. The thing comes wrapped in a plastic sheath and has been carefully folded into a tight square which in turn is held together by a quiver full of semi-lethal pins. The pins are everywhere. There are pins in the collar, pins in the button holes, pins in the shoulders and pins in the shirt tails.

I suddenly realize why men’s fitting rooms are hard to find.  Think of the staff hours required to get a dress shirt back into its original form once a buyer rejects it.

When trying on a dress shirt, the trick is to first remove all the pins. An experienced shirt buyer can confidently do this with ease, but an old man who tries on a shirt every five years cannot.

Ouch….ouch….ouch…. &*%$$#.

Then there is the plastic.

The manufacturer puts plastic in the collar (I suppose to help it keep its shape) and you are supposed to remove it before putting the shirt on. You are also supposed to know you are supposed to remove the plastic.

Keep in mind that dress shirt collars are enthusiastically starched. Working together, the plastic and the starch can make quick work of your neck, and yes, that does leave a mark.

After all of these trials, one is compelled to parade the shirt in front of one’s wife for her approval.

“It looks good,” she says.

“It makes my belly look big,” I complain.

“Because your belly is big,” she says. It sounds like a complaint.

None the less, she likes the shirt.

“Can we go now?” I ask.

“Not so fast.”

“What now?”

“We have to do something about your pants.”

“I don’t need pants, I have three pair.”

Author: Almost Iowa

54 thoughts on “My New Shirt”

  1. That’s one of the big benefits of casual Friday turning into business casual all the time, and the way that’s spilled over into general fashion expectations. I haven’t had to unpack a new dress shirt for years. But you described the process so well I could visualize it like it was yesterday, right down to the pricked fingertips.

    1. At my state agency, casual Friday was every day. Eventually things got too casual and management put everyone on notice that shirts and shoes were not optional. No kidding.

  2. I never can understand why men’s shirts are packaged the way they are with cardboard and pins. It looks like so much work for the clerk to repackage any shirts that someone tried on but doesn’t buy.

    1. Last year, I thought I could get by with two shirts. Our local Big Box Farm Store sells these wonderful road-safety yellow, long-sleeve t-shirts. They are indestructible and never fade…..perfect for church, I thought. Heck, I even see other guys wearing them during services.

      Uh…. it didn’t fly.

  3. I never try to influence my Sam to buy new clothes. He knows what he needs to wear and shops and dresses well for casual, work, beach, camping, dinner parties, and formal. Could this be because his father was a tailor and his mother was a perfectionist? So I should be so happy.
    But…when it comes to the kitchen (the one that used to be entirely my territory)….now that he is an amazing bread/pizza maker…but doesn’t like to (completely) clean up after himself…I find myself grumbling about how he expects me to do it for him…such a prima donna!

    1. Years ago, when my buddy Stan and I shared an apartment, we came to this agreement: one cooks, one cleans, every other week we trade roles. Once my wife retires, we will do this…but until then, one works; one cooks and cleans.

  4. I never knew the reason why there are always fewer men’s dressing rooms than women’s was the way the shirts are packaged…but it makes sense. Who in the world wants to put those things back together? And I wonder why they are packaged that way? If they were hung on a hanger, then you could just look at the shirt and tell if you liked it and probably even if it would fit. Hope you had better luck with the pants…..

  5. I have always left his sartorial needs ( or wants) to him. He buys more clothes than I do! I have zero fashion sense and dress for comfort. Those dress shirt with plastic and pins sound like exactly the opposite!

    1. sartorial needs

      Hey! I had to look that up. Thanks…

      I’d say anyone who casually uses terms like “sartorial needs” is sophisticated enough to wear anything they please.

  6. What is it with men? My husband is the same way… no matter how many wonderful shirts I buy him, he always wears the same 3. Is this a male genetic abnormality?

  7. We got a half a foot of snow last night, I’m drinking my coffee, and decided I needed a boost before I go shovel, so here I am reading about your shirt. I’m thinking your wife doesn’t adhere to the rule in the “When I Am Old…I will wear purple” theory or that comfort in clothing is king. I highly recommend both. 🙂

    1. A half foot of snow. Ouch! Snow just before Christmas is welcome, in November not so much.

      As for comfort in clothing, you know you are getting old when you dress for comfort. For me that happened at 15. 🙂

  8. I totally agree with your description of a well-worn shirt and what it indicates. My well-worn holey frayed shirt was recently tossed to the rag pile by my husband after I wore it out to dinner. 🙂

  9. This takes me back decades! Can’t remember the last time I saw a boxed shirt, unless perhaps in a high class exclusive men’s store, which again is a very very long time ago.
    Maybe the way to treat a new shirt is to put it in washing machine for 48hours continuous…… then outside on line for two weeks….let dog play with it then and that should begin the breaking in process.
    As for trousers, time for funky braces?
    Blue suit??????? 🙂

    1. Maybe the way to treat a new shirt is to put it in washing machine for 48hours continuous…… then outside on line for two weeks….let dog play with it then and that should begin the breaking in process.

      My technique, precisely.

  10. I recall similar words at the sad demise of my ‘pat paulsen for president’ t-shirt. heck it was almost broken in. I am beginning to think some people just don’t appreciate patina and comfort.

    1. “Pat Paulsen”, sadly he died in 1997, otherwise I would personally revive his campaign for the presidency. He was certainly better than all the other clowns.

      1. At least in some circumstances you are truly doing a disservice to all clowns professional and amateur when using that word to describe politicians.

  11. My husband resolves this problem by having me remove all the pins and plastic before taking the shirt into the dressing room. Then I stand, holding his pin and plastic, waiting for him tip reappear. Holding pins and plastic means I can’t wander off to shop elsewhere. So I can’t use that other plastic in my wallet.

    1. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! For MANY, MANY years I only wore plaid shirts. It was like who I was. When I married my first wife she accepted the plaid shirt bit because her father also wore plaid shirts. She was a thrift store shopper and all our closets were filled with clothes from the thrift and we had plenty. I am not knocking clothes from the thrift store because they are just as good as new for the fraction of the cost. The dressing rooms at most thrift stores, however, only had curtains and no doors (at least where we lived). Since our divorce, 11 years ago, I have taken to wearing mostly T-shirts. I still don’t like wearing T-shirts and sometimes I feel like calling my ex and having her go shirt shopping for me. That would not be a good idea because we have only talked twice over the phone in the past 11 years. The worse thing is that she would probably gladly accept and think I miss her. I know what you mean about all the pins. I remember them well! Great post as always and you always make me laugh!

  12. I always enjoy trying something on while attempting to keep my wallet safe. Those unlocked doors are not conducive to leaving the wallet in the room. I have found under the armpit does not work on shirt try-ons.

    1. When traveling, we will walk into a gas station and my wife will pluck an arm-load of goodies off the shelf then say, “Oh, I left my purse in the car, would you pay for this?”

      Now….apply that same principle to clothes shopping.

  13. I agree with the frustrations of the pins!!!
    I’d concluded that the manufacturers know men (or their wives) just buy the shirts and don’t figure out they aren’t the right fit till it’s too late to return any!

    1. You are onto something, Chelsea. I have given clothes to the Goodwill with tags still on them rather than go through the bother of returning them. My wife buys things and returns them all the time, I never figured that out. 🙂

  14. We’re told that the better part of wisdom is learning to distinguish between wants and needs, but I must say, I can’t remember anyone dealing with the complexities that arise when it’s “her” wants and “your” needs!

    1. The transformation of influencer “wants” into consumer “needs” is the essence of modern marketing. It probably explains why so many women are familiar with the men’s section of stores.

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