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Monday, May 18, 2009

Not all clothing deserves (or gets) a second chance

[Today's post about men's clothing has been rattling around in my head for a few months and is likely of interest to nobody.  But I had an inexplicable need to write it down... so feel free to came back another time.]

I think it's safe to say that with very few exceptions, men's formal/business attire must be in new (or like-new) condition to be worn in polite company. 

With the exception of replacing a lost collar button (using the exact match sewn onto the back of the placket by the thoughtful manufacturer), you usually shouldn't repair dress clothes.  Basically, if you have patches on your jacket, you'd better be a professor... and the patches had better be of fine leather and be located on the elbows of a tweed hacking jacket. 

Barring that, if you have obvious repairs on dress clothes, you will be perceived as homeless and escorted off the premises. 

But the rules for repairing causal men's clothing seem to be somewhat more flexible... albeit a tad arbitrary:

Socks - One of my favorite reads was interviewed a couple of months ago for an ongoing video series called 'Momversations' in which she asked;

 "Do guys who aren't in relationships just let their toenails grow until they poke through the front of their socks?" 

While Zahava can attest that I'm probably not the best person to answer that particular question, it does raise a topic that has puzzled me for ages:  Why are socks considered completely disposable?

[funny aside:  When I first heard the Beatle's song 'Eleanor Rigby' as a kid, I thought the lyric; "Father McKenzie darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there"  meant he was swearing at his socks in private.]

But seriously, 'darning' socks was once a well respected pastime that marked the darner as both thrifty and responsible.  But in my adult life I have never met a single person who wouldn't toss even their favorite pair of socks in the trash at the first hint of a hole. 

Underwear/undershirts - Okay, unlike socks, the idea of repairing 'holy' underwear is just creepy.  But by the same token, underwear's very invisibility under clothing offers the lazy among us a ready excuse to hang on to them, ehem, somewhat longer than their condition might normally warrant. 

Pants: For some reason, pants - especially blue jeans - lend themselves nicely to being repaired.  Patched knees, seats and crotches are the mark of a well-loved pair of jeans.  Heck, you can even buy bluejeans these days with the knees that have been thoughtfully pre-torn by the manufacturer (there's a career there somewhere for both of my sons)! 

But just try and patch a pair of khakis/chinos and suddenly your wife doesn't want to be seen with you in public!  Sheesh!

Shirts:  Here's a real puzzler:  While you can repair some casual pants... once any casual shirt has a tear, or the collar becomes the least bit frayed, wives and girlfriends immediately start trying to toss the blameless garment into the trash, or relegate it to the rag bin. 

During our first year of marriage, Zahava made several clandestine attempts to throw out some of my favorite shirts.  That we remained married after the third time I found my favorite over-sized, diaper-soft light purple cotton oxford in the trash, is a testament to how much I love my wife. 

These days, a bigger problem is that she has finally realized the true value of these 'vintage' shirts and is constantly trying to pilfer these treasured heirlooms for her own use around the house.

OK... I feel better now that I've gotten that out of my system. Of course, I'm pretty sure that what got me started down this thought path is the sad fact that more than 3/4 of my available drawer and closet space is now occupied by clothing that:

a) ... doesn't fit me properly (but may fit me again some day if I would stick to a diet and exercise program for more than a week)

b) ... is missing a button or two in a place that can't be ignored or hidden.

c)... is torn in places that social convention and local ordnance demand should be patched before being worn in public.

d)... is wrinkled beyond acceptable norms (even for linen shirts) and needs to be ironed.

e)... is clothing associated with a particular task or sport, such as bee suits, baseball pants / jerseys, tai chi clothes, polar thermal underwear (''gotkes'), climbing pants & shoes, cross-country ski clothing, etc., that should really be relegated to a storage room or a box in the attic... but I'm afraid I'll have trouble finding it when I really need it.

Women have it so much easier; a simple black cocktail dress and a couple of pairs of pumps and your wardrobe all set, right?   < /sarcasm >

Posted by David Bogner on May 18, 2009 | Permalink

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Umm two questions....

1. Have you been speaking to my husband? He just showed me a ripped shirt and I told him where it needed to go....

2. When you say Zehava wants these shirts for "around the house" do you mean to use as dustrags :)

Posted by: Safranit | May 18, 2009 11:30:51 AM

Hi David,

Thought I'd let you know that my reference in your previous post to the "Baltimore Colts quiz" wasn't about modern pop culture, it was old-school pop culture, which is why I was surprised you didn't get it.

It was from "Diner".

Oh, and I just had a conversation recently with a friend about dress shirts. He asked me what causes the underarms of white dress shirts to turn yellow. I politely (ok, maybe not so much) informed him that I didn't have the slightest idea, because I would never keep a dress shirt long enough for that to occur.

Posted by: Yehuda | May 18, 2009 11:34:49 AM

When my husband and I were engaged, my uncle pulled him aside and said, "Whatever you do, don't waste your money buying any new clothes now. Because as soon as you're married, your wife is definitely going to throw all of them out..."

Posted by: Mrs. S. | May 18, 2009 12:01:24 PM

Either I'm way too in touch with my "masculine side," or men's and women's clothing issues aren't as different as you think: Your a through e sound pretty much the same as mine (except in the choices of the specialty clothing). Is it an Americanism to hang onto clothing from five years ago, ever hopeful that we'll fit it again?

Posted by: rutimizrachi | May 18, 2009 12:53:33 PM

Rutimizrachi said; "Is it an Americanism to hang onto clothing from five years ago, ever hopeful that we'll fit it again?"

LOL I don't know if it's an Americanism, or delusional.

I have half a closet of shirts and pants which no longer fit, but would still be considered stylish, in my bedroom. My wife, on the other hand, looks at her summer outfits from last year and starts bagging the clothes for charity because they are "last year's look"... thankfully, mens fashion tends not to be so trendy!

Posted by: ProphetJoe | May 18, 2009 3:54:18 PM

My favorite pair of sandals, the one's that were completely broken in and fit like gloves (sort of) were rescued from certain death more times than I can remember. Finally, however, while I was on call, the dastardly deed was done, and I never saw my beloved footwear again. Alas.

Posted by: QuietusLeo | May 18, 2009 4:29:53 PM

I absolutely mend socks. But only the ones I made myself.

And hello, men have it SO MUCH easier than women. My husband has six identical pairs of black pants and maybe ten wrinkle-free button-down shirts. His closet looks like Phineas Fogg's. He never even has to think in the morning. And nobody even blinks that he wears the exact same thing to work every day. Try doing that if you're a woman!

Of course, when I married him, the closet was different. My starting rule of thumb was "any article of clothing with an aperture larger than the ones designed to be there goes." So, any undershirt with a hole larger than the one for his head, for example...

Posted by: uberimma | May 18, 2009 6:06:52 PM

I can answer the sock darning question easily. Socks these days are made by machine and the threads are too fine to be darned with even thin wool. I've tried, during periods of thrift.

Posted by: Lisa | May 18, 2009 6:23:47 PM

I have a theory. Men don't throw clothes out nearly so often as women, therefore manufacturers make them from inferior quality fabric. That way they look shabbier quicker. I have lost count of how many of my better half's trousers look awful after less than 12 months - and they weren't cheap to buy.

When we got married 5 years ago, my husband gave me PERMISSION to go through his clothes. I took four black bin bags either to the charity shop or the dump. He even lets me do his clothes shopping for him - otherwise he'd be reduced to one outfit worn over and over. He's wonderful:-)

Posted by: Noa | May 18, 2009 10:57:42 PM

I miss my toughskins.

Posted by: Jack | May 19, 2009 3:24:59 AM

My grandmother used to darn my dads socks when he was a kid, and he said it made them very uncomfortable. Because you end up with a big bunch of knots jamming into the bottom/side of your foot where the (previously comfortable) hole was.

Posted by: Tanya | May 19, 2009 8:53:33 PM

My wife threw out a PERFECTLY GOOD blue workshirt when we got married, which I had been wearing for 7 years, and it was silky-soft and diaphanous and just-broken in... *sigh*...

I darned my socks in collidge. FYI. Found it therapeutic. Don't do it anymore, but may take it up again someday, after my house is much emptier of people and pets. If ever. ;o/

Posted by: Wry Mouth | May 20, 2009 7:32:30 AM

OK, I admit that I have been known to "borrow" a shirt or two from my husband for sleeping....

I also admit that when his favorite sleep shirt had more holes than fabric, I threw it out when he was not looking..... (I did tell him after the fact)

Posted by: Rivka with a capital A | Jun 2, 2009 7:14:19 PM

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