My friend wrote me an e-mail this weekend, lamenting the amount of time he was spending ironing his shirts:
I spent a good part of this weekend out buying clothes and a large fraction of today ironing said clothes.
So far I like the idea of dressing nicely but find the time required for preparation nearly intolerable (namely ironing). Let’s face it, even “non-iron” shirts need some time under the iron if you want them to look crisp when you put them on.
Does your patience simply rival that of Job’s when it comes to ironing dress shirts etc. or is there some working man’s secret that I am missing or do you just take everything to the dry cleaners and get it pressed there?
The short answer is that I avoid ironing my shirts as much as possible by wearing layers.
While you should make sure that your shirt doesn’t look like it spent a week on the bottom of your hamper, I don’t spend much time giving my shirts more than a once over with an iron after doing laundry. I also hang them up immediately on hangers after they come out of the dryer.
If a shirt has a few wrinkles from wearing them previously, I’ll hang them up in the bathroom while taking a shower to let the steam work out the wrinkles.
I tend to also wear my shirts several times before tossing them into the laundry cycle, usually when I see sweat rings around the collar or I know I’ve definitely put some offensive odor into them that day.
What I refuse to do is take my shirts to a dry cleaner, simply because the chemicals used in the process will ruin the shirt over time much quicker than if you used conventional washers and dryers. Also, this gets absurdly expensive and you have to build a larger wardrobe to account for the time your shirts are out of commission.
I’ve also noticed that shirts with patterns (gingham, university stripes, checks) tend to hide wrinkles better than solid-colored shirts.
But the hands-down, sure-fire way to solve the wrinkled shirt problem is to layer something over your dress shirt.
Frankly, I’m not a fan of the dress shirt and trousers only look (especially if you’re tucking your shirt in). It’s not a very flattering look for most people. Unless your shirt and pants are fitted immaculately, you will get some blousing where the shirt meets the pants just from natural movement throughout the day. Most people look “lumpy” like this and it creates a focal point on the whole ass/crotch/waist area of your body (and if you’re sporting some post-collegiate beer abs like me, that’s definitely not a good thing).
Ideally, I’d say you want to refocus people’s attention toward your “V” area of your face, neck and upper-middle chest, even if you’re not doing to be rocking neckties to work. And if you’re looking to hide those pesky wrinkles on your dress shirt, then layering helps dramatically.
I understand a sport coat or blazer isn’t for everyone, but here’s a few ideas:
- V-neck sweater
- V-neck sweater vest
- Cardigan sweater
You can get each of these in a variety of fabrics (wool, cotton, tweed, cashmere, etc.), at every different pricepoint, and plenty of colors and patterns to work with your wardrobe. Even better? You will never need to iron these items. At most, you’ll only need to hang them up during a shower to steam them.
With any of these options, at most you’ll only have to iron your sleeves and the “V” area around the neck. Best of all, each of them adds a slimming look to your torso and visual complexity.
Personally, I solve the ironing problem by wearing sport coats and blazers. If you want to go more casual, get a deconstructed cotton chino jacket. If you want to go more formal, find a wool one.
One limiting factor facing my friend is the local year-round warm weather. If you’re up against this kind of situation, where sweaters might not be your best friend, then I’d suggest cotton, seersucker, linen and tropical-weight wool jackets.
Anyone else have other suggestions?