Saturday, April 11, 2009

Wrinkle-Resistant Shirts, and a Smart Solution

I have been asked about wrinkle-free/resistant shirts, and whether or not they are acceptable. Some shirt makers call it non-iron, and some make reference to the press enduring. Either way, I have evolved my attitude towards them. Because we no longer travel with large steamer trunks, and the modern business traveler tends to pack as lightly as possible, the wrinkle-resistant shirt is a good idea. The problem is that the cuts can be boring. I had several Brooks Brothers shirts that were wrinkle free, and they certainly traveled well, but they were nearly always button-down collared, and in a simple pattern. I finally found one with a spread collar, and French cuffs, and it lasted a few years until I had to finally retire it. L.L. Bean makes several nice wrinkle-free shirts, as does Orvis, and our panelist from Florida has much success with them, arriving crisp looking, and ready for a mid-day drink at the club, or a serious bit of business, regardless of the state of packing from which the shirts emerged. My final verdict is that wrinkle-free shirts serve a valuable purpose, and while not normally truly formal, they can take a bit of stress out of one's trip. My problem, is that they are mostly marketed to the business traveler, the exact opposite of their true potential. It seems that the real value of wrinkle-free shirts is that they should become a staple of the leisure traveler, allowing one to travel to any region of the globe, and be able to be presentable on a daily basis. The principle of dressing on leisure travel is worth a future posting, and I will say now only that a simple blazer will transform your vacation to a surprising-yet-wonderful degree.

I recently bought several shirts online from T.M. Lewin, one of my favorite shirt makers from Jermyn Street in London. Their website offered insanely low prices on their inventory, and I decided to include a few shirts from their "Traveller" line, thinking that I would finally get a few wrinkle-resistant shirts with nice cut-away collars, and pleasing patterns. I was right. They were beautiful.

I noticed that the inside of the cuffs on the Traveller shirts had a curious button.

After a few moments, it became perfectly obvious what the button was for. As a travel shirt, it is likely that one may forget or loose one's cuff-links while on the road. The button serves as a way to convert from "kissing" cuff sides, to a barrel cuff configuration.

While this is a strange position, I can think of a few times when this feature would have saved me during business travel. As they are T.M. Lewin shirts, the holes are finished long, making it easy for silk-knots to be used (some makers have holes that rule-out silk-knot use by being far too short). Because the button is on the underside, it stays hidden when one wears links. A wrinkle-resistant shirt that helps you out if you forget your links, yet has exceptional tailoring in superb fabric patterns? Well done, Lewin!I wonder if I should have this silent plan-B button attached to my other shirts... it's the ankle-holster of the dress shirt world, and a nice feature.

***See January 2009 Post for an expanded bit on French cuffs.