Withering Glance: Trouble with men's dress shirts

  • Article by: RICK NELSON and CLAUDE PECK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 28, 2012 - 5:19 PM

Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, etiquette, culture, relationships, grooming and more.

RN: I believe that there is a vast retailing conspiracy that makes it challenging for me -- and I suspect many American men -- to buy dress shirts.

CP: So that's why I have a closet full of shirts of which maybe two fit perfectly. And I thought it was my own skinny-necked, long-armed problem.

RN: I am cursed with similar gibbon-like limbs. I wonder if our misfit status places us in the 1 percent, but not in the nether-regions-of-the-tax-bracket kind of way.

CP: My guess is about 1 percent of men's shirt sales result in a thoroughly satisfied customer. Yet, we keep buying. You have that car trunk stuffed with Brooks Brothers shirt boxes that you haven't dared bring in the house.

RN: I try to slip them in slowly, so my better half doesn't notice. And yet he always does. I'm not sure how, since the vast majority are blue, my default color. Even I can barely tell the difference. Except that most of them don't fit. This is my cry for help, Claude.

CP: So glad I have that advanced degree in counseling. One trick: If you love a shirt and it fits well except in the collar, go ahead and buy it. Then have a tailor move the topmost button in or out a skooch to get it how you want it.

RN: My problem is that many dress shirts resemble poplin pup tents, which is exactly how I look in them. What's with that, and is it fixable?

CP: Adding darts in back is inexpensive -- about $15 --per Laurine Lewis, who's been doing alterations at Sew Biz in downtown Minneapolis for 31 years. But it doesn't look great, espesh on patterned or plaid shirts. She typically tapers shirts from the side seams, and that can run you $35.

RN: If you told me that Ms. Lewis also moonlights as an open-heart surgeon, I would believe you. She once nipped-and-tucked a beloved jacket of mine until it fit like the proverbial glove. Why don't we -- and by "we," I mean the vast majority of our gender -- avail ourselves of the valuable services of a tailor more often? Is it sheer laziness?

CP: I think it's sheer male-ness. Sheetrock the entire basement? Check. Watch three basketball games in a single day? Check. In your case, watch the complete works of Joseph Mankiewicz on DVD? Check. But take a shirt to the tailor? You're kidding, right?

RN: If we were given time-travel superpowers, I might send myself back to the mid-1980s and max out my Dayton's charge on Perry Ellis oxford dress shirts. I don't know that they've ever been bested.

CP: Maybe so, but why you insisted on wearing a dress shirt to the Saloon, only to sweat through it dancing to the Go-Go's, is beyond me.

RN: What can I say? It was a look.

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