Thursday, March 17, 2011

Be a Man. Starch Your Shirts

Heavy starch that is…or why waste the money? All of the twaddle about starch destroying your shirts is…is…true. But do it anyway. The crisp fortification is worth the slow-growing attenuation of your cotton fibrations.
They don’t decay overnight and that’s my main defense for starching them up nicely. Plus the fact that you’ll actually look rather well put together…something that’s sure, in this day and age, to set you apart from the get-go. And have them folded if you travel.
And yes; part of my affinity for heavy starch probably goes back to college. OCBDs slathered in Argo and professionally pressed to assure that one felt like they were armoured when shrouded in crispy cotton. Then covered with things like Munsingwear v-neck sweaters. And the khakis are starched as heavily as the shirt...khakis for three dollars from a Fayetteville, N.C. army surplus joint. We'd ride up there and buy fifty pairs at a go and then head over to Hay Skreet. The Faye...home of Fort Bragg and at about this same time, billeting my cousin Tintin. Shut up. I’m tired this morning.
This shirt is twenty five years old. Starch will ultimately claim it…but when? W.G.A.S.
And this one’s a baby. Only twenty years old.
Twenty year old uberstarched shirt to accompany the twenty year old Flusser nail-head suit. And for my sturdy-girl readers…I know, I know…it isn’t fair. Not fair that men can have togs in their lineup that endure for so long. I’ve always said that there’s a predatory component to women’s fashion and retail. I feel your pain…your frustration. Now come sit in my lap and palpate mine.
Clean crisp shirt linen isn’t necessarily a contemporary thing. Contemporary? Who am I kidding? There’s nothing contemporary about my orientation to anything. But caricaturist Carlo Pellegrini, “Ape” of Vanity Fair fame, was obsessed with finery and luxury…an example of such affinity being his starched white shirts.
He was even known for using the cuff of his starched shirts, in an impromptu moment, as a sketch pad to capture the mug of someone in-the-moment when he saw an expression that he knew was robust fodder for caricature.  Of course he would use anything else within reach as well, including a restaurant check, like the one above.
Pellegrini was a pet of Society…a sort of endearingly pidgin-english speaking, Medici lineaged, Italian Truman Capote. And once he captured your visage in study for a subsequently full-flourished caricature, he’d shout mid-dinner party… "Now I gote you!” The note above, penned to the English actor and theatre manager Squire Bancroft, reflects Pellegrini’s playful misuse of language…a rather pidgin-esque go at wordplay methinks. Who else does that?
Bancroft, in his memoir Empty Chairs, captured the essence of a dying Pellegrini and the importance of his starched shirts…."I saw the "Pelican" as Pellegrini was called by his his last illness in his rooms in Mortimer Street. Shortly before the peaceful end he said pathetically to his faithful servant: "Wil-li-am, put me on clean shirt...I die clean." "
And I need starch when I’m teaching and conducting competitive strategy simulations. My clients test the hell out of my credibility and rightfully so, during every moment I’m in front of them. I don’t know what it is about the discipline of strategy that makes people so damned edgy. Perhaps it’s all the MBA and consultant esoterica that’s tarted up the discipline and has made people uncomfortable with it. All I know is that when I’m shepherding their journey for eight hours a day…usually two or three days in a row, I am as “on” as possible and I then crash spectacularly for a few days.

Onward. Crashed. In my own bed. Till Sunday.

ADG, II           Starched.
Oh…and p.s. …It’s St. Patrick’s Day right? You know, the day to wear green and avoid the rookie drinkers. If you can’t wear green today then eat green. Maybe some green peas, as suggested by little caricaturist LFG in her drawing that adorns my kitchen.


Silk Regimental said...

A hold over from my military days, I still mix my own starch/water combo and keep it in the laundry room - use it for certain shirts that I don't send to the laundry. Also use it on khakis once in awhile.

Gretchen said...

I like sizing more than starch, but that's bc I think it's weird for girls to have uber-starched shirts. Holdover from when I first entered the workforce and those manly womens suits (this, you see, is why women can't wear clothes that are more than 10yo). Yuk. Trying to get out of suits altogether and get away with dresses, but that's a tough sell-we need LPC to weigh in on that one. Still adore that windowpane suit. It's spectacular.

ami said...

I concur. I've trained the husband on heavy starch and I do them myself.

A man in a starched shirt commands respect.

Flo said...

Memo to self: add "Attend a Max-led strategy session" to Things I Want To Do Before I Die list.

Memo to Max: don't cut your hair in that Pentagon cut anymore, let it fly like that in the strategy photo, you're so handsome [and Mrs. B agrees with me that you ARE "special."] And don't tell me to shut up.

Main Line Sportsman said...

One laundry I used to use had some kind of nuclear starch and process...the shirts came out beautifully...but after 3 or 4 trips the buttons on even a BB shirt crumbled like wet aspirin...had to switch.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to chime in on the wavy-haired strategy photo - your mane looks fab. And that nail-head suit is fabulous - best thing I've ever seen on your oft fuzzy-clad form.

Anonymous Texan said...

Damn straight about the heavy starch on the shirts & khakis. Stiff as a 2x4. Knife edge crease on the khakis. Will put the fear of God into all the slackers...corporate or the hoi polloi. Enuff said.

Lisa said...

I love starch, it's a basic food group and should be applied liberally in all areas of one's life. Let me say that the 11th photograph of this post, one 'might' call you sexy but I think that has much to do with the fact that your hand is covering a lot of your face.

Keep the hand up and plenty of starch on hand (I mix my own). It's the only civilized thing to do in these uncertain times.

ADG said...

Lisa...I agree. I was called "cute" before I was old and sun damaged. "Sexy" ain't ever been a standard moniker throwed at me.

AnonTex...The farther north I've always lived, the tougher it's been to fine people who understand "stand up in the corner by themselves" level of starching things.'s a hairweave.

MainLiner...ha! I used to think they had a special machine for crushing the buttons. and Mrs. B are crazy.

ami...thanks. And I need all the "command" help I can muster. How are you and your fam?

GretchWretch...damn! I had a visual when I read your comment. I remember in corporate pharma in the mid 1980's when women at my company HAD to wear suits. And those Brooks Brothers suits and starched blouses looked so damned severe. Oy. Bad visual.

Silk Reggie...I'm in St. Pete next month and Jax in owe me a drink and...I'm bringing my laundry.

Anonymous said...

How long? In my experience, somewhere between 20 and 30 years. I may still have some with the A Wong laundry mark in the collar from the Reagan years. It is almost fun to see one go, at least to know how long it has lasted. More shirts worn less often is the key. With roughly 100 of them and probably just 25 more wearing years, I ought to make it without buying any more. Like the shepherd with his sheep, though, I notice that one will just go m-i-a about every 9 months. Better a little attrition than button breaking... A beard (or other forms of neck hair) will accelerate wear- and it's the only way you can wear out a bow tie. Starch will hide fraying in a collar for a while, but don't bother with turning them- the laundry will simply rip the sleeve the next time through.
your pal willie

Gretchen said...

Eww, sorry for the bad visual, ADG, specially when you provided us eye candy of your mane and starchifiedness! I tell you, I could never wear those dang boxy suit things. But the options tend to be boylike suits, frilly Mother of the Bride frighfests, or something bleh and unimaginative. So, I'm trying to get away with wrap dresses whenever possible, bc the whole idea of Eileen Fisher just scares me. As I'm sure those 80s women did to you, me, and everyone I know!

Young Fogey said...

Starch. Yes, a nicely-starched shirt is one of life's pleasures. Long, long ago, I ironed them myself. Then I started earning money, so I sent my shirts out. After I got married, my wife started ironing my shirts. Woo-hoo! Then the bambinos came along, and now--I iron my own durn shirts again.

I think the reason that your clients test your credibility is that you're prancing about on the dais with a pair of fruity loafers on your feet, and wearing an open-collared fuzzy shirt with every tailoring option known to God and man. If you were to wear a sober suit and tie, and trim the fuzz down to the level of the guitar solo in "Goodbye to Love," they might accept you as credible from the git-go.

Or not.

Chuck Hatt said...

I worked at Capitol Bolt and Supply in '83. We had a purchasing agent named Johnny Klemm, from McDade, (MACKdade) Texas. Despite everything you might imagine from that moniker Johnny was one crisp dude. His secret was heavy, heavy starch on his khakis and dress shirts. I saw the difference it made in his flow and have been starching ever since.

I do a fair bit of presenting in my FT job and also some consulting on the side. You are so right about the energy. You're just ON for two or three days and when it's over you find you have spent every bit of your juice and can only fall into a heap. I'm always surprised by how much of myself I've given for the pay.


Flo said...

" and Mrs. B are crazy."

Mrs. B and I are NOT crazy.

That woman was wrong about you.

Anonymous said...

I love the post and had such flash back memories of Britches of Georgetowne when I saw your white shirt! But here a tip Max for making your shirts last a lot longer! Wash your shirts before you take them to the cleaner and use the soak cycle, this method makes sure you have no starch build up in the fabric! I have been doing this for over 25 years and I have the shirts to prove it! And boy do I miss Britches!!!

old said...

Heavy starch is the only way to roll with dress shirts. Got into this habit as an undergrad when I realized I could get 3-5 wearings of an OCBD from a heavily starched one. Possessing aggressive showering habits, I usually hit the high end of the range.

As I entered the professional world, I continued the heavy starch addiction while regressing to a single wearing regimen.

Anonymous said...

Had a friend in college who we nicknamed "Starch". I am fairly certain it had nothing to do with his shirts. Now his khakis.................

Anonymous said...

I love a man in a starched shirt. They just look so much better. I couldn't agree with this post more.

Susan R said...

I think a heavily starched shirt probably has the comfort equivalent of a pair of post surgery vascular stockings.
Never mind the starched shirts, lets talk about that absolutely devine tie with the white hearts on it. That is fabulous.

Gentleman's Gazette said...

I like the window pane, knit tie, collar pin combination the best - well done!

Flo said...

"I'm in....Jax in May"

Max, just leave my admission ticket at the door. I got no problem picking it up myself on my way in. I'll just sit in the back, you won't even know I'm there.

ADG said...

Thanks everyone....and should see how my clients are dressed. It's scary.

ADG said...

Oh and Flo...sorry. It ain't open to the public.

ilovelimegreen said...

A college friend claimed that air drying his shirts contributed to their longevity; not sure if that is so but it I do it myself even today.

Young Fogey said...

I never stick my nice shirts in the dryer. The dryer is just another source of the friction that shreds collars and cuffs. The dryer is great for already-shredded Oxford shirts, though, 'acuz drying increases their puckeriness.


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