Why (and How) to Care For Your Shirts
Why should you care about shirt care?
After all, if MAD MEN taught us anything, it’s that to roll like Don Draper all you need is to keep an entire drawer full of extras at the office so that when your shirt gets dirty, you can just toss it and pull on a fresh spankin’ new one.
So fresh and so clean, Draper style.
Now, while that is absolutely a boss move (literally) and we’d love to encourage every single one of our customers to fill their desk drawers with Twills (feel free to start with the basics), the reality is that for those of us who don’t bring home that sweet sweet Sterling Cooper mid-six-figure salary, this isn’t the most practical solution.
The most practical solution is to simply take care of the shirts you already have.
Correct care substantially extends the life of a shirt, ensuring that the collateral effect of all those 9-to-5’s doesn’t damage the fabric more than it should, or sideline your shirt early with permanent stains, discoloration or rings. It also guarantees that when you’re wearing it, your shirt looks and feels as fresh as possible.
So to put it simply, proper shirt care means you look better, for longer. That’s something we can all agree is a good thing, right?
To care for your shirts properly, it helps to know how. Which is why we’re about to provide some helpful tips and tricks about how to give your Twills the TLC they deserve, and keep them (and you) looking fly all year ‘round.
But before we do, there’s another important question to answer.
TO LAUNDER, OR NOT TO LAUNDER?
No one has time to do it all. And hey, even if you did, you probably wouldn’t know how (unless you’re Ron Swanson, that guy can do basically anything).
This is why we often pay to outsource all those mundane and time-intensive necessities like changing oil, buying groceries, or cleaning our clothes. It saves us time and mental energy, and for some of us the end result is something we couldn’t achieve on our own anyway.
But when it comes to caring for your dress shirts, is outsourcing to a professional cleaner really that great of an idea? The jury’s split on this one, so we’ll simply provide a list of Pros & Cons here and let you make the decision for yourself.
- Set it and forget it. If you’ve found a cleaner you know and trust, the convenience of leaving your shirts in their capable hands is a thing of beauty.
- An hour saved is a lot of pennies earned. Instead of ironing ten shirts, you could hit the gym, push forward on that extra project at work, binge a Netflix show, or call your Mom (you really should, how long has it been?).
- That new-shirt smell. Unwrapping a freshly cleaned + pressed shirt before a day of work or a night out is a pretty awesome feeling. Like a little sartorial Christmas morning, any day of the week!
- Go easy! Industrial shirt presses can sometimes be too harsh on shirting fabric, prematurely aging the fibers by stretching them further than needed. Not good.
- Money, money, money. Most cleaners charge a relatively small amount per shirt (usually around $1.50), but if you’re cleaning 10-20 shirts on a regular basis, it can add up fast.
- No guarantees. This depends on the individual business, but we all know a guy whose favorite shirt/jacket/pants got ruined by a careless cleaner. If you’re precious with your threads, that risk could be a dealbreaker for you.
So, where do you land?
If you prefer to let your local cleaner worry about keeping your collars crisp, then kick back and enjoy the extra time off (and call your Mom, seriously).
And if you’d rather go it alone, we’re here to help! Just read on for a bunch of helpful tips & tricks to get you started.
BEFORE LAUNDERING: A CHECKLIST
- Remove your collar stays. If you don’t, they’ll end up either a) slipping out and ricocheting around the washing machine like stylish little missiles, or b) staying in, and warping your collar points. Not a good look.
- Unbutton all buttons on the shirt (yes, including the cuffs!).
- Make sure you’re using the appropriate detergent for the shirt’s color. Regular detergent for lighter colors, and color-specific detergent for darker ones (think Woolite Darks).
- Treat any stains or soiled areas with a stain stick or spot-remover. If you don’t have one, simply dabbing a bit of detergent onto the area and rubbing it into the fabric can help prepare it for washing.
- Stay away from bleach! Unless you like spots, premature fading, or the whole acid-wash look, then go right ahead.
NOT ALL SHIRTING MATERIALS ARE CREATED EQUAL
Each shirt should be cared for differently depending on its fabric. This might seem like good old-fashioned common sense, but you’d be amazed how many folks think that "a dress shirt is a dress shirt is a dress shirt," and that they can all be laundered the same way.
While that may have been true in the past (when most dress shirts were made from cotton), times have changed and so has fabric. As the world evolves and we continue to develop breakthrough fabrics like SafeCotton and Performance Shirting, the care regimen for each material changes as well. For example, you wouldn’t treat luxurious Sea Island Cotton the same as a looser-woven Dobby cloth, and vice versa.
NON IRON and PERFORMANCE SHIRTING
DRY: Tumble dry, low
IRON: Warm iron if needed
All of our Non Iron and Performance shirting comes pre-washed, so there's no need to fear the warmth of a quick cycle in the dryer. However, shrinkage can still happen if there’s enough heat, so be careful that you’re not blasting the shirt with too much of it. Even if you’ve set the dryer to run a 60-minute cycle, your shirts may only need 15 before they’re ready.
While wrinkle-resistant shirts rarely need much attention from an iron, it’s possible that they may. When smoothing is necessary, a light touch and a lightly-warmed iron will do the trick.
DRY: Air, lying flat
IRON: Warm iron if needed
Friday Shirts are made from a looser, pique knit that’s more delicate than other shirts. So while they’re certainly more comfortable, it also means they’re more prone to shrinkage if exposed to heat. After a cold cycle in the washer, they’re best dried by simply laying them flat. If any wrinkles remain, a warm iron will finish the job.
120’s/SEA ISLAND COTTON
DRY: Hang Dry, Do NOT Tumble Dry
Sea Island and 120’s cotton are two of the most luxurious shirting materials available. As such, they’re not pre-washed, so care should be taken specifically during their first wash & dry to ensure they don’t shrink. This means avoiding the dryer at all costs! If you have a steamer, use it immediately on the shirt after a cold wash, before hang-drying. If not, simply hang dry until the fabric is slightly damp, before using a warm iron to remove any wrinkles.
DRY: Hang Dry, Do NOT Tumble Dry
While not quite as silky as 120’s/Sea Island cotton, regular cotton behaves similarly in its exposure to temperature. So keep the wash cold, and avoid the dryer. After hang-drying until the shirt is damp to the touch, finish it off with a warm iron to smooth any wrinkles.
Now that you know all there’s to know about shirt care, you can conquer your day with shirts that stay comfortable, helping you to look good and feel good too.
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