Why We Hate Them
“Loathsome” and “hair shirt” are typical criticisms leveled by those in the camp that disdains non-iron shirts. These purists see the wrinkle-free versions as villains—think “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” recast with uncomfortably rigid and stifling clone-shirts hijacking the existence of classic button-ups. “I loathe them,” said George Hahn, a writer who blogs about menswear. “Men who’ve only worn these Franken-fabric shirts don’t know the difference,” he sniffed.
A product of the Eisenhower era, a period that also spawned nonstick fry pans and frozen TV dinners, non-iron shirts debuted at Brooks Brothers in 1953. Menswear historian and author Bruce Boyer noted that chemicals conglomerate DuPont worked with the menswear retailer to launch the first generation of Dacron-and-cotton shirts. Since then the non-iron formula hasn’t changed much, other than the fact that most are all-cotton shirts rather than blends: The anti-wrinkle properties are derived from a chemical treatment that releases formaldehyde and bonds the strands of cotton fibers to create a stiffer fabric less likely to wrinkle.
“While the process makes for a wrinkle-free shirt fresh out of the dryer, the fabric breaks down and leads to blown-out elbows, becomes less breathable and feels stiffer,” said Paul Trible, co-founder and CEO of Ledbury, the Richmond, Va.-based luxury shirtmaker. “These shirts are not only bonded fibers, but have fused collars, cuffs and plackets,” said Mr. Boyer, which makes them immobile compared with traditional shirts. “Who wants to look like a sheet of aluminum?” he added.
“As everything moves to being more environmentally friendly, these artificial shirts seem out of step,” said Greg Broom, founder of MixCraft, a New York juice-drink brand. Mr. Broom likes his cotton shirts the same way he prefers his fruit juice: pure and pressed. “Wearing formaldehyde, the chemical used in embalming, has never sounded tempting to me,” he said.
Why We Love Them
It’s difficult to appear buttoned-up in your button-down when it looks as though it was exhumed from King Tut’s tomb. You might say non-iron shirts have liberated men from schlumpiness. “Non-iron shirts are a reliable way to avoid looking like a crumpled mess,” said Tim Kelly, a regional operations manager at Douglas Elliman real estate in East Hampton, N.Y. For men like Mr. Kelly, who want to be dressed in under 15 minutes, having a wardrobe of crease-free shirts at the ready reduces the hassles of the morning routine.
Non-iron shirts have also made pressing, steaming and expensive laundering services almost superfluous. “These shirts are easy as pie,” said Thomas Lavandosky, a senior project analyst with an investment firm in Los Angeles. “I hang them up right out of the dryer and don’t have to think about them. There’s no bag of button-downs to haul to the cleaner.”
(Not) Pressed for Success
Scott Evan wasserberger says, Stay away from the chemicals! Go natural with high quality Custom Made Shirts so you know the source of the fabric in your shirt!
Thanks wsj for a great article!!