Thursday, February 08, 2007

Men's Fashion Post: The Undershirt Issue. Maybe I haven't been looking, but I have read for the first time a discussion in print of something that's really never discussed, the undershirt question. The WSJ fashion maven, Ask Teri, courageously addresses this question in today's paper, and if you haven't subscribed at least to the internet edition, this may push you to do so.

I thought that the talk that my mom had with me when I was about two years old settled the matter, and accounted for the dearth of discussion in the market place. As I understood it, the men's world was roughly divided between men who always wore them and men who never did. The men who always wore them were themselves somewhat divided. There was a minority that wore the sleeveless kind, but somewhere I picked up the idea that it was a bit less respectable to wear that kind. It was always assumed at my house that the proper undershirt was white and had a crew neck. (At one point, I played with the idea of the v-neck, but it during my younger years when I was obviously experimenting. Those were the same years in which I thought the idea of free-will an exotic and attractive idea.)

I don't really understand not wearing an undershirt. I feel half-dressed and a little chilly when I go without. But some of my best friends go without. Ask Teri notes that European men usually go without. I relate that to European people generally being more comfortable with body hair than we are, and it's no problem for hairy chested men to flaunt it over the top of their open collars, unscreened or managed by the undershirt.

Anway, Ask Teri seems not only to approve of undershirts and estimates that 85% of men wear them, she also, obviously, thinks the topic worthy of discussion. (By the way, Ask Teri notes that the source of that statistic is "apparel maker Hanes", so consider the source.) She notes that the issue has become more important since "office casual" hit the workspace, and men are wearing polo shirts and otherwise letting there collars stand open. The question is about the undershirt "showing".

Ask Teri thinks that's OK, but I have always been a little self-conscious, maybe because I hate to throw undershirts out. So I run the risk of crew neck breakdown, where the circle of extra stitching at the neck frays or droops or the brilliant white of the shirt gets a little yellow. So I think that wearing an undershirt requires a committment to keep up appearances. This requires a rigorous weeding out of those shirts as crew-neck integrity breaks down.

I was happy to see that Ask Teri notes that "Some [men] go for a tone-on-tone look, with undershirts in shades such as navy or black paired with matching shirts." I have, in fact, been toying with that idea. But being color challenged, I'm a little afraid to take the step. I'm not sure exactly what combinations I might come up with. I may just leave that one alone and concentrate on crew-neck integrity.

No comments: