This post originally appeared as a column in Mankato Magazine (May 2015). I’m sharing again in hopes of saving our nation from the “barrage of constant eye trauma” currently being suffered in Japan. The whole horrible story is here. You can read it after you read mine.
Happy spring! I imagine you’re changing over your closet. Me too. And not a moment too soon. I mean if I have to look down and see my woolen leg warmers sticking out of dirty boots with YakTracks one more day, I just don’t even know.
I am guessing you feel the same. Sick of wool, sick of fleece, sick of scratchy bulk. I feel you, men, and at the same time I’m writing to stop you from the bad decisions that can happen when you’re in that last-straw state of mind. I am writing to caution you against one decision in particular.
It’s a choice you’ve been making for a few years now. I assume it’s a choice. I assume no loving partner would impose this on you. In fact, your partner might be so loving that they can’t figure out how to say what it is I’m writing to say, despite watching you leave the house every “casual Friday” for the past few summers dressed this way. It’s hard for them because you don’t seem embarrassed. You seem proud. Bold. Sassy. Daring the world to stuff you back inside your heavy winter garb.
I am writing to help you both. Ready? I’ll just say it. Stop wearing those slinky ribbed short-sleeved mock turtleneck shirts to work and I mean now.
As exciting as it feels to slip on something so light and soft, something you lucked out and found on sale, cheaper than golf shirts for sure, boom, your summer business-casual wardrobe completely figured out for the next however many years (I’m assuming there was a sale, or else why would you have so very many of them), it’s that very feeling that should be a red flag. A red flag that says, this is too silky and too excitingly priced to be shirt. It’s not outerwear. It is, my man friend, a camisole with floppy sleeves and a weak neck.
True to its actual nature as an undergarment, the slinky tee tends to show us more than necessary. A white cotton undershirt as your foundational piece might smooth things out, as might a pair of stick-on daisy-shaped adhesives sold in most fabric stores near the lingerie straps and clasps. Alas, you don’t believe in undershirts or adhesive daisies. Not that we’ve seen. So we are left to see, you know, you.
Please understand that this cease-and-desist order isn’t about wanting you to comply with a certain trend or template. It’s not about reducing you to an ornament or my own personal preferred scenery. Quite the contrary. This is about respect and wanting you to feel relevant and vital on the summer style scene.
And your shiny tee, my friend, while it shows certain parts of you, is not you. It’s flimsy and faux and kind of collapsing into itself. And you are not that. You are a man who goes to work on Fridays in the summer which, in itself, is fresh and sporting and strong. You deserve visuals that say so. You deserve a crisp hang, which flatters more than a damp cling. You deserve “tailored” versus “topography.”
So, go chambray. Go linen! Go button-down or regular collar, tucked-in or flat-bottomed hanging loose outside the belt. Go short-sleeved or long-sleeves-rolled-up at the right moment at the right meeting. You know the one. For sure, regardless, go with an undershirt.
For starters, go back into your rearranged closet. Bag up the offenders and drop them at MRCI or Salvation Army. And then go forth to the office every Friday this summer in an actual old-school cotton-poly crisp and structured safe-for-work shirt.
Thanks, Mankato Magazine, for indulging this and other urgent whims. Thanks, too, for nobody on staff having one of those shirts, when I asked around so I could get a photo for column. You are a classy bunch of cats.