The Care & Maintenance Series #4: Caring for a Shirt

We continue our care and maintenance series with shirts. It took us three installments to really get through the basics with suits, because they just tend to have a more extensive manual. Don’t worry, shirts are a lot more straightforward. But even so, proper care is no less important.

The most basic thing (but also the most risky) is washing. It’s something we have to do with every shirt and there’s really no easy way around it. Cotton and linen can shrink. I’m sure most of us have experienced putting on a freshly washed shirt and finding the sleeves ending a little closer to our elbows than we’d like. Most fabrics come pre-washed, to reduce the initial shrinking. Washing on 30 degrees is what we usually recommend, but you could try 40. Of course, the collars and cuffs, especially with white, tend to discolour over time. If you’re really bothered by it, certain spot-cleaners can sometimes reduce it, but when they don’t it usually means it’s time for a new shirt.

Storing shirts can be done two ways: folding or hanging. We’re already folding enough at the shop, so obviously I prefer hanging. If you iron your shirts, they won’t develop any creases when hanging. And if you hang them still damp after a wash, you can sometimes get away with not ironing them at all. However, folding can save on precious hanging space used for suits and jackets, and that’s not something to be overlooked. 

Shirts tend to wear out in a few places. The collar and cuffs might start to fray, an elbow might rip or a buttonhole could tear. With a smart dress shirt, that’s usually the end of that shirt’s lifespan, but with casual shirts you can get away with some mending. A shirt that shows signs of wear is a shirt that’s well-loved. We don’t mind showing that off. A frayed collar can be stitched up with a colourful thread, a buttonhole can be fixed. Don’t be afraid to keep your casual favourites around a little longer.

Maarten Gooskens
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