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PRESSING PROBLEMS In men's shirts, cotton means comfort but also more wrinkles 5/8


Q Almost 20 years ago I threw away my iron, and all my husband's shirts when 65/35 came out. What a joy to just pull a shirt from the dryer and hang it up.

Why am I now ironing shirts again? This new high-cotton blendoesn't cut it without ironing; 100 percent cotton is a disaster in wrinkles. Didn't I leave that era?

Yet I have been unable to locate 65 percent poly shirts of thsame quality and details as the old blends or all cotton. Please help. There's no reason why we should pay to look wrinkled after 10 minutes, and certainly no reason why a working mother should iron.

A: You certainly have a good point. It does seem tharesearchers should be able to solve this problem, but they haven't. Comfort -- softness, breathability, absorbency, temperature control -- and ease of care do not necessarily go together.

In the 1970s the 65 percent poly shirt was popular. Since then, ihas been dropped from the better shirt companies' lines because customers have demanded the comfort of more cotton.

Fine shirts today have a higher percentage of cotton; some blends are as high as 80 percent cotton. The higher the percentage of cotton, the more comfortable the shirt, and also, as you pointed out, the more ironing is required. Since you want to avoid serious pressing, you might try looking for today's better blend shirts, either 55 cotton/45 poly or 60 cotton/40 poly. I urge you to do so (since you are clearly opposed to my personal preference for all-cotton). True, these blends do need a light touch-up with the iron, but it is so minimal and they look and feel so much better that you might find them worthwhile.

Mary Alice Kelly, design director for Gant, reports: "Even thougthe person who is doing the ironing might prefer the ease of the mostly polyester blend, market research has shown that the person who is wearing the shirt wants the feel, the look, and the luxury of the mostly cotton shirt."

Incidentally, I hear that some men have even learned to do theiown touch-up ironing or take their shirts to a professional laundry.

Q: Your many negative remarks about white shoes have mwondering. My standard summer outfit consists of a navy blazer and white slacks. Do you maintain that I'd look better in black, rather than white, shoes?

A: Yes. Black shoes, dark brown shoes, or medium brown shoeall are a more elegant look than white shoes. Thumb through the society pages in the newspaper; you will never find a member of the polo-and-ponies crowd wearing white dress shoes. Certainly, weekend wear and casual clothes work with white bucks, white sneakers, even white espadrilles. But there is something very Las Vegas looking about a man dressed in smooth white shoes.

If you question the appropriateness of dark shoes with whitpants and think this may be some personal aberration on my part, I hope you saw the recent tribute to Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf held at West Point. Though he was dressed in his familiar khaki camouflage fatigues, the cadets paraded in their formal "full dress over white" uniforms -- consisting of dark gray wool jackets, white cotton trousers, and black military shoes. They looked very sharp.

Send your questions or comments to Lois Fenton, Today in Style, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Ms. Fenton welcomes questions about men's dress or grooming for use in this column but regrets she cannot answer mail personally.

Ms. Fenton, the author of "Dress for Excellence" (Rawson Associates, $19.95), conducts wardrobe seminars for Fortune 500 companies around the country.

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