Archive for October, 2013

Paying Good Money for a Shirt with a Stink Bug on It

"Fellowship" by Garnet Goldman

“Fellowship” by Garnet Goldman

The other day, I bought a shirt with a stink bug where the pocket should be.

Officially, it’s not a stink bug. Officially, it’s some guy riding a brown polo pony. But, when my peripheral vision first brought the stitching to my brain’s attention, my brain said, “Aack! A stink bug on my shirt!”

Given that I like my clothing to be as straightforward as possible and that, until now, I have made it a point not to buy a shirt with a logo on it, the mistake was quite understandable. My brain wasn’t used to seeing anything but a pocket in that spot. In theory, I can understand why someone might want to buy a shirt with a logo on it. For me, logos are distracting. It’s like buying a shirt with a fancy stain already on it.

When I was a kid, logo-ridden clothing wasn’t an issue. Plaid shirts were just plaid, and jeans had nothing more than a quiet leather patch on the back that you didn’t even see it once you put your pants on. Although the occasional article of clothing might have a logo, the logos were, for the most part, pretty innocuous. The little rubber rectangle that said “Keds” on the heel of my sneakers didn’t keep me up at night, and, if my collared casual shirt had anything on it, it was some animal in a color that coordinated with the shirt.

As logos proliferated and jeans started having run-amok stitching, finding plain clothes could be work. If I didn’t want a swoosh or a giant N or some other bothersome image on my sneakers – which I didn’t – I had to look around for a bit. Finding a satisfactory shirt was even more of a challenge. A lot of otherwise attractive shirts were, to my way of thinking, ruined by the designer’s name or an off-putting image stitched onto it.

For years, I maintained my standards, putting together my work ensemble – plain jeans, logo-free, 100-percent-cotton shirt, a tie with a bit of snap. My affection for pairing jeans with a tie dates to elementary school. On picture day one year, my mother wanted me to wear my Sunday clothes. When I balked, she said that I could wear jeans as long as I wore a crisp shirt and a tie. When the school pictures came back, there I was in a crisp shirt and tie. I knew, though, that, when the picture was taken, I had been wearing jeans. I felt as if I had gotten away with something.

The recent identity crisis was created by my penchant for thrift-store shopping. When I happen upon a Goodwill store, I stop if I have the time. You never know when you’re going to come upon a Froot Loops coffee mug or some other inexpensive treasure. I don’t invest much hope in finding a suitable shirt, given that I wear XXL shirts and that, while S, M, L and XL get their own sections on the rack, the rare XXL has to settle for keeping company with the XL’s. But, when they’re selling for $3.75, it’s worth a look.

And one day, there it was: a beautiful blue XXL oxford shirt in what looked to be pristine condition. I was troubled by the guy riding a brown polo pony right where the pocket was supposed to be. In a discount store, I would have shunned that shirt. But, at $3.75, my scruples dissolved.

Turns out, as far as comfort goes, it’s an incredible shirt – heavy-weight fabric, roomy.
Sacrificing the pocket for a logo that looks like a stink bug still doesn’t make sense to me, though. It was with good reason that my grandfather used to say, “You’re as handy as a pocket on a shirt.”