Finding the perfect shirt can take years. Sometimes the perfect shirt will begin as an imperfect shirt with lots of potential.
This was just that shirt. It’s a Pendleton from the 1960s (?) that has the most beautiful tartan I’ve ever seen. It’s got plenty of red but we get these white squares of relief every quarter that make it more old-timey entrepreneur than lumberjack.
When I first bought it, I was disappointed by its length and how Herb Tarlek the collar was but everything else was exquisite. It had the texture of wool but it was soft, not scratchy. I don’t like tucking in my shirts but it was worth it for this one and I dealt with the extra big collar by folding it up with an iron à la Don Cherry.
Everything changed when a woman named Liz Vastola came into my life. We were working on a movie together and as the Costume Designer, she understood the importance of shirts. She told me she could take care of the collar and the length thereby converting the shirt from almost perfect to the kind of shirt I could pass down to my grandson. You see, her boyfriend is the head tailor at the Metropolitan Opera. He could sew a fucking cow hide on a Minotaur’s head while belting out “The Barbar of Seville” so tweaking a Pendleton was about as tricky as aiming his piss stream at a shit splatter.
When she brought back the shirt, I thought I was looking at a newborn lion. Not only had he taken up the bottom but he added a nice trim and maintained the front and back scoop in perfect proportion. The collar was another work of art entirely. It was exactly 2.5 inches long and shaped like a cardinal’s beak. When I put it on, I felt like a tough-but-fair lawyer from the 1940s who negotiated land deals with the oil companies on behalf of local farmers. It was the kind of shirt you’d wear too much deodorant with because you didn’t want to wash it. I mean, look at this thing.
The shirt’s performance made Daniel Day Lewis look like Tommy Wiseau and after the movie was done I put off washing it for months. Eventually however, B.O. is going to seep in and you’re going to have to wash it. Yesterday was the tipping point. My armpits smelled like they were on the cover of High Times.
I knew putting a wool shirt in the dryer would be dangerous so I made a sign for the dryer that said, “NO DRESS SHIRTS” in case my wife saw it was finished before I did.
There was no need for the sign because I heard the washer click open before anybody and when I pulled it out, I felt a large sword plunge into my stomach. The shirt was now child-sized. It hadn’t shrunk proportionately either so that child would have to have a the worst case of spina bifida, like, EVer. What the fuck happened? Did you know you have to dry clean wool shirts? I figured it was just water. What did they do in the 60s? I guess all washing was done in cold water back then? All these questions raced through my head as I forced on the tiny chemise and stretched each button closed like a “fat guy in a little coat.”
I should have just left it. My son would be able to wear it in a few years. It could be his perfect shirt. But I was too greedy and panicked to think rationally and I refused to accept that it was all over. While stretching it around my torso I noticed it was surprisingly maleable. I began to pull at the bottom and sides, and for a brief moment, it appeared I could bring it back to its original shape. I asked my wife to hold on to the cuffs as I pulled away from her and lo and behold, the arms got long again. I was so happy, I started pulling and stretching like a maniac until the worst thing imaginable happened. It was equivalent to Nagasaki happening in Auschvitz on September 11th but with AIDS.
I FUCKING TORE IT!
The tear wasn’t on a seam or anything salvageable. It was right under the triceps. At this point, it was like when an ER guy realizes the dump truck popped the victim’s head open like a watermelon and nothing can be done so he just puts a blanket over the whole mess.
I still can’t bring myself to throw it out. I only wore it half a dozen times but man, what a shirt. I really hope this isn’t the harbinger of things to come. Technically, it still happened in 2012. If you ever get the perfect shirt, do yourself a favor and keep it far from the washing machine. In fact, don’t even take it to the dry cleaner. Just wash the armpits in the sink.