Winter is over. I went through the winter wearing the same baggy button down shirts that I wore last year. I wanted to wait until after I had top surgery to shop for new ones. I’ve always worn loose shirts to hide my chest. I don’t have to do that anymore. I need a new magic shirt. A shirt that can transform a bad gender day into a rainbow unicorn.
I’m still an odd size. I went to Macy’s and tried on men’s and boy’s off the rack shirts. Some were too big, some were too small, and none were just right. And it looks like I’m going to have to get used to my nipples showing when I wear a T-shirt.
I used to try to shop in the women’s department. This was self-defeating because it is nearly impossible to find men’s clothing there. I had a lot of rules. No darts, no princess seams, no little breast pockets, no frills, no ruching, no loud colors, no 3/4 length sleeves, no decorative buttons, nothing cut on the bias, and no polyester. In other words, I wanted a man’s cotton shirt. Sometimes I’d luck out and find something from Ralph Lauren, or I’d order from LL Bean or Lands’ End. I rarely found what I wanted. The lack of choices pissed me off.
There were thousands of shirts, exactly what I wanted, in the men’s department. Just out of reach. I tried to talk myself out of them. They never fit. If I got the chest right, the shirt was too big around the neck, too tight around the hips, and too long in the sleeves and torso. Tucking it in and rolling up the sleeves helped, but no amount of tailoring was going to transform it into a magic shirt.
The solution was to buy shirts made to order. Custom shirts are a trial and error proposition. It takes a couple of tries to get the fit right. Not all fabrics look good on me or drape right, and I can’t try them on until it is too late. There are a surprising number details to specify (collar, cuffs, yoke, placket). It is easy to make mistakes. But when it works, it works. My favorite shirts are custom.
My butch friends and i don’t talk much about clothes. I don’t know where they buy their shirts. We don’t talk about shopping. Maybe talking about clothes is too girly for us. The guys I work with talk a lot about clothes, although mostly they brag about how little they paid (as in Macy’s had a 30% off sale, and they had a coupon, and the jacket was already marked down, so they spent next to nothing for it). I wouldn’t tell the guys at work that I paid $150 for a shirt. Or that it has magical properties.
The shirt maker I used before only makes dress shirts. I found a new shop that is less expensive and also does custom casual (denim, chambray, flannel, linen). I’m in the middle of the process right now. I went in and got measured (wearing a tight T-shirt), looked at their swatch books, picked out a fabric for the test run, and selected the collar and cuffs. The first shirt they made was disappointing. It was too tight around the neck and chest and too short in the torso. When I brought it back, they agreed. They adjusted the order and I’m waiting for magic shirt 2.0. The first refitting is free; I hope this time it comes out right, or at least close enough. Once they have a good pattern for me, I can order shirts in my size in any fabric they carry.
When a shirt fits I feel handsome in it. I feel masculine in it. I feel normal in it. I don’t feel like a sheep in wolf’s clothing. I wish I could say that I feel good all the time and it doesn’t matter what I wear, but it is not the case. Sometimes I need a magic shirt to remind me that I am fine and that everything will be OK.
Notes: If you want to look at pictures of a cute dog in menswear, Menswear Dog is a fun Tumblr site. It has great outfits for boys and their dogs.
Last year I wrote about the exact same problem with shirts including my ongoing obsession with which side of a shirt the buttons are on. As Yogi Berra would say “It’s like deja vu all over again.”