Walsh’s Wonderings — Flaccid fashion

Fashion is a fickle mistress. It was only recently I discovered I was supposed to do something about my dress shirt collars’ erectile dysfunction. I’d spent years assuming nothing could be done about those well-worn collars, tired and flaccid as they framed my neckties like limp noodles. It’s just not something decent society discussed.

With the introduction of “collar stays,” those flat pieces of hard plastic meant to be inserted into slider “pockets” sewn into the underside of dress shirt collars, my shirts get a second chance at making a good first impression. These hardened tabs are meant as a kind of fashion Viagra, providing rigidity and crispness to shirts as they age. And, like most things introduced to make my life easier, all I can do is complain.

Not unlike buying a condom, now I have to worry about the shape, length and width of the stay I insert (which depends on the type of collar into which it is fitted). Unlike condoms, they come in plastic, metal, brass or gold.

Yes, gold.

The gold ones, as many sites selling them attest, can be passed down to your sons and grandsons as keepsakes (or as evidence that you had so much unneeded cash burning a hole in your pocket that you decided to decorate the unseen side of your collar with precious metal). One vendor actually wrote that just because collar stays aren’t easily visible to other people doesn’t mean that they can’t reflect your personality. “Get your stays engraved with important dates or messages that mean something to you. Your stays will feel more personal and you’ll be more inclined to wear them.”

Most websites selling this questionable fashion evolution also mention “emergency collar stays” one could make by cutting up a credit card or laminated paper. I would suggest there’s no such thing as a collar stay “emergency.” This is hyperbole at best.

My biggest complaint is that these “stays” were sewn into the collar as recently as two seasons ago. Why must they now be swapped out like cufflinks and left exposed in open pockets? The term “collar stay” is ironic at best. They don’t “stay” at all, as anyone who’s ever put them through a tumble dry cycle will attest. I end each wash and dry cycle with a frantic search for these little white shards in the lint drawer so my saggy collars aren’t left drooping to the world.

In fact, a cottage industry has popped up to take advantage of this, selling replacement collar stays that one can engrave with one’s name or picture to make it easier to find on the floor (where it will inevitably end up). Heaven forbid you accidentally wear your roommate's collar stay; think of the scandal! Instead, it’s suggested we remove the collar stays before washing, but that simply allows the collar to get beat up in the cycle. It’s also an extra step for someone who thinks that setting the washer to anything other than the “Regular/Color” cycle is an unnecessary hardship.

Such is the cost of keeping up with the latest styles. However, like most men of a certain age, I’m starting to wonder if all this work just to maintain a little rigidity is really worth it. Maybe next time my collars will just stay in and read a good book.

You can read more at RobertFWalsh.com, contact him at RobertFWalshMail@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.