Monday, 28 July 2014

"Oh My God, I'm Wearing a Dad Shirt!" - A Lesson in Dressing for My Body Type.

Prior to our trip to Thailand last month, I looked at my wardrobe and decided I needed a few lightweight articles of clothing to wear. It's winter here in Australia, but it's monsoon season in Thailand. Aside from the requisite t-shirts and shorts that I would bring, I felt that one more short-sleeved shirt was needed for this trip. 
I headed to a nearby shopping mall that houses numerous clearance centres from a variety of brands. Now, I wasn't worried about labels, I was more concerned with comfort. I trawled through the centre, bought a t-shirt or two (you can never have too many) and wound up at a Jeep clothing store. I was also looking for a decent pair of lightweight cargo pants. My theory being that I would be carrying a wallet and possibly all four of our passports at all times, in case the military (there's a coup on in Thailand, remember) stopped us on the street in Bangkok and asked to see our papers.
Now normally, I avoid brands that are known for one particular product, but venture into a completely different product. This is one reason why, no matter how nice their wristwatches are, I will never buy a Mont Blanc timepiece. Or a Hugo Boss one, or an Emporio Armani one, or a Ralph Lauren one, etc.
However, this Jeep clothing store had everything on sale and all of their items were going cheap. I found a pair of cargo pants for $30.oo. And they had sections of the leg which you could unzip to turn them into long shorts (that fell just below the knee) or conventional length shorts (that fell just below mid-thigh). These would do. 
I also found a nice jumper (sweater to you boys in The States, pullover to you chaps in Blighty. Either way, silly names one and all) for $40.oo and even though it wasn't ideal for the trip, I would get much use out of it when I got back to wintry Melbourne. 
And finally, I found a nice light cotton short-sleeved shirt. It had a blue window-pane styled check pattern running through it;

That looked summery. This shirt would do. It was a 'Small'. I tried it on and buttoned up the collar (not that this is how you'd wear this kind of shirt) and it fit properly around my neck. I could still slide two fingers between the collar and my skin. Yep, right size. Twenty bucks. Sold. 

Fast-forward to Day 2 (or was it 3?) of our stay in Bangkok. In the lobby located on the 23rd Floor of the hotel, I got into the empty lift (elevator) and pressed the button for the Ground Floor. Then I turned around and caught my reflection on the mirrored walls of the lift.
And the cold and sudden realisation hit me, somewhere between the 21st and 20th Floors; I was wearing a Dad shirt.
I hadn't noticed this before, but as I stood there, with the knuckles of my right hand casually resting against my hip, I saw just how much fabric there was in this shirt. Yes, it was the right size, but it did have a generous amount of fabric in it. It made me look like one of these middle-aged guys (which I am) whose wives go out and buy all their clothes for them (which I'm not). This shirt billowed on me. 
So what is a Dad shirt? Hard to explain, really, but I know one (eventually, wasn't fast enough this time around) when I see one. They are kind of like the top-half equivalent to Dad jeans. The kind of jeans that you saw Seinfeld wear on his TV show 20 years ago. Here, read this;

I guess that this type of shirt would be a better fit on somebody with a thicker build or a guy with a little bit of middle-aged spread. But if you've got a slim to medium build, then this kind of cut will not do you any favours. 
My wife said to me a couple of years ago; "When I met you, you were always well-dressed, but you never dressed properly for your shape. You'd always buy stuff in medium sizes when small would have suited you better." 
I argued that I always felt that I would bulk up a little and grow into the medium sizings.
She replied that one should always dress for how their body looks 'now' rather than how they think they're going to look later. 
This is true. If you have a thin build and wear something that's cut full rather than something that has a 'slim cut', then you end up looking like you've been on a starvation diet.
Now, I'm a skinny dude. I got a Jaggeresque frame. I'm Jumpin' Jack Flash with two kids and a mortgage. I always used to wear jackets, shirts and jumpers that disguised my build a little. This was a mistake. Something that I became aware of only in recent years when I would see well-dressed thin guys walking through town. Some of them knew exactly how to dress for their shape. Rather than hide how thin/skinny/starved they may have looked, these men were unconcerned. And more power to them. They ended up looking sleek and cat-like in their well-cut suits. Other guys I'd see would wear suits that appeared to hang from their frames. 

I used to lament the fact that I was so thin. My wife would say; "See some of the other Dads when you go pick the kids up from school? Some of them have huge beer guts and double chins, and they're younger than you. I bet their cholesterol levels are through the roof. And their risk of heart disease is probably greater than yours, despite all your years of smoking. You're better off being thin. And yes, you could probably stand to put some weight on, but you're better off than most of those overweight guys."

I took the shirt off when I got back to the hotel room, folded it up and put it back in my bag.  When we got back from our trip, I put it on, took a picture below, and then folded it up and put it in a plastic bag for the next time I go to the Salvation Army shop. Here's how I looked in it;

You may think it's not too bad, but whenever I raised my arm, the width of this shirt seemed to increase. Made me look like a flying squirrel. And then there were the sleeves;

I could probably fit my leg through them, they were so wide. They were too long, too. Nope, this shirt was the wrong cut for me. Here's an older shirt of mine that has a slimmer cut;

It sits closer to the body, the sleeves are a more conservative width and their length is correct. 

About six months ago, I got two plain white cotton business shirts off eBay for twenty bucks each. Size 39, which is my proper size, but man, oh man, were these a billowy fit!;

Too much fabric. Now, I usually tend to have trouble with sleeve length when I buy shirts off-the-rack (short arms, I guess), but I'm not ready to go for tailor-made shirts just yet. 
What am I, Jay Gatsby? 
I can live with a slightly too-long sleeve, since a jacket can tend to keep the sleeves in place, and when the jacket comes off, I roll my sleeves up anyway. 
Now, here's a 'slim-cut' shirt that I bought seven or eight years ago;

The sleeves still seem a little full, but nowhere near as puffy as the shirt up above. And this shirt here has a closer fit to the body. And I've found that, because it's a slimmer cut, this prevents it billowing out at the waist after raising your arms to get something off a high shelf or bending down to tie a shoelace.

As I said earlier, I used to lament the fact that I was so thin. It took me a long time to be comfortable with my body shape. Took me even longer to dress appropriately for it. 
These days, I try on both a small size and a medium. In fact, I bought a short-sleeved shirt a couple of days ago at GAP and it was an extra-small. I said to the sales girl; "Hell, I think I'm shrinking. At this rate, I'll be about ten inches tall in an hour." 
She stated that the brand tends to cut their garments a little on the oversized end of the spectrum.

Now that I'm older, maybe I have a little more confidence and swagger. Or maybe I just don't worry so much about how I look.
At any rate, I no longer make a beeline for the Medium sizes racks and maybe I don't worry so much about what is printed on the label on the collar and just rely on my own instincts and judgement.
It's early days, but it seems to be working out okay.
No more Dad shirts for me.

Thanks for reading!


  1. At 6' 1" and still wearing 33-34 inch waist pants, I feel your pain. I've taken to buying slim fits dress clothing because everything else has enough fabric for two of me.

  2. I hear you, Dwayne. I'm 5' 10 (or eleven, can't remember), weigh around 67 kg, and normally wear 29 or 30 inch waists. I cut a slightly finer figure when I wear my correct size rather than going one size up in order to try and hide my physique.

  3. I quite like that 'Dad shirt" but then I have absolutely no fashion sense!

    1. The pattern and fabric were nice, writel. It's just that it had a 'generous' cut to it.

  4. This is an interesting and amusing post. I can't get past the prices. I go either to the thrift stores or the clearance racks to keep my shirts under $10, but it's a lot more effort to get a good fit that way.

  5. Blokes have a tendency to buy too large, took me nigh on 50 years to realise and size down from L to M. Sent a whole wardrobe of billowy, baggies to charity shops and restocked with slim fit and tailored shirts. Same with the pleated chinos... good grief.
    Wear whatever you like colour/pattern but for God's sake make sure it fits. :-)

    1. True. You can usually get away with colours and patterns, but the wrong size will get you every time.