My Travelling Shirt

This is my travelling shirt. It was christened such when we went to Thailand in the spring of 2002. Because we three were travelling very light — one bag for the family, with Oliver’s diapers taking up a disproportionate amount of room — I took two only shirts. One just didn’t work at all. The other, the one here, worked like a charm.

Looking at it here, I can see it’s a bit rough around the edges. It’s also sized to 40-pounds-heavier Pete, so it looks more like it’s hanging off me than fitting me when I’m wearing it.

For travelling purposes it has several excellent qualities:

The two button-up breast pockets are exactly the right size for a passport. Or three. Or a small notebook. Or a hotel key. Or even my wallet. The buttons keep things from falling out.

The arms are the perfect length. If you’ve ever spent any time in hot, sweaty, equatorial heat, you know that a short-sleeved shirt with arms that are a titch too long is really uncomfortable because the ends of the sleeves get caught on your stickey elbows when you’re moving around. It can start to feel like a straitjacket (that was the problem with the other shirt I took to Thailand).

It’s 100% cotton. There is great debate in the traveller set (a set we’re only on the remotest periphery of) about natural fibres vs. hyper-modern chemical blends. I’ve tried both. I like cotton.

The fabric is heavy enough to take a beating. Sending laundry out to be done by the hotel often means subjecting it to the kind of abuse it would never get in a home washer. This shirt has held up well — faded a little, but no signs of decay.

The colour and style are good for most anything. It’s not too “touristy” to prevent formal use in a pinch (not proper formal use, but I could wear it to the opera in Prague and not feel too out of place, although Catherine might find me so). It’s not too formal to wear to the beach.

It’s long. When you’re as tall as I am — not a giant, but a healthy 6 foot, one and a quarter inches — having a long shirt — one that doesn’t come untucked every time you sit down — is important. This shirt is about 3 inches longer than the average, and that’s nice.

It’s got a button-down collar. Catherine, a seamstress in another life, tells me button-down collars are a relic of tie-wearing. She’ll also tell you that I won’t wear anything else, as there’s nothing worse, in my mind, than a fly-away, non-button-down collar.

I bought the shirt, probably for about $12, at Filene’s Basement in downtown Boston. I’ve worn it to Thailand, to Spain, across North America and back. And, probably too much, around Charlottetown. And I’ve got it on today, ready to wear to Boston, passport in the front pocket.


Mandy's picture
Mandy on August 13, 2003 - 04:05 Permalink

One sweaty old worn out shirt. All sticky, (but not in the elbows) Somehow you’re not painting a very pleasent picture of traveling with the Rukavina family..

Wayne's picture
Wayne on August 13, 2003 - 11:46 Permalink

I had a lucky golf hat…until last Wednesday!

Lou Quillio's picture
Lou Quillio on August 13, 2003 - 16:48 Permalink

Though it’s a nice shirt, I’m more interested in the spelling of the participle travelling.

See, I was taught by Miss Rock in 3rd grade that &#8212 for verbs ending in a single consonant &#8212 to double that consonant before adding -ing, and I’ve been doing it ever since. Not everybody does this any more, notably the MS Word spell-checker.

At this point, most ordinary dictionaries consider travelling and traveling interchangeable, but Miss Rock supported the doubling rule (if I recall) with the idea that it preserves pronunciation cues. It’s clear how to pronounce travelling. Without the double-L, a reader might parse the alternative as traveeling. To square the circle, it’s the same reason the final e is preserved when turning interchange into interchangeable. We don’t want readers thinking chang, so why fake them out?

Admittedly travelling can go either way, confusion-free. So can controlling. But what happens with a trickier case like stripping and striping?

Bill Gates would say that we need an exception because of stripe, but I think Miss Rock had it right. Her double-the-consonant rule works in (nearly) all cases, no special exceptions required. Saving a single keystroke is not worth muddying the water.