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.