I guess things have been fairly rosy around here lately, and as such we haven't had an installment of the infrequent "perils" series in quite a while. This one's been in the can for over a year, I'm only just pulling the trigger now. It's the tale of The Worst Shirt I've Ever Owned.
I'm not about to embark on a rant against J. Crew in general, because I actually have no problem with a lot of their stuff. It's been well documented here that any given Spring at least half of the khakis I keep in rotation are from them, and I find them to be well made and pretty hard wearing. They can also be counted on as a source of good looking cotton socks in bright argyles and the like. I may not care for the dubious provenance, both in the Chinese factory and mall storefront, of most of their goods, but when you need basics like khakis and socks, and you're a cheapskate, you find that sometimes you have to pick your battles. So ends the disclaimer.
So what of the "Vintage Oxford"? Well, for one thing, calling a new thing vintage doesn't sit well with me, but that's just a matter of semantics. This shirt is a size Medium. I'm 5'10", I wear a 42 jacket and a 34 waist...you know, kind of the poster child for the average size Medium. But every aspect of this shirt is a bad fit on me. This shirt is a masterpiece of disproportion. The collar is too big, yet it's points are far too short. The placket is too narrow, the pocket too small. The sleeves are at least three inches too long, but you can't really roll them up, because they're cut too tight and the sleeve placket is only a couple of inches long. The damn thing is too short to stay tucked in, and the cloth is kind of spongy and weird feeling. Nothing good about it. Still, it was $1.00, and I figured I could at least use it as a "sweater shirt", when all I really needed was some open white collar showing, but even that didn't work. It constantly comes untucked, and the cuffs ride down and out of the sweater. Very bad, indeed. It's time for this beast to go, or at least get made into handkerchiefs.
A bad shirt like this touches on a couple of subjects, one of which is the problem of "alpha sizing", that is, S,M,L,XL. This system works fine for knitwear,tennis shirts, flat caps,and maybe even gloves. But a button front shirt is another matter. A man must have a neck and sleeve measurement in order for a shirt to look right. Some general cuts through the body will work well for a lot of guys, but an ill fitting neck or a sleeve too long or too short is irreconcilable. I'm not about to suggest, as some might, that any man who isn't a savage must have his shirts made, because for most men ready made shirts will work just fine. But stay away from alpha sized dress shirts, even for $1.00.
The other issue this addresses is the "problem" of the very low prices one often encounters in thrift shops, the ultimate peril of thrifting in a way. No matter how cheap something is, Hell, even if its free, doesn't necessarily mean you need to take it. Junk is junk at any price, and the accumulation of a lot of it is the most common trap thrift shoppers fall into. Successful cheapskating requires a more discerning eye than usual, and it's a skill to be constantly developed. I've been working on it for years, but as you can see, we all slip sometimes. I paid $1.00 too much for this shirt. Can it be true that someone paid upwards of $50 for it once? Shocking. There's a long winded lesson in values and relativity there too, I suppose, but we'll leave that for another time.
Avoid the J. Crew Vintage Oxford at all costs...unless you need a cloth to wax your car with, or something. Even then there are better options.