Worn-Out Shirts? Here’s What You Can Do

Previously we’ve shared that shirts will wear out, regardless how good quality they were when purchased. It doesn’t matter whether they’re ready-to-wear, made-to-measure, or even bespoke shirts. Garments that come in direct contact with your skin, or at points of mechanical stress suffer the most. So for today’s episode, we’ll explore what we can do to prolong their useful lives in our wardrobes.

Woman inspecting freshly laundered shirts in a laundrette.
Noticed that your shirts are starting to look tired and worn out? Regardless how expensive they were when new, shirts have a finite lifespan.
Image by pressfoto of Freepik

All Garments Have Finite Lifespan

Like it or not, all the garments in our wardrobe have finite lifespan. The more often you wear and launder a particular piece, the faster it’ll reach the end of its lifespan. This is especially true if that garment comes in direct contact with your body, or has a well-defined stress point. Aside from undergarments, shirts suffer the most wear and tear. The elbows of your jacket sleeves and knees of your trousers also suffer mechanical stress too. But heavier weight suitings used for jackets and trousers can withstand abrasion much better than delicate cotton shirtings.

You probably won’t feel the pinch if it’s a cheap shirt that you picked up from the bargain bin. But it’s a bummer if you’ve paid a fortune for a bespoke shirt made from high quality Sea Island Cotton. Hence, it only makes sense to want to wear your favourite shirts for as long as possible. Well, we can’t magically turn the clock back, nor can we offer any ways to stop the wear and tear. So here’s what you can do once that inevitable time has arrived :-

(1) Donate Worn-Out Shirts Before They Get Visible

A volunteer sorting out racks of donated clothes into boxes labelled "Donations".
Give your old clothes a new lease of life by donating them to charity. Just make sure you don’t treat them as a dumping ground for discarding your clothes.
Image by peoplecreations of Freepik

Can’t bear the sight of your favourite shirts wearing out right before your eyes? Then consider giving them away for a good cause. Donating your shirts before the wear and tear gets visible also helps to clear your wardrobe for new purchases. Besides, doing charity helps make you feel good too.

(2) Downgrade To Dirty Or Manual Labour Use

Man doing a bout of painting, whilst wearing an old worn out shirt. Worn out shirts may not be suitable for the office, but is perfect for protecting yourself from paint.
A worn-out shirt may not be suitable for the office. But you can still wear it when painting your home.
Image by wayhomestudio of Freepik

Whilst worn-out shirts won’t look good at the office, they don’t really matter much when doing manual labour. Think of the times when you’re gardening, painting the house, changing the oil in your car, or moving furniture. That’s the best time to bring out your worn-out shirts, and still get to wear them. So what if they get dirty, or even tears. It’s not like you’re wearing ties around the collar anymore, right?

(3) Downgrade Further To Floor Rags

The last stage of downgrade, when shirts no longer hold their shape, is as a floor rag. Here is a piece of the shirt, being used to clean the windows.
Even when the shirt is no longer suitable for wearing, it’ll still serve a purpose as a floor rag.
Image by Simon Kadula of Pixabay

It’ll come a time when the downgraded shirt no longer looks anything like a “shirt” anymore. Perhaps the sleeve has torn right off the arm-hole, or a huge tear right through the middle of it. You simply can’t wear it as a shirt anymore. That’s the time to downgrade it even further down, as a floor rag. Well, at least it’s still serving a purpose to you…

What If You Want To Stretch Its Useful Life?

Looking back at the previous episode, the wear and tear doesn’t occur across the whole shirt evenly. In fact, more often than not, it’ll happen at the collars and the sleeve cuffs. And that means the rest of the shirt remains much pretty intact. So, does that mean that you can still save your favourite shirts from early retirement?… Well, you actually can squeeze a little more lifespan out of an otherwise worn-out shirt… Within reasons, of course.

(1) Solid White Shirts

An example of a solid white shirt, but when visible fraying and yellowing at the collar.
And old white shirt, with a noticeable frayed and yellowed collar. Just replace the collar (and cuffs), and it’ll look as good as new.
Image by Author

For solid white shirts, it’s easy to simply get a tailor to replace the collars and cuffs. All you need are fresh solid white shirtings, which are very common in the first place. Unless you look closely, you can barely notice that the old white shirt comes with new collar and cuffs. It’s literally breathing a new life to an otherwise worn-out shirt.

(2) Patterned Or Coloured Shirts

An example of a blue shirt with blue, yellow and white stripes, but when visible fraying and yellowing at the collar.
A blue shirt with blue, white and yellow stripes, and a visibly yellowed collar. You can “wrap” the collar with excess fabric tucked away at the seams.
Image by Author

With patterned or coloured shirts, things start to get a little complicated. Some bespoke or made-to-order shirts have some extra fabric tucked away at the seams somewhere. With enough spare fabric, a good tailor can “wrap” the collar and/or cuffs with it, giving it a “new” look. It’s literally a skin-grafting procedure on your shirt. But if you have a ready-to-wear shirt, tough luck. There are no spare fabric in factory-made shirts.

(3) Convert To Contrast Collar Shirts

An example of a contrasting collar shirt. The body is a fine blue/grey stripe, with solid white collar.
A not-so-typical striped shirt with white contrast collar. Whist not immediately noticeable, this is actually an old shirt with a brand new, solid white collar.
Image by Author

How about wearing a “Franken-shirt”?… And what’s that I hear you ask?… Well, a “Franken-shirt” is a coined-up term. It’s a mix-and-match shirt, sewn together with different shirtings. However, if done with good taste, you can still end up with a similarly professional looking shirt. The contrasting white collar (and cuffs) shirt is one such example.

An example of a contrasting collar shirt. The body is a fine blue/grey stripe, with solid white collar. Also displaying a solid white double cuff too.
Most people probably won’t realise that this is an old shirt with a brand new collar and cuffs. You can even wear it to a board meeting, and nobody will even notice the difference.
Image by Author

So if you have a patterned or coloured shirt with worn-out collar and cuffs, well, you’re in luck. You can convert it to a contrast collar shirt. It’ll give you a few more years’ worth of wear, and you’ll still look just as good wearing it.

Get To Know Your Tailor Well

A gentleman should maintain a good relationship with some of his basic service providers. A barber, a physician, a bartender, and yes, even a tailor too. He should preferably be on a first name basis with them. And they, in turn, should know his requirements and taste, even without asking him about it. Henceforth, a gentleman should always have a good relationship with his tailor.

A tailor working on his sewing machine. This image indicates that a competent tailor can repair worn out shirts that are deemed irreparable by most people.
A competent tailor is capable of performing “miracles” when it comes to fixing little problems with your garments.
Image by Andrea Piacquadio of Pexels

A good tailor can do wonders, even when you think there’s no way to save a garment. And one such instance is to prolong the lifespan of your favourite shirts, by swapping the collars and cuffs.

My Personal Tailor

It’s with great pleasure that I introduce my personal tailor, Sky Ng, of Gents Props. Just as much as you wouldn’t patronise a shaggy looking barber, neither would you patronise a poorly dressed tailor too. A tailor who dresses himself/herself well automatically projects that he/she can dress you well also. Besides, you can see the quality of his craftsmanship just by looking at his self-tailored attire. Suits, blazers, sport jackets, shirts, trousers, everything on him simply looks impeccable.

Three-quarter portrait of Sky Ng, wearing a navy double breasted suit with faint window pane check, solid white shirt, and red tie with subtle white repeating pattern.
Sky Ng of Gents Props, wearing one of his self-tailored, double breasted suits.
Image by Gents Props

Gents Props is a by-appointment-only tailor, operating out of Malacca. So don’t drop in unannounced. Always call in advance to make an appointment. Who knows, he might even decide to meet you at your home or office. You can call him at +6012 280 0182 for any enquiries. And even if you’re from outside of Malaysia, don’t worry about it. But you might want to have a chat with him first, before making an appointment.

In the meantime, do share your relationship with your tailor in the poll below. And if you have any comments, do leave them down below too.

Do you have a personal tailor?
2 votes

About CHOW Wei Ming

Brand consultant, photographer, creative director, storyteller, and a true believer of the power of visual communications. Outwardly expresses a friendly disposition, but hides a perfectionist nature deep inside him.

One Reply to “Worn-Out Shirts? Here’s What You Can Do”

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