I apologize in advance to any fine British gentlemen, particularly Englishmen and most particularly the gentlemen of London, who may be put off by what I have written here. To try to minimize the depth of any offense that may be taken, I should point out that I came from a family in which my mother’s ancestors were almost certainly from England and my father’s were almost certainly Scots-Irish. So with the heavy preponderance of British blood coursing through my veins, it’s more permissible for me to look at an aspect of British culture and poke a little fun at it.
Last Sunday’s paper included an advertising supplement that caught my eye. When it fell out of the paper, I first saw the back cover of the slick mini-catalog of thirty-five pages. Beside a full-page picture of a finely dressed young English gentleman was a little box that read:
– – – – –
Then I turned the booklet over to the front cover and saw a layout of four photos of what apparently are proper British shirts, three displayed with neckties and one without. Three of the four have French cuffs and one—without the tie—just buttons at the cuff like the seldom-worn dress shirts in my closet.
The company name is across the top of the front cover, Charles Tyrwhitt, followed by their location, Jermyn Street, London. A box inset in the center of the shirt photos says:
– – – – –
Normally $140 or $160
SAVE $100 OR MORE
Savvy advertising had me hooked for a minute, but the Scottish genes in me said, “$39.50 is still too much to pay for a shirt.” Scots often view anything coming out of London with great skepticism anyway.
Back to my reading of this little catalog, below the shirt photos I found these important bits of information:
EXCLUSIVE INTRODUCTORY OFFER FOR READERS IN TEXAS
Visit this site for these prices
1-866-797-2701 (24 hrs toll free)
Quote offer code: SS27
See inside for Manhattan & Washington, D. C. Stores
A small box in the lower-right corner of the cover read:
NEXT 10 DAYS ONLY
On page 4 of the mini-catalog, they have a title “The Proper White Shirt”. It was a relief to learn that these proper white shirts come in the following weaves: herringbone, pinpoint, poplin, and twill. While I apparently do not own any proper dress shirts, some of my cheap dress shirts can at least claim some of those weaves.
On page 5 under key features: “All shirts available in button or French (cufflink) cuff.” How can these be proper English shirts with a French element to them? Of course, the pictures show a great majority of French cuffs, but how can an element from the French be called “British proper”? This looks to me like a concession to the French.
Page 11 showcases their Slim Fit Spread Collar that they claim will “Exude British Style.” They must be proper because on page 15 the Non-Iron Slim Fit, Spread Collar was “made famous by Prince George in 1920s London.” Does this mean non-iron shirts were popular with British royalty nearly a century ago? If so, I would never have imagined that.
On page 21 they offer “55+ classic fits” that feature ” . . . our most generous fit across the chest, waist and hips. They must be proper, but bigger to fit aging gentlemen. They are also 100% cotton because older people don’t like “uncomfortable man-made materials.”
Finally, I took note of page 34, “Business Casual, Slim and Extra Slim Fit,” for wearing, as they say, “At home in the boardroom or cocktail bar.” The following page suggests these proper shirts are for 30+ men. This implies the gentlemen are young, but not too young, and work at places that have casual Fridays and go out drinking after work. I’ve never seen a shirt ad making this pitch, but I spend almost no time reading shirt ads, except for this one.
Readers of my blog in Texas may get a quickened pulse by all this. I’m thinking particularly of lawyers, executives, members of the Texas Legislature, and most importantly, the lobbyists who have to look both good and prosperous to impress most members of the Texas Legislature.
But readers in places like Boise, Palmyra, San Francisco, Springfield, Sydney, or Toronto may have trouble ordering these shirts at such huge discounts with the above information. We all know Texas is a special place with special privileges. But if I lived outside Texas and wanted to buy one or more proper British shirts, I’d call the toll-free number and ask if I could get the Texas prices. Just tell them you remember the Alamo.
I suppose the little catalog from the Charles Tyrwhitt shirt people has now given me an inferiority complex that will strike when I look at my apparently improper dress shirts that come from around the world outside London. At least that’s the way I feel at present. Like I have improper dress shirts.
I’m really sorry I even looked at that little catalog. Advertising can really twist your mind if you’re not careful.