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The #1 thing men need to throw out of their closets

Photo: Shutterstock.

For a variety of reasons — bad taste, pure delusion, emotional attachment — we often keep clothes that we should actually throw away.

This goes for both genders, but especially for men. Men’s fashion trends don’t move as fast as women’s, so the need to slash, burn and start again just isn’t as urgent.

That obviously doesn’t mean men shouldn’t edit their closets regularly, though. And when they do, they should know what to look for — the items guys trick themselves into keeping, when they should be thrown away.

Stylist Jessica Cadmus, founder of the Wardrobe Whisperer, serves mostly high-powered professionals, especially in the financial services industry. She told us that when she takes on new male clients and does a closet edit, the item she has to throw out more than any other is the button down shirt.

“Button downs rarely have a chance to go out of style prior to the need to remove them from a wardrobe. The reason is that you are actively destroying them whether you know it or not,” she told Business Insider. “You can tell a shirt is DONE when you see visible signs of wear like rips, yellowing, waxy seams. Pay particular attention to around the neckline and under the arms.”

Here’s why your button down shirts don’t look as good as you think they do.

  • Dry cleaning – the chemicals in dry cleaning cause shirts (especially light coloured shirts) to “yellow,” they also break down the fibres in the shirt making them brittle, weak, and susceptible to tearing.
  • Industrial irons – the high level of steam and the clamping mechanism from most industrial irons can exaggerate seams and make them look waxy – especially on darker coloured shirts. No one wants random shiny elements on their shirts.
  • Your deodorant – acidic deodorants, those with alcohol (fragrance), and high aluminium content will also yellow your shirts. Additionally the aluminium remains inside the underarms of the shirts and stiffens them considerably. The chemical/sweat build up also prevents air flow which in turn creates more sweat which ultimately causes yellowing.

According to Cadmus, how long you should keep a shirt really depends on how often you wear it. On the short side it could be 6 months, on the long side 2-3 years.

And, there are measures you can take to ensure that your shirt looks good for as long as possible:

  • Ask your cleaning person to launder and press your shirts by hand. At the very least, as your local cleaners to launder them but note they will still use an industrial iron. This is worth the additional labour given that most dress shirts average $200 and with improper care will get 6 months of wear or less when worn in an active rotation.
  • Switch to a deodorant that’s not acidic and has a neutral pH. Also let the deodorant dry fully before wearing the shirt.
  • Wear an undershirt as an extra layer of protection. This model by Tommy John is great because it provides no additional bulk.
  • Wash the shirts after Every. Single. Wear. You do not want the chemicals from your deodorant and your sweat to remain on the garment. They will continue to break down the fibres.
  • Throw a cup of white vinegar (or this wonderful scented vinegar from The Laundress) in with each load of button downs (wash in cool water). This will help (but not solve) the yellowing situation and will greatly help remove odor.

Oh, and one more tip from Cadmus.

“Collars get extra jacked up when collar stays aren’t removed before an industrial iron comes down on them. Then the shirt is essentially “embossed” with the outline of the collar stay. Not cute. ALWAYS remove the collar stays prior to ironing of any kind – even hand ironing.”

Got it? Now go throw some stuff in the trash. We promise it will feel good.

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