“Are you wearing shirt stays? No? Then you lose”. So declared my friend Siân after a fellow theatregoer had bragged about his suit. This was on the penultimate evening of my week-long experiment with shirt stays and cemented my decision. I really liked them.
Being a somewhat well-fed chap, I’ve always been aware of the risk of shirt coming away from trouser, giving an unsightly flash of tummy or love handle. The current fashion for very low-rise trousers has made this even worse. Few off the rack trousers are high enough, or shirts long enough to remove this risk, and so most chaps spend time tucking and adjusting, or even worse, giving up entirely and wearing dress shirts untucked.
There are solutions. The very old-fashioned Italian ‘Pettegola’ shirt, which tucks around between the legs. I’ve not worn one of these but it looks neither comfortable nor, as my shirtmaker remarked, conducive to good hygiene. They would also need to be custom made, which is expensive, and if you’re going that route you may as well get shirts with a long tail and remove the problem.
Another option is the shirt stay. Four lengths of elastic that fasten to the tail of the shirt and the top of ones socks to keep the former down and latter up. These have been around for years, but are most commonly worn by members of the US military. Most sets you can buy are not of great quality, but in recent years Durham and Johan, the team behind Sharp & Dapper, have been selling very nicely-made versions. It was these that Nic from The Perfect Gentleman asked me to try.
I must admit to being somewhat sceptical at first. The nicely presented package held four lengths of adjustable elastic, finished with the same clips you’ll find on good quality ladies suspender belts. This added to a slight frisson of kink the first time I put them on, which may be a plus or a minus depending on your personality. However this soon wore off and the practicality shone through.
I gave them a tough job to do the first day, with a pair of very low rise Brooks Brothers Madison trousers and a shirt I bought in Madrid that has a particularly short tail. They coped admirably, even with getting in and out of my low-slung car and waving my arms about facilitating a workshop.
Usually on such a day I’d be re-tucking my shirt every hour or so, whereas with the shirt-stays I didn’t need to once. Over the rest of the week they coped with varying shirts, trousers and suits.
They also did an excellent job of keeping my socks up. I prefer to wear longer, calf-length socks to remove the risk of exposing a line of hairy leg between shoe and trouser. However these are more expensive, harder to find and slightly less comfortable if you have well-developed calves. With a pair of standard length M&S socks, I never once felt that tell-tale breeze around the shins that bodes ill. All very good.
I did have a couple of concerns. Would they show through my trousers? Would they damage my shirts or socks?
I don’t wear especially tight trousers, certainly not hipster skinny tight. I spent a good while checking my silhouette and asking my other half to do the same. They didn’t show. So long as you are not spraying on your trousers, or wriggling into skin-tight PVC, then I doubt a VSSL will be a problem. The rubber and wire clip was also kind to my socks. I tried them with a pair of Corgi’s best in cashmere and they were fine. These are clearly very well thought out.
I did run into a few problems however. The first morning I wore them much too tight and nearly strangled myself when I sat down to fasten my shoes. A slight adjustment of length allowed the elastic to do its job, and I was able to move about in perfect comfort.
It also has to be said that these do not look good exposed to public view. My girlfriend found them hilarious and a straw poll of my female friends suggests that whilst a lady in suspenders may be delightful, a chap in something similar is comical. I’d suggest a strategic trip to the gents to remove them should you expect to doff your trousers in company.
It’s fair to say that shirt stays have won me over. I’m wearing a pair as I write this, and I intend to make them a regular part of my dress. For £15 they are a very practical and inexpensive way to improve your dress.
Gentlemen, these are something you should definitely consider.
Sharp and Dapper web site http://www.sharpanddapper.com/
- This being one of the odder effects of WW2 rationing. Making lower-rise trousers was cheaper and used less fabric becoming the norm for especially ready-to-wear clothes. The current predilection for very low and very tight clothes has only increased the trend.
- I quite enjoyed it.
- A Visible Shirt Stay Line, of course.