They say that necessity is the mother of invention.
However, in the modern age I find that the opposite is often true.
There are so many products that create problems in order to sell solutions. Like the myriad bathroom cleaners that profess a singular, unique purpose – when a basic, multi-purpose bleach would often suffice.
There are widgets, bobbits and all manner of tools that purport an essential need; ‘invent today and find the need tomorrow’ seems to be the motto.
However, there are some problems of great irritation that I have wished some mind far greater than mine could attend to.
Ironing has always irked me. It is a chore, the technology for which has barely progressed in half a century. It seems ridiculous in this day and age that we still need to unfold a board, plug in an electronic steam-device and slide it back and forth across a shirt to make it presentable.
In fact, shirts in general are rather annoying.
I like them, of course. But they have a nasty habit of misbehaving.
In the course of a day, I often find even my made to measure shirts not staying where they are meant to be; tucked in my trousers with a smooth front up to my collar. It might sound like Leyendecker idealism, but it always struck me as rather irksome that even a well-starched cotton shirt must crumple so much in an ensemble.
And so when I was presented with the option of ‘shirt stays’ from Sharp & Dapper, I was titillated. Finally, here was a product which sought to govern the ungovernable, twofold. For not only is this product designed to pull on one’s shirt tails to create that smooth-as-a-board effect, it also pulls up one’s socks at the same time.
Of course, theory is all very well but it achieves nothing. Trial is essential to make an idea an invention, and so recently, I set about testing it.
The first step is to attach the elasticated straps to the bottom of your shirt or, if you choose, to the top of your socks.
I chose the socks first and found it rather tricky as I was wearing a thick-ish pair of Uniqlo winter socks rather than a pair of fine merino socks. Essentially, you need to push a bit of rubber inside the top of the sock to create a lump and secure the metal latch over this lump, so that it safely grips the material.
Next, I attached the other end of the strap to the bottom of the shirt front, which was far easier due to the thinness of the shirt material. I repeated the process with the three remaining straps, attaching two to the shirt front and two to the shirt rear.
The sensation is, initially, bizarre. The elastic straps are alarmingly effective and require getting used to. I was very, very aware that I was wearing them, even when I tried on trousers afterwards. However, I have been reliably informed that the unfamiliarity of this sensation passes with regular use.
The best thing is that even a fitted shirt could be improved by its use. It pulled down on the tails, creating a smooth finish across the front that would have been welcome on many formal occasions in memory.
I find it would be particularly useful for black tie, given the use of low waistcoats and the desirability of an entirely smooth front, as well as the proliferation of black silk socks – which have a nasty habit of not remaining on the calves but slinking down to the ankles.