Anyone who owns a traditional starched dress shirt with a ‘boiled front’ will be familiar with the frustrations that it causes. The discomfort when wearing it is bearable, as is the inconvenience of attaching a collar – although dancefloor exertions have led to many a broken shirt stud – but the real disappointment comes the morning after when the discarded pile of clothing is sorted and you realise the shirt needs a good dry clean. As you make your way to the local cleaners in the chilly morning, you envy your soft-shirted colleagues who lie warm in their beds, sleeping off the stupor as their washing machines whirr.
It gets worse when you arrive at the dry cleaners and they inform you that they cannot dry clean the shirt without damaging the product. “You need” they say “to go to a specialist dry cleaner, one who cleans for the movie and costume people.” You head to Jeeves of Belgravia for advice who inform you, calmly, that they do not do it themselves but they can send it away, for a fee, to be cleaned professionally. “It takes about two weeks” they inform you as you reel from the quoted price. A little research then leads you to the Barker Group – to whom most of the world’s dry cleaners send their boiled-front shirts – and you realise that your shirt needs to be posted off to Bournemouth.
Even for a man accustomed to fuss, this process is irritating and scarcely economical. The days when such shirts could be dropped off at street corner launderers are long gone. This is a specialist product requiring specialist cleaners; cleaning the starched front evening shirt is a dying art. If only there was a boiled front shirt which could be cleaned by any old dry cleaning company. Or, better still, if there was a stiff evening shirt that could be thrown in the washing machine as you return to slumber. “Yeah right” you think “that’ll never happen.” And just like that, Darcy Clothing (formerly the Vintage Shirt Company & Co) provide the answer to your prayers; the washable stiff-front evening shirt.
After the success of their washable collars, they have finally produced the tunic to match; no longer will Barker’s excellent but inconvenient services be required. Although not as authentically stiff as the original boiled front shirt, the washable version is all the better for it in terms of comfort. If you are of a nostalgic bent, or simply prefer the aesthetic of the stiff fronted evening shirt but have been frustrated by its inconvenience, this is the thing for you. You can tuck into your consommé in comfort, glide across the floor with gratification, catch a wink in the cab on the way home and toss the thing into the washing machine as you down a raw egg and a Bloody Mary.