Even a fastidious well-showered man produces enough body oil to leave a “ring around the collar” after a full day. Your imagination can reveal how a shirt would look if the wearer bathed once a week and wore the same shirt for several days.
There are labor-intensive aspects to turning out a white shirt. A clean collar requires hand work. I use a bar of soap and a toothbrush to scrub the inside of shirt collars.
When a collar showed signs of wear it could be turned around so that it was worn inside out. Someone discovered that a detachable collar made of celluloid, a kind of plastic, was easy to clean and saved laundry time. The shirts for the detachable collars had a simple band around the neck like a dog collar with button holes in the back and front. The collar was fastened to the shirt with studs, something like a small bar with a button on each end.
To see a man wearing a detachable collar look at a photograph of President Woodrow Wilson. They looked stiff because they were — very stiff.
That relieved some of the laundry problems but there were still the cuffs. In photographs and movies men who worked at book and print shops wore sleeve covers to protect their cuffs and shirt sleeves from ink. There were sometimes eye-shades, but that is another story.
Many common work shirts came with sleeves in only one length so the wearer wore sleeve garters. They were elastic bands that held the sleeve in place.
In dress shirts, cuffs presented the same problem as a collar. When worn and frayed they were removed and reattached inside out. Following the style of collarless shirts, some were produced without cuffs. Celluloid cuffs attached to the end of the sleeve.
To make things more interesting, some shirts came without a front, the bosom. There were, of course, stiff cotton or celluloid “plates” that buttoned to the front of the shirt. Think of it as a bib.
Bosom-less shirts were seen in cowboy movies and were favored by actor “Wild Bill” Elliott, who wore his six-guns backwards. In the 1920s (or so), looking good and crisp took considerable effort, but they didn’t have washing machines either.
Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” columns for several small newspapers. He has many connections to Walker County, including his grandfather, former superintendent Waymond Morgan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.