To Iron or Not to Iron? The Rise of the Wrinkled Shirt


Lately I have been wearing wrinkled shirts. On purpose. The iron hasn’t been near them. I call this the “crumpled look.” It has not been an easy transition for me, but I have found a strange freedom from the Land of Starch where I lived in for so many years. I remember going to the cleaners with my cotton shirts and asking for extra, extra starch on my button down shirts. The starch would build up after a few washes and eventually the shirts could stand up on their own. Once I even nick my neck with a particularly sharp collar. So today I’m wearing something that’s not only not starched, it actually has wires sewn into the shirt so I can bend and twist the fabric in case it doesn’t look crumpled enough. I must confess that it has taken me a while to get to this point. So what’s a guy to do? When is wrinkled ok? Is starch completely out? To iron or not to iron? That is the question!  Here’s a few simple rules for different types of shirts:

Dress shirts you wear under a suit must be ironed and preferably starched. This classic look will never go away. It’s always appropriate.

to iron or not to iron

The dress shirt always looks nice with a bit of starch

Transitional shirt. Ok, I made that name up. But that’s what I call something that’s not a dress shirt but not a very casual one. Think of stripes, solids or tops that don’t have a lot going on. These should most likely be pressed.

The transitional usually needs pressing.

Casual. Think plaids, snaps, western, flaps and embroidery. These are on the bubble. They can be ironed out or not. It depends on your personal journey towards the crumpled look. The more you wear the crumbled look the less you’ll iron your casual shirts.

The casual shirt does not need to be ironed but It's ok to do it.

Distressed. These are shirts made to be wrinkled and look their best that way.

Distressed or crumpled shirts look best wrinkled.

How do you feel about the wrinkled shirt look?

  • David

    I'm great up through "Casual" but I can't intentionally do "Distressed" or "Crumpled" I think that looks sloppy.

  • Untucked is challenging enough for me. Not sure I'm ready for rumpled. Though I do agree that some of these shirts look better slightly "distressed."

    • It's a journey, Lawrence. One small step at a time. 🙂

  • Robin

    Out with the irons!

    • Spoken like someone who has done her fair share of ironing.

  • Zach

    ironing anything is an ordeal for me. most of the time I end up creasing something that shouldn't have a crease… I avoid it like the plague.

    • I used to roll up a towel and put it through the shirt sleeves so I could iron it without creating a crease. That was a lot of work.

  • I'm guessing we are near the same age (both physically and fashionably) because this has been a similar dilema for me as well. I was "Bleach Cassidy & the Starchdance kid" for many a year. (I even had starch can holsters)

    I have bought several "distressed" shirts these recent years and continue to have a hard time taking them out of the closet to meet my friends. Every fiber within me wants to strap those shirts down to a board and have my ironing ways with them.

    I'm getting better though…I've "outed" several of my shirts lately!

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  • jonmalstrom

    I love the rumpled look. I'm all about comfort and starch bugs me. Even a shirt ironed with no starch is gonna look rumpled in a few hours anyway. Then it looks worse than not being ironed at all. I guess I'm kinda on the fence between being a metrosexual and a hobosexual. Yeah I know that's a pretty wide fence, but I've been practicing my stretches at the gym. I can do it.

  • Joseph

    I like the comfortable look but not the "I just pulled my shirt out of the bottom of the drawer" look. Then again, I am a big khakis and dress shirt kind a guy so it might be a little out of my zone…

    Maybe if I were a bit cooler???

    • Joseph, cool is a statement of mind and not of fashion. I've seen college kids wearing khaki shorts and pink button downs. So hold on and you'll be back in the top of fashion in no time. 🙂

  • Thanks Chase. Last year they were some of my top read posts.

  • The shirt pulls a little just below of the knot (or there's too much cloth up to the collar, the shirtmaker will know). Maybe the armholes are a little tight? I agree with Costi that the shoulderseam can me moved 1/2 or one cm, but this is more to do with style than fit.

  • I'm fashion challenged but I will admit that I iron just about everything from undershirts to polo's and everything else between. I iron my jeans too but I've never gone so far as to roll up a towel and put it in my shirt sleeve to remove the crease. 🙂 I think I saw a show on TLC about that.


    Oh man, I don't think I can do it. I've tried wearing distressed shirts like that and I don't feel comfortable. If I'm tucking it in, I pretty much always iron.

    Haha maybe I need to loosen up.

  • Ron H

    The problem I see is that “home crumpling” never looks as good as the way the shirt is crumpled/distressed in the store. I think that’s because the fabric is crumpled before cutting and assembly, so the seams are relatively straight and wrinkle free, while the fabric isn’t.

    The best I’ve come up with is to sometimes just iron the seams (very difficult to do without catching some of the fabric body), or ironing the entire shirt, and then using a spray bottle of water to slightly wet down the fabric away from the seams. Then, let it dry on the hanger. I sometimes pull the seams straight again after putting it on the hanger, but while still damp.

    It’s a lot of work, and that’s why I seldom do it, and just end up ironing the dang shirt anyway!

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