GARY SMITH: The lonely dress shirts in the closet beg the question: Has working from home made me go too casual?

I did something the other day so completely out the realm of what I’ve been doing for the last two years that its very novelty overcame the fact it was completely mundane and otherwise unspectacular. A small, insignificant act given outsized significance by the times in which we live.

I ironed a shirt.

Yep, that was me. Ironing board, rumpled shirt, little steam, badda bing, badda boom. Before you know it, what was once wrinkled is now flat. Or something like that.

The reason I even mention this is, well, I hadn’t done it in a while. Or even had to. As I’m sure you’re aware, recent events have sort of allowed for some of our standard practices to drop off a bit. For me personally, of the many things that had gone by the wayside, making dress shirts presentable had jumped to the top of the list — along with self-restraint as it applies to Peanut M&Ms, knowledge of where my car keys are, the location of my work backpack, etc.

The same, unfortunately, could almost be said for many of the elements required for me to, in fact, iron that shirt. Like, for instance, the iron. Or the ironing board. As with most houses, if you don’t use it, you bury it beneath a mound of stuff. Or use it as a drying rack or workbench or throw it away until you realize you did need it. Then you go out and buy one and start the sorry cycle all over again.

The thing is, I was a little lost on where all the important tools of the process were (not the shirts. I knew where the shirts were) because it had probably been two years since I actually did it.

If the first casualty of war is truth, the first casualty of working from home, at least for me, was freshly pressed linen. Or whatever my shirts are made of. Likely not linen, cause that stuff wrinkles like no one’s business. But I digress.

What makes that sort of odd is, well, I used to iron a lot. Mostly because I worked in an office and sort of cared about how I presented myself. I mean, someone has to care about how I look, right?

So, a not-insignificant part of my weekly work prep was spent making sure my shirts didn’t look like I slipped in them. Another big part was making sure I wasn’t actually sleeping in them, but that’s where the coffee came in.

For a while (years, in fact) I had a nice little rhythm going there, driven in part by the fact that ironing is sort of like mowing the lawn. You’re using somewhat dangerous equipment, so everyone needs to leave you alone and let you get on with it. Or at least that’s what I told everyone.

Then came the dark days at the start of the pandemic when we were all instructed to work from home and the need to wear shirts with actual collars on a regular basis (or, at all) diminished.

And the longer we’ve been out, the more “business casual” has turned into just “casual.” Sort of like that ironing board turning into a desk or the sofa turning into my office. It’s all in how you look at it.

So we’ve gone from asking our significant others, “Does this shirt match?” to asking “Does it smell? And is the taco sauce stain visible or would it blend in during a Zoom meeting?”

However, lately I’ve been looking at that collection of shirts in my closet and thinking “I need to step it up, present a better image and let people know I mean business.” Or occasionally I think “Man, I guess I need to wear these things, since I’ve got them and thanks to the Peanut M&Ms, they may not actually fit for much longer.”

With that in mind, I’ve been skipping my favorite lucky college football T-shirt (I mean, after the season the Sooners had, how much luck can it actually be bringing?) in favor of actual shirts. You know, the ones you’d wear to a restaurant. If they allowed you to come inside and eat.

And maybe, for just a bit, I can delude myself into thinking things are back normal and I should start myself likewise.

Heck, I might even shave. Yeah, maybe, but let’s not rush things.

Leave a Comment