Boiled Front Shirt

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by The Urban Artistocrat, Mar 22, 2006.

  1. The Urban Artistocrat

    The Urban Artistocrat Member

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    I am researching men's formalwear and have had no luck finding an explanation of what a "boiled front" shirt is. I've seen photos and am aware that these shirts have a stiff bib but I have no idea why they are called "boiled" or how the bib is made stiff. Can anyone help me?
     
  2. Lucky Strike

    Lucky Strike Senior member

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    I think the shirts were washed by actually boiling them, and then starched into a cardboard-like stiffness far more extreme than you'll find in a modern evening or white-tie shirt.

    The expression used in England was "boiled shirt", at least in the inter-war years.

    I've tried wearing a NOS vintage "boiled shirt" a couple of times, but modern dry-cleaners seem unable to put the stiffness properly back in. On the other hand, it was not very uncomfortable, a great impediment to dancing, and made popping/snapping sounds when I did attempt dancing.
     
  3. The Urban Artistocrat

    The Urban Artistocrat Member

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    I think the shirts were washed by actually boiling them, and then starched into a cardboard-like stiffness far more extreme than you'll find in a modern evening or white-tie shirt.

    Thanks for the helpful info. Do you have any idea why the shirts were washed through boiling rather than the usual procedure? And just to confirm, was it only the bib that was heavily starched?
     
  4. Lucky Strike

    Lucky Strike Senior member

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    My theory (and I may well be wrong) is that before modern detergents, boiling was the way to get white cotton or linen as clean as possible. My grandmother still insists on white kitchen towels and rags being boiled with a tiny bit of chlorine, rather than machine-washed.

    Edit: Just the bib, collar and cuffs were starched on the ones I've seen. The body and sleeves would be ordinary unstarched cotton broadcloth.
     
  5. The Urban Artistocrat

    The Urban Artistocrat Member

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    My theory (and I may well be wrong) is that before modern detergents, boiling was the way to get white cotton or linen as clean as possible. My grandmother still insists on white kitchen towels and rags being boiled with a tiny bit of chlorine, rather than machine-washed.

    Edit: Just the bib, collar and cuffs were starched on the ones I've seen. The body and sleeves would be ordinary unstarched cotton broadcloth.


    Thanks again. Your term "boiled shirt" brought up a lot more Google hits than "boiled front shirt". I found a couple of descriptions stating that the entire shirt was boiled in starch but this seems highly impractical. The majority of sources, though, agree with your description.

    Mystery solved!
     
  6. Aus_MD

    Aus_MD Senior member

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    I've tried wearing a NOS vintage "boiled shirt" a couple of times, but modern dry-cleaners seem unable to put the stiffness properly back in. On the other hand, it was not very uncomfortable, a great impediment to dancing, and made popping/snapping sounds when I did attempt dancing.

    I wonder if Barkers might not starch your shirt. I used to have some detachable collars that I had them launder.

    Aus_MD
     
  7. Lucky Strike

    Lucky Strike Senior member

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    Oh, thanks, but the detachable collars were hell to put on and wear.

    In addition, on one of the two (?) occasions i tried wearing one with the original starch when I undressed in front of a lucky girl later in the night, my neck was chafed raw to the point that it looked as if I had tried to hang myself, or perhaps played asphyxiation games normally associated with Tory MPs.
     
  8. Aus_MD

    Aus_MD Senior member

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    Oh, thanks, but the detachable collars were hell to put on and wear.

    In addition, on one of the two (?) occasions i tried wearing one with the original starch when I undressed in front of a lucky girl later in the night, my neck was chafed raw to the point that it looked as if I had tried to hang myself, or perhaps played asphyxiation games normally associated with Tory MPs.


    What a horrible image - made me think of the recently departed Profumo.

    Mine were fold-down, rather than wing collars. Initially they were uncomfortable, but they look very good, so I persisted with them. They need to be a little larger than an attached collar.

    Aus_MD
     
  9. Jovan

    Jovan Banned for Good

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    This is why I avoid starch altogether.
     
  10. LabelKing

    LabelKing Senior member

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    I like the horsey military feel of a detachable collar.

    It's quite handsome especially if you wear them to something completely out of place.
     
  11. Lucky Strike

    Lucky Strike Senior member

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    I like the horsey military feel of a detachable collar.

    It's quite handsome especially if you wear them to something completely out of place.


    Say that in England, and they might very well give you a constituency with a safe Conservative margin.
     
  12. LabelKing

    LabelKing Senior member

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    Say that in England, and they might very well give you a constituency with a safe Conservative margin.
    Possibly although I don't want to be a neo Oswald Mosley or D'Annunzio figure.

    As for asphyxiation games, it somehow bodes well with elegant clothing. Think Charlus and other rouÃ[​IMG]s.
     
  13. Aus_MD

    Aus_MD Senior member

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    I like the horsey military feel of a detachable collar.

    It's quite handsome especially if you wear them to something completely out of place.



    They used to excite a frisson of interest amongst the zegna-wearing in operating theatre change rooms.

    Aus_MD
     
  14. LabelKing

    LabelKing Senior member

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    They used to excite a frisson of interest amongst the zegna-wearing in operating theatre change rooms.

    Aus_MD

    Are you speaking from experience?
     
  15. Lucky Strike

    Lucky Strike Senior member

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    Did you know that Mosley was the model for Wodehouse's Sir Roderick Spode, führer of the Blackshorts? Same booming voice, same Boris Karloff stare.

    I'd like to get some photos from d'Annunzio's wardrobe - apparently he had very eclectic tastes. I remember seeing a photo of some brown/white (?) loafers with penis shapes on the uppers. He wore them for seducing local maidens, rumour has it.
     

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