How To Iron A Shirt

white shirt and iron on ironing board

How To Iron A Shirt

Where to Start and Why

I always iron the collar first.

It’s not that the collar should be ironed first, I just start here because I want to see what I’m up against.

When I open up the shirt on the board to iron the collar, I can see how the shirt is made.  I now know what I’m up against in terms of seams and structure.  That’s the only reason I  start with the collar first.

You can just as happily do it last. Everybody’s different. Don’t get too neurotic about this. It’s just a shirt.

Where to Go Next

Then I move on to the button side of the shirt.

Buttons are a Bitch.

I could just as easily start on the hole side, but I usually want to get the buttons out of the way first. While I still have the patience for them.

Buttons can be trying.  Especially tiny buttons. But the regular-sized ones are a pain, too. It’s essential that your iron have a notch in its tip. This notch will allow you to slide around buttons. If your iron doesn’t have this feature, you need an upgrade.

Placket Perfection is an Illusion

Some, but not all shirts have buttons sewn onto a separate piece of material called a placket.

Some plackets have seams, others don’t. Some fancy-schmancy shirts have plackets that conceal the buttons. I don’t know who they’re trying to kid here, though. Everybody knows the buttons are under there.

If your buttons are visible, make an effort to get the puckers out of your plackets, but don’t worry too much about them.  If your placket conceals the buttons, though, even though it’s a shame,  you need to take time and get the placket right.

But with all plackets just know: concealed or visible, you’ll never get them perfectly pressed. But you will get time off in purgatory for any effort.

The Yoke is A Joke

After the button side, I move to the yoke. The yoke just joins the collar to the back.

I give the yoke a cursory steam and press, knowing I’ll have to come back to it at the end for a little touch up.

The Box Pleat Blues

The box pleat is the hemorrhoid of the shirt.

The box pleat is that double-fold pleat in the middle of the back, below the yoke. The function of the box pleat is to give you a little more shoulder space and comfort. (Shirts that are labeled “slim fit” don’t have a box pleat.)

Perfecting the box pleat takes a whole nother skill level that I’m just not willing to take the time to master. Life is short. I can’t be good at everything.

After the box pleat, reward yourself with a relaxing cruise across the calm sea of the back.

The arms are fairly straightforward, but then there’s the cuffs.

Enough with the Cuffs

Cuffs are also a pain, but unlike the box pleat, you kinda have to master the cuff. That’s because cuffs show. A lot. Unless of course you roll them, in which case, why bother with ironing. Just spray some wrinkle releaser on that sucker, smooth it out and call it good.

Sometimes I’ll unbutton the cuffs and try to fit them around the narrow neck of the board, but most of the time I press them on one side, flip them, and press the other. French cuffs are a job for professionals.

Final Thoughts

The thing to remember about ironing a shirt is that any attempt at all is considered above and beyond. It’s more than most people could, or would do. Know that.

Know also that most people don’t even own an iron, and if they do, they certainly don’t own an ironing board.

If they do have a board it’s some remnant from their dorm room days, one of those little table top numbers. Frankly, I have never tried to iron on one of those, so who am I to judge?  But I prefer standing at a full size board.

I use a Rowenta iron. Swear by it.

My mother used to sprinkle her shirts-to-be-ironed with water, then roll them up and store them in the fridge for a while.  The press of a hot iron against a cold damp shirt resulted in a heck of a nicely ironed shirt, I must say.

Starch is an issue.

I don’t use starch but I have been known to go a little crazy with Magic Sizing which is a softer kind of starch. It kind of simulates the effect of a cold damp shirt meeting a hot heavy iron.

So there you have it.

If you’ve ever wondered while ironing a shirt,  “Am I doing this right?” This is a strategy you might want to try.

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