Legend has it that when Jackie Onassis came across a garment she liked, she bought in every colour. When I come across something I like, I buy four: two black ones and two in navy blue.
I refer specifically to that essential category of clothing, underneaths (these being variations of short and long-sleeved T-shirts in lightweight jersey, to be worn under a jacket or, more usually in my case, with a feature cardigan).
However you wear them, these are the essential building blocks of any wardrobe. But it’s mystifyingly hard to find good ones, which is particularly enervating as you have to replace them regularly.
Even with restricted wearing, washing on the cashmere cycle with Woolite and careful pressing, smart T-shirts last only one season in good enough condition to wear as ‘best’ (i.e. an important work lunch in a name restaurant).
After that, you have to relegate them down the hierarchy, which goes roughly: smart casual, lunch with a friend, everyday work, weekend mornings, gym, gardening.
How you arrange that system in your wardrobe is an issue all its own (and one I am constantly working on) but the key thing is that you always have to have the new ones coming in at the top. That’s when the fun starts. Not.
You would think that a navy blue short-sleeved T-shirt would be fairly commonplace, wouldn’t you? But no. And I don’t think my requirements are too demanding: I’d just like dark navy, in good quality lightweight jersey, reasonably close fitting, with a neck that isn’t strangulatory high or cleavage-y low. You’d think I was looking for the elixir of life.
Last year I got a great one in Whistles, but stupidly broke my own rule and didn’t multi-purchase. It’s just beginning to look past its best, so I popped back in to see if they possibly have them again this summer. Do they heck.
Jigsaw, another historically excellent source of T-shirting, doesn’t have a single style in navy this summer. Nothing! What’s that about? Likewise Boden and Agnès B … Uh? There’s one simplish, darkish blueish T-shirt on the Boden site but it’s sold out. Funny that.
Getting desperate, I spent time yesterday trawling through the rather compelling US fashion website Shopbop, which has a dizzying range of every kind of clothing, from a very broad range of labels that they ship free worldwide within three days (if you spend over $100).
You can refine your search right down to ‘T-shirt, short sleeve, blue’, but while there were 35 items within that micro-category, none of them was right. They were striped, sky blue, tricksy shaped, plunge necked or just plain weird.
The one possible-looking style turned out to be made of wool jersey, so that was a lucky reminder always to read the small print when shopping online. (Is it hot in here, or is it me?)
It all makes me think that fashion retailers have got something very muddled up. They think consumers want to be constantly thrilled by something new, when in fact there are some essential items we just want to be able to buy over and over again in the basic colours without any fuss.
It really isn’t necessary for them to reinvent the T-shirt twice every year.