I love shirts. They are not just clothes to me. They are far more than a covering for my tin-ribs and sporadic chest hair. They exist way beyond the limits of cotton, buttons, and stitching in the very fabric of my soul.
There are several shirts that have been worn by me for well over a decade. Shirts that have been through it all: overseas adventures, girlfriends, weddings, funerals, the highest highs, the lowest lows, good jobs, shit jobs, cities, towns, villages, and everything in between – these are my old favourites. They have been an outward mark of my personality for all this time, a part of me.
To say these shirts are past their best is a euphemism that only I have the kindness and short-sightedness to give them. They are fubar’d. I decided before leaving the UK that it would be appropriate to give these shirts one last major outing, a final farewell before saying goodbye. They are not in good enough condition to recycle, if they were then I’d keep them, and the thought of them becoming lowly rags is unthinkable. The indignity of these glorious garments scrubbing tables, polishing leather, wiping treacly grease from car parts would break my heart. This is to be the dying gasps of tired but trusted friends, soon to depart after years of faithful service.
The first to go is Pinky. Pinky is a blue-grey and pink striped shirt from the Man at Ease range by Tootal, made in Malaysia with love at some point in the seventies. It is vintage, short-sleeved, and awesome. I adore the colour combination and the cut. It has two burn holes from some particularly toxic hash that I smoked when I was 17 and has been missing a top button for as long as I can remember. I have pictures of me wearing this shirt in Dubrovnik in 2003. Being that this is a retro shirt, it has had previous owners as well – it has seen a lot.
Pinky is riddled with faults – various components, like organs, fail now in the final inexorable steps of the death dance. The sweat stains, once bearable, have come out from the armpit area and spread their yellowing pools across the front and back of the shirt. The tears under the arm that I have repaired several times have opened again, gaping wounds. The collar is brown with Grade-A Nepali and Indian grime. There are several stains on the sleeves that will not disappear. The pocket is hanging off. It is in an ugly state for a beautiful shirt.
I will bid farewell to Pinky tonight in Varanasi, the Indian holy city where Hindus burn their dead on the banks of the Ganges. It is an appropriate place to part with an old friend but this does not make it any easier. Goodnight, Pinky, goodnight.
Like this? Try this… Farewell to Love.