1994 was a pretty significant year for pop culture – it was the year O.J. Simpson’s slow speed chase made the news, Major League Baseball went on strike, Woodstock II was held in upstate New York, and the word “shrinkage” entered the active vocabulary of guys everywhere thanks to a now-classic episode of Seinfeld. But while shrinkage, as it relates to clothing, is often referred to with laughter and the occasional smirk, this all too common phenomenon can still take its toll on your custom shirts if you’re not careful.
As we told you in a previous post, most modern natural fabrics undergo a finishing process known as sanforization, which cuts down on shrinkage by reducing a fabric’s tendency to contract or get smaller during washing. Furthermore, many brand name pants and shirts are pre-washed, and thus pre-shrunk, before they are sold. Despite of these processes, shrinkage has yet to be totally eradicated, especially when it comes to tailor made or customized shirts.
Fortunately though, if the fabric used to make your shirt isn’t pre-washed or otherwise pre-treated, it will probably be cut to accommodate a certain amount of shrinkage, which typically occurs after the first wash. Depending on the textiles being used, a shirt may be cut as much as an inch larger than necessary. As a general rule, if shrinkage does take place, it should occur evenly throughout high-quality shirts – that is, the no one part should shrink more than the other. For the most part, if the cleaning instructions on your shirt are followed carefully, you shouldn’t expect to see more than a 2% decrease in a shirt’s size.
If you d0 disregard, either willfully or carelessly, the washing instructions recommended by your shirt’s care tag though, you’re courting trouble. A simple oversight like sending your shirt through the drier on hot instead of warm may not cause much damage, especially if the garment is a few years old, but some guys have made the huge mistake of attempting what is known as “targeted shrinking”.
While many have fool-heartedly attempted to induce shrinkage to get a better fit, nearly all have failed. This operation, which usually involves a bucket of ice water and a pre-heated drier, is way too difficult to control and, given the permanency of shrinkage, you only get one chance to get the results you want (which you probably won’t).
If you ever hope to wear that too-large shirt again, take it to a tailor instead, especially if there’s only a size problem in one or two parts of the shirt. If you take the time to familiarize yourself with the services a tailor can offer, and can operate a washer and drier, there should be no reason why shrinkage should be the downfall of your clothing.