COLUMN: September 5, 2013

I DROPPED my pen and sighed. I was going to have to pick it up, and whether I bent over or crouched, it was going to have the same effect.

I opted for crouching, as I have been on a health and safety “picking up objects” course, and retrieved the pen. Then I stood up again and I tucked my shirt in for the 37th time that day.

Why is it impossible for me to buy an off-the-peg shirt that actually fits? It is true that made-to-measure shirts exist, but they are not a realistic option.

For a start, I would need more than one shirt if I wanted to spend time in the company of humans. And if I could afford more than one made-to-measure shirt I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this. I would be lying in a hammock somewhere, I don’t know where, with a sea as blue as the sky, while a Filipino writes a column for me about how annoying it is when Scarlett Johansson pops round without phoning first.

My major difficulty in obtaining a shirt that fits is that I have a ridiculously large head. You are probably thinking, “Open more buttons, you idiot, and it’ll fit over even your head.”

But it is not the head that is the problem, it is the neck that has had to develop to support its bulk. My neck is in proportion with my head, but not with my slimmish body. If you put me on the Russell Scale, I’d be between Brand and Crowe, rather than Crowe and Grant. I do not have “guns”, I have “peashooters”.

This means that when I buy a shirt, I have two choices. I can buy a shirt that fits my torso but has the effect on my neck that a choke chain has on an excitable dog.

Or I can buy a shirt that fits my neck perfectly, but billows out about my body, as if I’d just put my head through the airhole of a parachute.

They are my usual choices. And, no, I can’t get a slim-fit shirt because sometimes I have to breathe out. I thought I had found the Holy Grail when I was able to obtain two shirts which fit my chest and are not too restricting about the neck

By this I mean I can have them buttoned up to the Adam’s apple for tie-wearing for a few hours.

But when I undo the top button later in the day I experience palpable joy, similar to that of a woman undoing her bra after a long day of being a woman, or the relief experienced when a cooker extractor hood is switched off.

But these shirts are not long enough, and I find I am tucking them in 80 or 90 times a day, which makes me look shiftily uncomfortable. This is because nobody needs to see my middle-aged midriff. It is less a midriff and more a midextendedsolo.

Certainly nobody needs to know what colour underpants I am wearing or where I get them.

Nevertheless, it is difficult to look dignified when one is constantly adjusting oneself like a man on a register.

I do not know why it was decided that neck circumference was the sole consideration when it came to sizing shirts, but I can imagine. And here I am, imagining it . . .

THE BOARDROOM OF THE SMASHING GARMENT COMPANY, SEVERAL YEARS AGO.
MD: This had better be good, Figgis. I am missing the first episode of a new TV series called Doctor Who, which looks as if it could run for 50 years, albeit with a break between 1989 and 2005.
FIGGIS: It is, MD. The boffins have come up with a way to mass produce shirts which will push our secret agenda. We will classify them solely by collar size.
MD: That is genius, Figgis. I can only imagine the frustration of, say, a man in his early 40s, who is about a Harty on the Russell Scale, with a freakishly big head and consequently thick neck, being forced to wear what is effectively a barber’s cape.
FIGGIS: That is probably an extreme case, but the principle holds. It might take around 50 years for our plan to work, though…
MD: I’ll watch Doctor Who then, and by the time the series finishes, we will have wiped out shirts forever.
THEY BOTH LAUGH MANIACALLY.
FIGGIS: MD, why do you hate shirts so much?
MD: I don’t. I just really like ponchos.

That is the only explanation.

And thinking about it logically, I would probably be in my hammock in the Philippines.

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