Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dress like an engineer

Apparently Kurt has taken me to task over not posting so I had best address the issue by putting up something new to look at.  I'll start with something which came to mind not long ago as I was reorganizing my closet.

I think more people need to dress like an engineer. 
Now I know engineers don't necessarily have a great reputation for being well dressed, in fact I'm certain that at least some of us have selected clothing based purely upon the weather report and a basic evaluation of the thermal properties of the clothing. (Forecast says wind today, I had best break out the forced air convection formulas.)

Still, there are many career minded engineers out there and many of them realize there is truth in the old saying  "Clothes make the man.  Naked people have little or no influence on society." (Mark Twain)
 Eventually this concern over the quality of wardrobe will cause one's mind to turn to ironing.  In fact with our wide array of off the rack clothes and automatic washers and dryers, ironing is the most time consuming part of dressing oneself. 

So what is the most efficient way to get your clothes pressed and wrinkle free?  Personally, I favor the Ironrite.  This device was initially dubbed the mangle ironer, referencing the then common clothes drying device better known as the wringer.

Eventually someone with a little marketing experience stepped in and provided a name that wasn't associated with unintended disfigurement and the Ironrite was born.  These are by far superior to other methods of ironing because they don't require you to stand over an ironing board and because the danger of entanglement adds a bit of an adrenalin rush to an otherwise dull chore.

Of course most of us don't have access to these machines due to space limitations or the fact that a new machine of this size and quality would cost substantially more than today’s consumers would pay for any device without an apple badge, a touch screen, and a set of white earbuds.

That pretty much leaves you with the ironing board and handheld steam iron.  While this approach is time consuming one can find some solace in the fact that steam irons are much better than the flatirons of years past.  The biggest difference of course is the addition of a steam system. 

Rather than rely purely upon direct conductive heat transfer, steam irons speed the pressing process by injecting  steam directly into the fabric, simultaneously heating the fabric from within and utilizing the heat of vaporization to transfer more energy than would be possible by conduction alone.  Of course this technology is still somewhat lacking in that there are currently no superheated steam or even pressurized boiler models availible to the average consumer.  For this reason I recommend only ironing on days with very high barometric pressure as your steam can reach higher temperatures.

Consult your steam tables for further information.

Individuals located at higher altitudes are at a disadvantage here.  Placing ironing boards at sea level (or just high enough above sea level to avoid electrocution) is preferable.  Conditions in death valley are probably best for the utilization of a steam iron, but I suspect the drawbacks of going there to iron would outweigh the benefits.

As to how you should go about ironing your shirts, well there's a very simple system I use to iron as efficiently as possible.  Just repeat after me: Collar, Sleeves, Front, Back. 

I always start with the collar.  Why? because a nice crisp collar is the most noticeable feature of a shirt and always conveys a good impression.  Also it's the only part of the shirt which is consistently visible regardless of the other garments you are wearing, and if you're trying to be efficient, why would you bother ironing the parts of the shirt that don't show?!

Take your shirts out of the laundry and press the collar first, then hang them up in the closet until you know what you're going to wear with them.  If it's the summer and you're dressing light, a nice vest might be in order, in which case you only need to iron the sleeves.  This saves the time ironing the other parts of the shirt.  Taking a few extra seconds to put a nice crisp crease along the top of the arm will make your shirt look nice and sharp and will completely avoid any suspicion that the remainder of the shirt is still sporting prune like wrinkles.

For more formal occasions when a jacket is required you must iron the front of the shirt, that is unless you decide to wear a three piece suit in which case having a well pressed collar is sufficient so long as you don't remove the jacket.  

Now the back of your shirt...well if you spend a lot of time sitting down or you are very conscientious about keeping your back to the wall, I say don't bother ironing what nobody will see.

So to recap, if you don't have a mangle iron be sure to use a handheld steam iron.  Only iron when the barometric pressure is high.  Always iron your collar first.  Only iron the other parts of your shirt if they will be seen.
If all else fails, just wear a turtleneck, sweater, and wrinkle free khakis. 

Don't miss the next installment of engineering fashion when I teach you how to accessorize like a true technical professional.