Collared | By Ash Warren

In a rich vein of form the unstoppable Ash Warren returns with a funny short story about some real ‘shirty’ shirts. If you’ve ever wanted to read a funny short story with the phrase ‘Shirts are bitchy creatures,’ in it, well here’s your chance.


By Ash Warren

For the Shirt Story Short Story Contest


The shirts in my wardrobe are whispering together again tonight. These guys really couldn’t care less if I get any sleep. I want to shout at them: ‘Shut up you inconsiderate bastards!’ You colloquy of collars! You chorus of bloody cuffs!’ But I know they wouldn’t the slightest attention. Shirts always go their own way.

Shirts are bitchy creatures, I think it’s just part of their DNA. Oh, and they have all sorts of ideas about themselves let me tell you. For a start, they all think they are above the trousers (well, in a sense they are) and absolutely adore looking down on others, especially the T-shirts and of course, the object of their special venom, the singlet (‘Darling, mere underwear’, ‘That half-made thing? Oh no…’). Even the damned polo shirt gets given pretty short shrift (‘A T-shirt with a collar….really dear?’, ‘A three-button imposter, that’s all…’).

Yeah, they are so good, just so good at dishing it out. I wish they would just shut up at night though, but they just can’t help themselves.

As for myself, I have the misfortune to run McShermanson And Co., a vintage clothing shop which my friends jokingly call ‘McShirtison’s’ and where I have long been known by the sobriquet of ‘Shirty’, which my ex-wife said described both my job and my personality. I think that’s quite unfair though as I am actually the mild-mannered type and believe me, long suffering, considering what I have to put up with every day.

The main problem in my business I guess is the word ‘vintage’. This means, naturally enough, that all the clothes have all been owned by different people before they make it to my racks, and naturally enough they all different ideas and backgrounds. And that, of course, makes for a total goddamned nightmare, especially with the shirts. And here’s the results: the dress shirts don’t like the business shirts, they both hate the casual shirts, especially the Hawaiian shirts, and don’t even mention the old checked ‘country’ shirt with the little metal snaps instead of buttons – it gets treated like it has Ebola. The jackets hate the coats, the shoes hate the belts. And on it goes.

And I, of course, am caught right in the middle of this United Nations of Tribal Dislike.

So, welcome to my life.

Personally I have no idea why people want to wear second hand clothes. I mean of course it’s ok if you have no other choice, but bringing an old shirt back home and making it hang out with all of your own shirts, well, trust me, it’s asking for trouble. Shirts that have only been worn by one person think they own the place. Case in point? I was informed the other day by one of the dinner shirts(who is a pompous pain in the arse at the best of times) that in future any new clothing that I want to bring into the shop should first be sent to an offshore ‘detention center’ to be ‘processed’. In this way, it assured me, I would be doing my best to maintain the ‘cultural integrity’ of my establishment.

‘Right,’ I said ‘And how long’s that supposed to take?’

‘Who cares?’ it sniffed, then shot its cuffs and flounced off down the aisle to talk to a pair of brogues.

Now I think about it, maybe that’s why my wife left me.

‘Why do you let them bully you like that?’ she used to shout at me. ‘You should stand up to them!’

And I know she was right, but it’s not my way. And they just gang up on you if you do that, and you become the ‘common enemy’. Whispering things as you walk past. Referring to you as ‘not the full sleeve’. Yeah, I’ve heard it all, don’t you worry. All the bitchy comments, the snarky little asides, the sotto-voce innuendoes.

Personally I much prefer to spend my time with the shoes. Especially the old Doc Martin’s, I have a big range of these guys down at the back of the shop now. No pretensions. Just nice down-to-earth folk, mainly owned by ex-bikers and students and the like, not from the moneyed end of town. Oh, and they can’t stand the shirts. Whenever they see them, they just untie their laces and let their tongues hang out, as if daring the shirts to say something. And the shirts of course are terrified of them, especially since the time one of the business shirts wandered too close one day and got trampled by a whole group of them so badly I had to send it out for cleaning.

‘That’ll teach you to get shirty’, I smiled to myself.



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