Thursday, July 05, 2007

Solve This Mystery and I'll Give You $40

For the past year, the left elbow in my dress shirts has been giving way, separating into a split (see picture). I have been trying to figure out this mystery for a long time, and nothing fits the facts. So, I need your help!

Those of you who know me understand that I do not purchase cheap dress shirts. I am extremely meticulous when it comes to my business attire, and usually stick to the brands that give that neat, pressed, clean look. They're never cheap. Having said that, I do have one or two shirts that cost under $40, as well. However, all of these shirts, regardless of brand or price, have had the left elbow split at some point. Here's what I've ruled out:

Physiology: I am right handed. My left arm does nothing... if anything, it is my right arm that should be suffering this problem. But not so.

: My sleeves are 35" long. I have plenty of give, and they do not form tight fits when my arms are bent. So I can rule that out.

Quality: As I said, my 15 dress shirts shirts cover about 7 brands of various price ranges. I have found the left elbow split on all but one (my beloved Hugo Boss shirt).

Sitting position
: This would seem the most obvious culprit. However, my left arm pretty much does nothing all day as I sit here. When I rest on my desk, it's my right elbow. My right arm works the mouse all day, too. Yet, despite all of this, my right sleeve remains perfectly intact.

Snags: I have scoured my office, my home and my car for any snags that might be catching my left elbow, but have found none.

Commute: I always sit on the right side of the Metro train in the mornings (yes, I am a creature of habit. And yes, those of us who board the train in Vienna actually get seats). Coming home is standing room only, so no regular left-elbow stress there.
I am honestly at my wit's end. My wife is ready to force me to buy my shirts at Marshall's because of this problem (and it's necessary expense when replacing good shirts). I have thought of everything I can. I even put my dry cleaner on the spot! Although, I didn't demand $65 million. Besides, if that were the case, it should be happening to my right and left sleeve equally, right?

So here's my challenge: If you can give me scenario that makes sense to me and allows me to solve this mystery, I'll give you a $40 gift card to Chilis. That, or an arm-full of shirts with holes in the left elbow sleeve! Post your comments. I will answer any questions you may have, and will be honest when telling you if I've already thought of your idea...

Good luck, and thanks!


Anonymous said...

Hmmm, Dan, that is quite a problem. Joanna showed me this pic and asked me my opinion. I am not sure how this little problem happens, but I will throw in my two cents.

1) during the day, on the phone, talking, what-have-you, do you lean your chin on your left hand, placing the elbow on your much thicker (toughskins?) pants. The elbow would show wear faster than pants.

2) If you sit on the right side of the metro, that would place your left arm toward the isle - is there friction you are experiencing there trying to balance or ride through turns, etc.

3) Wear short sleeves (granted, it may look silly on "The Hill" to wander around with short sleeves, but with a suit, no one would really be the wiser, especially if you sewed or velcro-attached the cuffs from the ruined shirts on the inside of the sleeves of the suit (just make sure the colors matched or you might look a bit silly).

That's all I got for you buddy. Keep up the blog, you are one of the few sane voices in this world. See ya cuz...


Conservative Futurist said...

1. I considered that, and have been policing my actions throughout the day. I don't rest my chin in my hand very often, and when it does happen, it sits in my right hand. Also, my elbow doesn't come close to my pants.

2. I sit on the right side, and rest my right arm on the window-sill while I read. That leave someone sitting next to me on my left. However, I'm always wearing a suit jacket on the train, so my shirt is never exposed. My suits have not shown any sign of wear on the left elbow.

3. Hell no.

Fud said...

As the Beastie Boys so wonderfully put it: "SABOTAGE!!!"

The Last Man said...

Maybe you should start washing your left elbow.

Anonymous said...

I have the same problem with all of my dress shirts, and unfortunately they too are far from cheap. My dry cleaner has figured out the problem though. For me, I have very wide shoulders and it's putting stress on the material. Even though there is length to give it catches at the elbow and pulls. Eventually it weakens and tears. Unfortuately, I have not found a solution.

Jon C said...

A co-worker has been experiencing the same thing (except he is left-handed and his right elbow is tearing). My thoughts on the situation were/are:

1. Stress
2. Resting arm on desk
3. Some snag on the desk area

But... you pretty much mentioned all those ideas, so I have nothing to offer. Maybe the 2 of you should form a support group? Start a charity? New fad?

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

As I sit here in another very nice "paint shirt" for myself, I decide to unravel the mystery of my husband's elbow abuse on his very nice former dress shirts. I presume my architect hubby has his elbows on his desk throughout the day clicking away on AutoCad considering my constant nagging at dinnertime even though he insists not so. Did you ever figure it out?

Anonymous said...

I am actually looking for a solution such as an inside elbow pad. Thoughts?

-arch wife

Conservative Futurist said...

I never did figure it out, no. And yes, inside patches work... but you can kind of tell you have them, which is no good. The dry cleaner said you will still wear a hole in the shirt, and then you will see the patch underneath. Very odd (and maddening).

Anonymous said...

I found the solution to this annoying problem. Longer shirt sleeves. I went from a 34/35 to a 36/37. I was talking to a shirt maker about it and he said that a shirt sleeve should bunch above the wrist. That is the way shirts were originally designed. this way it gives more room for movement and places less stress on the material. I switched to longer sleeves about 6 months ago and so far, no holes which is amazing for my track record.

Barbara said...

OK, my husband returned 5 shirts to a 5th Ave. department store three months ago and has since destroyed four more. Today he had to go out at lunch and buy yet another! His elbow is blowing our dining-out budget! So, I hit the Internet and found the answer.

He has tried retracing his steps and has no clue. I asked if he was cheating with someone with a left elbow fetish!

The problem is Internet elbow!

I will greet him with this answer, news that the stock market is up tonight, and a chilled glass of wine!

John Nichols said...

Hi Dan,

Same thing happens to me. I am right-handed, and I sit at a computer all day. The computer is in a corner of my cube and the tabletop is rounded where I sit. I think that I am resting my left elbow on both the tabletop and on the arm of my chair.

The other thing that might have to do with it, at least for me, is that I have osteoarthritis of the spine and I think that I lean a bit to the left.

Anyway, the sleeves give, and then I try to get a few more weeks' worth of use by rolling up my sleeves!

Hope this helps.

mya said...

You have probably checked for dry prickly skin on your left elbow, right? I guess suede patches on your shirt would be over kill, but perhaps you can start a fashion trend.

Brandon said...

I am having this same problem! At this very moment I am sitting in front of the computer with another ripped left elbow! I found your posting as I was looking for solutions. I am left-handed and, like you, use my right hand for the mouse. I do rest my chin on my left hand quite often. However, I think the true problem may be what someone mentioned previously about "wide" shoulders. I do have wide shoulders and it seems to be getting more & more difficult to find shirts that fit me right. They're always tight through the shoulders. I don't want to buy a shirt with longer sleeves because it would bunch up around my wrists and look ridiculous. I guess I need to experiment with other styles / fits. Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

I have had this same problem for a few years, and like you said "I don't buy cheap shirts"! I have attributed it to resting my left elbow on my chair arm rest. The arm rest is "cooshy" and imagine if you were to zoom in on what is happening to your shirt when you put pressure on your elbow on top of the cooshy surface... a lot of stress on the fabric. I have always been pretty certain that this is what is happening... I have a bad back and so I support my torso in this way, all day.

Anonymous said...

Over the last 5 weeks since I have moved office this has suddenly started happening to me - and on expensive shirts. After the third shirt I spoke out and others mentioned they had the problem as well. It looks as if the slightly course armrest is destroying the shirts. The problem seems to be related to Regus office furniture specifically as people have found shirts break when they move to other Regus offices. If the armrest has any texture in it it will destroy your shirt. Try rubbing a sheet of tissue paper against the armrest and see how quickly it disintegrates! The solution is to get a chair with a smooth armrest - I hope....

Pylon1 said...

I have had that same problem for years now, but what seems strange to me is that it always seems to happen on the expensive shirts and hardly ever the cheap ones. Over the last year or so I have had 2 Calvin Kleins, 3 Perry Ellis, 1 Ben Sherman, and 2 or 3 Express dress shirts rip through on the left elbow.

I have had exaclty zero of my cheaper $20-30 shirts rip...only the $60-70 ones do. I think I figured out why, and that is because the more expensive shirts are slimmer-fitting by nature and I have quite broad shoulders, which pulls on the material and wears it down. The cheapies are very boxy fitting and don't pull as much. It also does not help that I frequently lean on that elbow at my desk, and also use the phone with that hand, bending that elbow...yet despite that, none of the cheap shirts have been casualies of the worn-out elbow.

Anonymous said...

A little late but I just had to post for all those experiencing the rip in the elbow on your dress shirts. First, let me say that IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT. How do I know? I am a sewer/quilter, farmer and engineer.
My son has been experiencing the same thing as a Computer Engineer. He's purchased expensive shirts and has torn holes in 7 or 8 shirts in the last 1 1/2 years. His shirt sleeves are plenty long, the shirts are not tight. As a farmer, I can tell you that cotton prices have soared in the last few years. This has forced shirt makers to resort to a poorer quality of fabric. Most of our fabrics are not manufactured here in the US anymore. As a quilter/sewer, I can tell you that the fabric count (just like your sheets) has been reduced. They are using a shorter cotton fiber. As an engineer, ANY stress on these poor quality fibers will break these fibers. My suggestion is to keep returning these shirts to the retailer or manufacturer so they eventually replace the cotton used in manufacturing. As long as they make you believe it's your fault, they will not correct the problem. Also, buy cheaper shirts until they fix the problem. The added cost you pay is not worth it at this point. The enterpreneur in me says to go start a company that sells good quality shirts. Many people are willing to spend more for good QUALITY.

Anonymous said...

I have a solution to your problem. I only buy quality Brookes Brothers dress shirts for work. I bought 6 a couple weeks ago and immediately brought them to the dry cleaner for laundering/pressing/light starch. I've been going to this dry cleaner for about 8 years now. Recently, they started using a new machine for laundered shirts. It's one of those machines that inflates the arms and presses them on a conveyor belt. In any event, I've noticed an increase in the number of holes in the elbow of my shirts since the dry cleaner switched to this new machine. When I picked up my new shirts from the DC, one of them had a rip in the elbow area. Keep in mind, this shirt was NEVER worn ... at all. So that seems to be the problem. The dry cleaners are using a machine that puts excess wear on the elbow section of the sleeve. Now I need to find another cleaner that uses a different machine.

Anonymous said...

I'm not alone! Same problem has been tormenting me for so long (and many shirts). My last theory is: the spray they use to clean the desk. Any experiment about it?