On My Bookshelf: The Era of Disposable Shirts

"In 1872 America produced 150 million disposable shirt collars and cuffs. Men found paper clothing parts convenient because laundry services in those days were unreliable and expensive, and available mainly in large urban centers. America was still predominantly a rural culture, and before the advent of modern washing machines in the twentieth century, laundry was an onerous, labor-intensive task undertaken by women once weekly on Blue Tuesday. Single men simply lacked access to professional or spousal laundry services. They bought replacement shirt parts in bulk and changed into them whenever the most visible parts of their attire became stained or discolored. Disposing of a soiled cuff, collar, or bosom was as easy as dropping it into the nearest fireplace or pot-bellied stove." ~ from Made To Break by Giles Slade

Presented by

Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her middle school. Then Humans of New York told her story to the Internet—and everything changed.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.

Video

'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.

Video

What Fifty Shades Left Out

A straightforward guide to BDSM

More in Entertainment

Just In