Brushing Your Clothing: A Guide for the Man Without a Man

This past Thursday Mrs. E. and I took the fast trip up 95N to visit her brother at the Smithsonian and to take the children to see dinosaurs and trains. We returned to Richmond after a quick overnight at my mother’s house. Needless to say, we travelled light. While staying the few overnight hours before the return trip, we took in the DVD of “Up In the Air” with George Clooney. A fine film and an inspiring tutorial on traveling very light indeed.

My wardrobe for the two days consisted of a blue flannel sportcoat, grey worsted flat front trousers, an off-white soft shirt and striped tie, suede Cole Haan air-brogues and a blue cashmere sweater and polo shirt for the drive home. All well and good. It is just a shame that I don’t have a valet. A valet would have made sure that my clothing was brushed and ready for the next day. Flannel, as you know, should be rested before being worn again. Brushing (all clothing in fact, not just flannel) helps preserve the fabric, extending the lives of your Sunday best and your workhorse wardrobe.

I don’t have a valet. But I do have a decent clothes brush.

A good brush should be natural bristled as they are less harsh on delicate fabrics. Kent makes some nice ones, including a travel brush which wouldn’t take up too much room and would come in handy for extended trips.

The brush may be used for damp brushing a suit, too. Yes, damp brushing. That one’s for another post.

Herewith a quick tutorial on brushing your jacket (this is the one I travelled in) liberally adapted from Stanley Ager’s method.

Brush the front of your jacket using short, firm strokes but not choppy enough to damage the fabric. First brush against the nap, then with it.

Next, the outside of the sleeve, up and down the nap.

Fold the sleeve back and brush the inside of the sleeve, up and down the nap. Brush the side of the jacket in back of the sleeve.

Now brush the shoulders. Start just outside the sleevehead and brush to the collar and then back to the sleeve head. It’s important to lift the nap of the fabric here as the shoulders collect a lot of dust, dandruff and grime from shoulder straps.

Now the back… up and down the nap.

Finally under the collar. Brush the interlining from left to right, and right to left. Like the cuffs on your trousers, this area really hides all sorts of dirt.

Remember to always brush with the nap after brushing against it; you risk making the jacket’s surface look uneven and patchy in the light otherwise.

And, since it’s almost spring, you may now store your jacket until Fall.

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27 Responses to Brushing Your Clothing: A Guide for the Man Without a Man

  1. Turling says:

    Great post. The first time I have ever seen anyone actually do this. And, thankfully, pointing out I am not nearly thorough enough in my brushing. I shall set this technique in motion this eveing. Thank you.

  2. Tessa Scoffs says:

    Thank you for this post. I will be bookmarking it. I have been on the lookout for a nice clothesbrush for our household for quite a while now. No luck at my local department stores. Will be purchasing one online – no more excuses. Thanks again.

  3. Paula says:

    I love Kent brushes. They are a luxury to use and feel wonderful in the hand. A perfect example of how the seemingly mundane tasks–like ironing–can become a pleasure when good equipment is used. This is why I love cleaning my own house–no Merry Maids marching through with buckets banging doors, etc., for me! If one can’t find pleasure in the maintenance of fine things, whether they be clothing or silver or china or fine wood, then owning these things becomes a terrible burden and just a lot of work. This applies to all of the garden chores and tools as well–if you don’t enjoy the process, pave it (or in the case of brushing good flannel fabric, buy polyester). An inspiring post! Thanks!

  4. Brohammas says:

    I know a childrens song about getting ready for Sunday that contains the lyric “we brush our clothes”. I have spent my entire life thinking this was a very strange line.
    I just tried brushing my powder blue 100% polyester jacket and it looks just like it did when I started. Maybe I’m doing something wrong.

  5. Brohammas, try an artificial bristle brush…

  6. Ami says:

    This is a keeper.

    I got the Mr. a beautiful 1940s-era brush. It is saddle-colored leather, and zips open to reveal a manicure set, still in tact.

    eBay purchase, less than $10, was never used. Gorgeous.

  7. Ami! What a find. I have the remnants of my father’s set. Too many moves I guess. I’ll hvae to troll eBay.

  8. My dad used to do this… I learned from a master (and also from you!).

  9. M.Lane says:

    Thanks for the lesson! I always wanted to know how to do this. When I really make it BIG I am hiring Jeeves. Until then…

    ML
    mlanesepic.blogspot.com

  10. Touch says:

    Great post. I always have a brush handy at home or on the road…and might I suggest a steamer as well for the stubborn wrinkles…

  11. Turling says:

    Ok, followed this last night and it worked beautifully. However, I was completely confused on the nap. I was brushing a worsted wool suit and for the life of me, there is no nap direction. I’m guessing the nap applied more to your flannel coat?

  12. Turling, A worsted suit probably is less complicated than my flannels or tweeds. I would still make sure that the final sweeps are all going in the same direction, just in case.

    Mr. Lane, I have a stack of resumés when you’re ready.

    PD, you’ve got to love a man who takes care of his things.

  13. Touch, the steamer is tricky depending on the construction of your clothing. It can pucker seams. That said, I love ’em.

  14. bg says:

    Wouldn’t this make a great how-to book. The proper way to take care of your clothes–with all of your recommendations.
    Are Kents’ brushes available in US?
    bg

  15. Hi bg, I ordered mine through their eBay store. Runs about USD$10 more than a mediocre knock off. Double-sided to work with everything from tweed to cashmere.

  16. Speedmaster says:

    Great post! 😉

  17. Thanks Ami, I’m holding out for the one that got away. It was a beaut.

    Thanks Speedmaster.

  18. Your directions for care with clothing and the use of the garment brush are excellent. Christian Dior once said the most important aspect to dressing well was care. He meant care in choice, selection and fit, as well as care as maintenance. Several books on dressing suggest avoiding dry cleaning at all costs and authors agree with you that brushing is not damaging the way chemical, invasive processes are. To say nothing of environmental and health concerns….

    I think that one of the most important things that can be done to care for a garment is to have $5.00 cotton sweat shields tacked into the pits of the lining. Dealing with vintage clothing, it is heartbreaking to see distasteful, permanent sweat stains on an otherwise perfect $5,000.00 Chanel jacket. I don’t understand how careless people can be to overlook this simple, hygienic measure, and protect their investment at the same time. Also important are $5.00 microfibre garment bags to protect from moths, larvae and other creatures that like to munch on natural fibres.

  19. bg says:

    Thanks for the info regarding the brushes. Now what about a book “Clothing: Cared For and Cared About Handbook and Guide by Chris Cox, EasyandElegant”
    by Chris Cox.
    When will it be out, how about Spring 2011

    DON’T FORGET THE TITLE!!
    BarbaraG

  20. theo says:

    Excellent idea. Brush purchased this evening.

  21. Jean L. says:

    Very useful post, thanks!

  22. bg, I include some tips in the Easy and Elegant book. Have a tentative meeting with a local publisher lined up in two weeks.

  23. maison21 says:

    i had no idea such a thing even existed- thanks for the tip, easy!

  24. Hello m21! You’ll be amazed at the change in your wardrobe… a lot cheaper than drycleaning once a month and kinder to the clothing.

  25. Pandion Knight says:

    Thanks directly to this post, I am now several pennies lighter, and difinately better off for it. I have purchased one the very same Kent brushes as seen above. A quality item it is too.
    I also found a copy of Stanley Ager’s “The butler’s guide to clothes care, managing the table, running the home, and other graces”. Some great tips and lovely anecdotes.

  26. Welcome Pandion Knight. I’m thrilled with my brush. It is an investment that will continue to pay sartorial dividends for years to come. Thanks for trusting my judgement enough to buy both the brush and the book.

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