The most polarizing word in menswear isn’t even a full word, it’s the three (or maybe two) letters that make up a set of initials. Nothing stirs the pot quite like a good old debate about monograms. Classicists have long labeled them as gauche and ostentatious while their contemporaries counter that they’re one of the rare ways in which a man can truly personalize his everyday attire. We’d venture to say that both sides are correct – yes, monograms are flashy but they’re also highly personal, and can help demarcate not just your shirt but you as a whole.
As the story goes, the monogrammed shirt came to rise at colleges as a way for undergrads to distinguish their shirts at the cleaner. The logic went that if a shirt was stitched with your initials then it was far less likely to wind up with the guy in the dorm next to you. Of course royals, and those with pockets deep enough to live as such, had long been placing their initials on everything from ashtrays to slippers, but once college students got a hold of monogramming it added a nice dose of irreverence to the whole operation.
Monogramming was no longer about your family, or where you came from, it was about you. No longer did you have to have money, or come from high society to affix your name onto something. Monogramming wasn’t about where you came from, it was about who you were. When you slipped off your sport-coat to reveal those three letters it was like wearing a jersey for a team of one. The notion of a monogram as a personal statement was soon extended beyond initials, and today men will plaster all forms of cheeky combinations on their cuffs and chests. Particularly in summer, when layers are shed and shirts often standalone, the monogram can take center stage, so go ahead and toss your own letters on there. Our only advice is, try to keep your initials smaller than Presley’s, leave the monstrous monograms to the actual kings.
Comments on “In Defense of the Shirt Monogram.”
The monogram is popular because it’s a cheap way to feel rich.
Too feel rich or a douche?
David, your comment comes across as if it was a cheap way for you to feel superior. Like Michael said, the monogram just adds some personalization to your wardrobe. Long gone are the days where something as simple as embroidered thread on a shirt mean much of anything. Pre-industrial revolution – yes. 21st century USofA – just something for someone to do if they’re bored with all the ready to wear shirts at the local mall. Lighten up Francis.
@Mike L : Jake said it actually.
I love the smallish monograms. They’re so classy! As pointed, today they’re much more a question of style than blood. I’m thinking about the possibilities… hum…
Im so happy w the provocative comments lately. Especially @DavidCoggins
I have nothing but love for the monogram, and I do not feel superior or rich.
I have my shirts made by a shop in Hong Kong that I trust and I have always had a discreet monogram added to my left sleeve placket. Knowing that the small embellishment of my monogram has been added to my shirt is my secret pleasure; knowing better than to share this inessential embellishment with the world (by placing the monogram indiscreetly) is the harmless sartorial fetishism of a gentleman.
I have my initis on the left sleeve band of all my polos.
Better to promote your own brand, rather than that of a company.
Couldn’t care less about monograms either way. Just having fun making up captions (quotes) to go along with that pic of JFK lying down, e.g., “Young lady, put down those files and, uh, come over heah and help me out for a minute, won’t you?”
I have noticed that it is generally the weak and/or insecure people who express disdain at my (or others) shirt monograms. It isn’t the monograms that make people like me appear to be superior- it is the hostile sneers that I get from the fellows in flip flops and ball caps that define my unsolicited mantle of superiority.
Speaking of oversized monograms, let us not forget the immortal Laverne DeFazio!
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