sixteen and a half

Sixteen and a half is my neck size. We discovered this inadvertently at the clothing store, back-to-school shopping with help from my spouse and daughters. I was looking to see if the shirt I wanted was in “my size,” which the short Greek man with the tape measure immediately questioned as his eyes squinted, wrapping me in his quick calculations. The tape was quickly around my neck, and he contradicted my claim that there’s a 16-inch circumference just below my head.

The good news was that the shirt I wanted did indeed come in my size. Further good news is that the extra half inch of girth makes a difference to my neck when it’s secured by a double-windsor.

Yet, I remember having a 15-inch neck when I first wore a dress shirt. Incrementally by half inches it increased; but I thought that after four decades and a consistent workout regimen there would be stability. It wouldn’t bother me except that I think most people with my neck size also have 35-inch arms. Mine fit perfectly inside of 32 inches — something that has not changed since I was 16 (or maybe 16 and a half) years old. I am the equivalent of a hobbit, or some other humanoid whose proportions have been vertically squashed, letting the extra substance ooze into my neck.

This is only a problem because I wear clothes. A “fitted” shirt can have, towards the outside of possible ranges, a 16.5 inch neck and a 32 inch sleeve; but the designers of such clothing also imagine a barrel chest and full torso. I have a ribcage that still swims inside the smallest jacket size, and so shirts that are so “fitted” have a girth that swims around me. With an appropriate length of sleeve and a comfortable enough looking tie, I still have pressed cotton that spreads out under my armpits, like a flying squirrel or other wonder that you’d see in a National Geographic. But my tie looks nice, and my head doesn’t look as if it will pop off from the pressure of a secured top button.

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