Monday, October 18, 2010

The importance of hangers

Bear with me while I rant a little bit.

Nothing makes me crazier than those stupid little wishbone hangers that some stores use to hang their garments. I really, really hate them. The way that you store your garment has such an impact on it, the same way a shoe tree is so important to the life of a good shoe. Two of the most delicate parts of a coat are the top of the sleeve and the collar, and they are shaped to contour your body; it would make sense, then, to hang a garment on something that closely resembles the body, no? Then why do department stores insist on those skinny little wishbone hangers which in no way resemble the body, are usually too wide so they poke out the sleeves, do not support the top of the sleeve so the sleeve buckles, and do not support the collar?

Take a look at the way this coat sits on this hanger. The ends are poking into the sleeve and the sop of the sleeve buckles; there is a piece of canvas in the sleeve head which is meant to support it because, over time, the rippling you see can become semi-permanent, requiring a skilled pressing to remove. If the garments are stored too closely together on these hangers, the creasing can actually become very difficult to get out, even by an experienced hand. Worse, if you expose the garment to humidity while on this hanger, like hanging it in a steamy bathroom to remove other creases (not something I recommend doing, by the way), the damage can be even worse. Maybe you've never observed this before but I hope now you will.

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See how the collar sits away from the hanger with nothing to support it? It can get crushed or stretched out like this, again requiring a good pressing to fix.

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Better makers know that hangers are important so the garments are placed on hangers with a very wide shoulder that supports the sleeve and collar. Not only are these hangers, themselves, much more expensive than standard EQ14-type hangers, but they are also more expensive for shipping. But we consider it important to the garment. Some stores choose to switch these hangers at their distribution center for the smaller ones, others don't. The ones who don't, I thank you. The ones who do, well, grrr.

Why do the stores use these awful little hangers, then, if they are so bad? Well, space. And space is money. Space in the distribution center, space in the trucks which ship the product to the stores, and space on the selling floors. They can cram more garments into less space using these little hangers, which saves them money. Grrr.


You probably know where I'm going with this.

I got a message from Kirby Allison, asking if I would mind putting an ad for his products on my blog.

He offered to send me some hangers for review, but accusations of shilling are rife on the internet, and not having seen his hangers yet, I wanted to feel free to say they were not up to par, if that were the case. So let me be clear here- I did not accept any free hangers, I paid for them, though he gave me free shipping. This is not a review in exchange for free stuff. This is me ranting about something I feel very strongly about.

Here is the same coat again, on the wishbone hanger, and then on one of Kirby's hangers. See the difference in the sleeves and collar? The hanger is the proper width, since he offers 4 widths, and it supports the shoulder and the collar. For me, it's a no-brainer.

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I am fortunate to have access to good hangers at work, otherwise I would have to buy them somewhere. I guess Kirby was faced with the same dilemma when he started his hanger project- I'm not sure where else you can get good suit hangers. They're not cheap, but then, compared to the price of a good suit, it's a worthwhile investment. And compared to the price of a lasted shoe tree (I pay $160 for mine- ouch!) they're a bargain! So if you are currently hanging good quality suits on crappy little hangers, I strongly recommend thinking about investing in a few better ones.

Your clothes will thank you for it.

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10 comments:

BENEDICT17 said...

Nothing like a good rant to start off the week! There used to be a company that made beautiful shaped wooden hangers with an extension handle on centre. Although the hanger didn't include a rod for trousers or clips for a skirt, it was a useful design for a double-hanging wardrobe. Any idea who the manufacturer was, Jeffery, and the country of origin?

JMB

Jeffery said...

Jordan, I have no idea.

JC said...

I have Kirby hangers. Not enough for all my suits yet. A superior product.

Eugene Freedman said...

Jeffery,

This blog is outstanding. Having someone who can explain things, step by step on the manufacture process through the disassembly of fine or perceived to be fine garments is invaluable. I first became interested in wristwatches and Walt Odets used to investigate the movements of fine, or perceived to be, fine timepieces with close up photography. He also did some incredible surgery on his watches, customizing them. This was until he pulled the curtain back on a Rolex Explorer, setting off the Rolex crowd and driving him from the field. He bought the watches himself or had them sent to him for review. They were truly independent, much like your product review today.

All that said, your comment today about the appearance of shilling is much appreciated and your work is outstanding, both in your personal tailoring, your writing, and your revealing the details. Wonderful.

Roger said...

Hmmm... Perhaps I was lucky here. I picked up fourteen hangers at a flea market working out at around 30 euro cents per hanger. They seem to have belonged to a now defunct tailor's called 'Van Choor.
To be honest though, I've never really had a problem with wooden hangers I've bought from the market for 2 euros. I have a jacket on one now and there's no sleeve wrinkle at all.

If the price of a hanger is getting on for a quarter of the cost of the jacket hanging on it, something is wrong with the world.

janu said...

The hanger by itself is an work of art. For hanging the coats and jackets, apart from its slope, it would be necessary to have different yoke-lengths so that the hanger does not jut into the sleeves.

Even when we hang a shirt on the hanger, if the hanger is short in length, it leaves a mark on the yokes of the shirt.

The best solution to the problem lies in manufacturing hangers which are adjustable, i.e the top angle of the hangar's triangle should be adjustable say from 65 degrees to 80 degrees.

The length could be adjusted within a range of five inches say from 17" to 22". A modular hanger thus could have steel tubes at the edges in to which variable hanger ends could be dovetailed. If wood like rosewood or teak etc is used, it would last a lifetime.

Jeffery said...

@Eugene- Thank you.

@Roger- I agree with your sentiment, but not with your math. The hangers are $25 each which- I don't know of suit coats that can be had for $100, and if they were, you are right, I wouldn't worry too much about the hanger.

@Janu- The hangers are available in different widths for the reasons you mention. He also has other styles of hanger but they are of less concern to me, personally.

Anonymous said...

Jeffery,

Any thoughts on the trousers clips versus a felt roll around the bar?

- M

Jeffery said...

M-

I find trouser clips leave little marks which need to be pressed out so I prefer flocked bars.

J

Nicole said...

Jumping late into the game here...

I am a textile conservator and work in a fashion history museum. The issue of hangers comes up all the time. One thing I would like to add to the conversation is this:

Wood hangers become increasingly acidic over time. All textiles, especially wool, become more acidic as they age. The acidic PH is part of what makes an older fabric brittle, discolored and fragile. Anything that promotes an acidic environment is not an ideal storage solution for your clothes. That is why at the museum we do not use bare wooden hangers. Plastic is really no better because as it ages it leaches chemicals that degrade fibers too. And wire...well...Joan Crawford was pretty spot on.

So what to do? For the average person, custom making hangers (which is what we try to do at the museum) is too time consuming an option. As an alternative, a simple muslin slip cover for a wooden hanger that also provides the right support can work out well. Also, if you want to avoid the marks from trouser clips, sandwich an extra layer of polyester batting as a barrier between the clips and the pants.

Best of luck to you all in collecting and preserving your wardrobe!

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