Monday, September 30, 2013

Of Shirts and Stitches

So its not the perfect shirt, the shirt I wear. It is cut by hand by a tailor or a pattern maker and stitched, on a machine that is powered by a foot pedal and the seams are held together by threads that are sewn in by a needle as the cloth is guided by old experienced hands.

It is not a perfect shirt, but does fine. It will be worn for a few years, then fade, or come away at the seams and then will be discarded to make other things – dusters maybe or rags to wipe down my motorcyles and bicycle.

I like my shirts, they are made mostly in the old way, at a tailors, of some local repute, who has plied his trade and knows how to turn out a garment that fits reasonably well.

But the other days the papers made me stop and think. Some talk about a new stitch-less shirt.

I remember when Adidas brought out the stitchless football. That was something. Each ball needed to be perfectly spherical, and the seams of the stitching of the patches apparently caused an imperfect arc or some thing and so the new technology. Also the fused joints were stronger, so the ball would last a lot longer from being bashed between feet of premier league professionals or against the crossbar of the post from an almost accurate pile-driver that beat the keeper.

Of course the shirt is another ballgame.

No visible stitches, polymer adhesive fused seams to reduce seam stitching irritation, and snap on buttons as an ideal ?

I have nothing against technology, or the furthering of it. But for me, well I just stopped to question for bit. 

Is it so bad to see a stitch? A work of human hands, that joins pieces cut by human skill to measures and proportions of human bodies. Each unique. With the possibility of fashioning that allows each piece to be one of its kind as the maker or wearer chooses.

Does the seam really irritate that much? In my 30 years of consciously wearing a shirt I have never felt a seam stitch. A badly fitted shirt yes, but a bad seam - no, a seam that comes undone - yes, but one that was an irritant while it was still im place?

But again that isn’t my question. My question is one of value and of stance. Which is what I believe design and the purposes of design are about.

What does a fused, stitchless (no visible stitches ) shirt say ?

What kind of comment does it make on human skill, the value of  making with our hands and how does it take forth into the future these very ideas?

What comment does it make on the need to preserve individual identities of craft and skill and personal expression for creators and practitioner in creative endevours? And livelihoods of trades?

What is your shirt and shirt maker’s stance? Is the stitch of human making some thing to be hidden away, glossed out - refused acknowledgement and preferably removed from the notion of the ideal clothing?

Is the human made and hand assembled the “settled for compromise” for the less fortunate, and those of us who are incapable of affording the aspirational machine-made perfections of the time?

And is that use of technology in a world already run into the ground with technological excesses of every kind required?

I have my answers but let me not sway you now. 

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