A Public Service Announcement


Sleeve Tag

Okay, I admit that I’ve been the world’s worst blogger. However, now that the weather has taken a turn for the worse, maybe I’ll start writing again. Living where I live, I’m going to be spending a lot of time indoors for the next five months or so.

Anyway, I was just poking around some archival files on my computer when I discovered an article that I tried to sell to a local newspaper a few years ago. It’s just as relevant today as it was the day I wrote it. My apologies to the people who I interviewed in the event that they’ve changed their minds about providing me with their quotes. Too late!

Winter’s Worst Trend

As a fashion writer, I need to be a bit of snob. The fashion business is a hierarchy of uppity attitudes and to be considered an expert in the field I must perpetuate the belief that I implicitly know the difference between good taste and bad taste. Nevertheless, I usually don’t go out of my way to point out the foibles of others and I rarely get worked up over the so-called rules of style.

Since the arrival of winter, however, I’ve been mortified by a fashion faux pas that makes wiping your nose on your sleeve seem like a desirable alternative. People aren’t removing the removable tags from the winter coats they’re wearing.

The sleeve tags are there for a couple of reasons. In a retail store, removing a heavy winter coat from a hanger to read the interior labels can be awkward. Tags are sewn onto the sleeves of outerwear to allow a shopper to readily identify both brand and fabric content. On garments like men’s suit jackets, the sleeve tag helps differentiate between items that can appear similar when they are sandwiched together on the racks. But should those tags stay on the sleeves after the coat has left the store?

“The label on the sleeve of some winter coats is not meant to stay on. Which is why it’s usually just basted on and is easily removed,” claims Ceri Marsh, editor-in-chief of “FASHION Magazine” and the author of “The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Decorum” (with Kim Izzo). “Nobody needs to know what your coat is made of — be it cashmere, alpaca or wool. It would be helpful if sales people found a diplomatic way of telling people to remove them.”

Apparently, the sales staff in finer stores do try to instruct the customers to remove the tags. Some stores even go further to assist their clientele. “We remove the tags before the clothes leave the store,” maintains Shiraz Allibhai, manager of Harry Rosen in West Edmonton Mall. And if the customer questions the practice, Allibhai adds “We educate them that that’s really not the way to wear the garment.”

But could there be an ulterior motive for wearing a label on your sleeve? Are some people so eager to broadcast the fact that they’re wearing a cashmere blend that they would leave the tags on intentionally? Probably not — the fabric isn’t that important — yet the name on the label often trumps the rules of decorum for those who know better, claims Allibhai. “The status of the designer label is very important. Some people actually request that it remains on.” Still, he insists that the tags are “always taken off.”

Unfortunately, not everyone shops in stores where the staff are so eager to educate their clientele — or even to do the work for them. In that case, removing the tags isn’t a big deal. “For those not in a possession of a seam ripper, nail scissors will do the trick” adds Marsh.

And that’s all it takes to go from gauche to gorgeous – unless you’re still wiping your nose on your sleeve. And if that’s the case, then you’ve got more to worry about than the tags on your coat.


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