Something for the Weekend, Sir? There’s something I’d like to show you in my underpants. Come along, now, don’t be shy. Take a good look.
See how it dangles there getting in the way? And yet, conversely, it’s a little bit stiff, isn’t it? This makes wearing tight underpants pretty uncomfortable, I can tell you. Pass me those scissors and I’ll cut the damned thing off.
Stupid clothing labels.
That relentless, itchy, prickly, scratching sensation as the label saws its edges into your flesh is hardly what you’d call painful. Despite this, it remains possibly the most irritating and distracting sensation that a human can experience in the developed world, second only to having your earlobes repeatedly flicked by the school bully sitting behind you throughout morning assembly.
I have known hardened men and women rendered into emotional wrecks by clothing labels at the back of underwear, shirts, tops, dresses and sweaters.
On one memorable occasion, I was sitting among a group of friends on a train and observed, as the train set off, one of them kept tugging at the collar of his t-shirt. Was there a problem, I asked.
“It’s this bloody new t-shirt,” he said. “I bought it yesterday and the label at the back is cutting into me.”
As the journey went on and skin around the back of his neck became redder with scratching, his discomfort grew increasingly pronounced. Often, he tried and failed to join in with the conversation, each time quickly withdrawing back into his private hell, squirming in his seat, tweaking the t-shirt at the shoulders and grunting.
Then the sweats began. He started fidgeting uncontrollably and tapping his feet. His eyes took on a desperate, crazed stare.
All of a sudden, when he could take it no more, he jumped up with a blood-curdling scream, of which even Ingrid Pitt would have been proud, yanked off his t-shirt in front of everyone and scarpered down the carriage, still stripped to the waist, in the direction of the toilets. I think I may have heard him weeping as he went.
Five minutes later, he wandered back calmly to retake his seat. His face was glowing red, as if freshly washed at a basin – as was indeed the case – and his hair wet and slicked back. He did not rejoin the conversation and none of us asked him what had happened, nor have we mentioned it to him since.
He just sat there beaming with a relieved smile, wearing his t-shirt inside out.