Famous men are known by their monogram. The typesetter’s friend, it enhanced
the celebrity of well-initialed persons. TSE: T.S. Eliot. RLS: Robert Louis
Stevenson. FDR: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Kennedy brothers: JFK, RFK,
EMK. And the two LBJs: Lyndon Baines Johnson and LeBron James.
The shirt monogram began in grand households or colleges where many shirts
were laundered together—the elegant ancestor of today’s laundry mark. Now the
monogram isn’t there for the laundry, but for the ego. It used to be said that the
proper place for the monogram is over the heart. Flashier dressers have long
favored the shirt cuff, as it will be noted in a handshake, at the card table, lighting
a lady’s cigar. “Trad” guys may wince, but it’s your damn shirt!
When it comes to kids, you can’t start too soon. Monograms are nicer than
taped-in names. If anyone is more likely to lose his shirt than a poker player, it is a
sixth grader. My luggage is monogrammed and it’s one more “Hello!” to keep me
from making a mistake at the luggage carousel after a long and disorienting flight.
Why limit monograms to your initials? My friend Andy Spade wears shirts
monogrammed EDW. He bought them in a thrift shop and liked the randomness.
And think of Elvis Presley, who had TCB (“Taking Care of Business”)
monogrammed on everything. Three letters can spell out your interests and
attitudes: FYI, TKO, BYO, ETC, IPO?
Why is your monogram TBD? My motto is “To Be Determined.” CWB? I won
this shirt from Charles Barkley in a card game. LXI? I have a hundred white shirts
and this is number 61. If someone asks you about your monogram, tell them you’re
thinking of getting a tattoo but you’re just trying it out first. Tell them the X stands
for the unknown. Express yourself. Put it in writing. For more ideas on how to make it your own, click here.