I have never been what anyone would call a “clothes horse.” My mother made or bought all the apparel for us five children until I left for college. She even used to cut our hair so I never thought too much about fashion. I went through the usual jeans period, occasionally buying khakis or other casual pants but was never seduced by “brand names,” and certainly didn’t want someone else’s name plastered over my anatomy. I remember, sometime in my forties, finding a display of quite inexpensive silk shirts at a discount outlet and buying one or two, then feeling terribly libertine at the voluptuous sensation they occasioned. That period of self-indulgence lasted for a number of years and resulted in a rainbow of colors in my closet [sic!]. As the fad passed I returned to good old-fashioned cotton, almost always from thrift stores; I was amazed at the quality of clothes people essentially discarded.
One day I was browsing my favorite AmVets store and spotted a shirt which was reminiscent of the Indonesian ikats I collected. It was 100% cotton, woven in Japan, sewn in Hong Kong, and had a label with the strange name “Jhane Barnes” inside. The design was subtle and changed depending on the distance from the observer, the tailoring was impeccable: the pockets were perfectly matched to the rest of the fabric, the interesting buttons seemed coordinated – and it was only four dollars. A little Googling revealed the fascinating story behind the designer and I learned from fashionista friends that she was highly regarded: she must have been since her men’s shirts went for hundreds of dollars. I was hooked and gradually built up a wardrobe of several dozens of her shirts, even a coat or two. Until a few years ago, when I essentially withdrew from civilization and began dressing most casually, I wore nothing but Jhane Barnes, never paying more than five, or maybe, seven dollars. I became attuned to them: I could spot one in a rack of other shirts from yards away. I was frequently stopped – usually by women – who commented on my shirts.
This is just a personal tribute to her work and my appreciation for another of the many individuals who insist on beauty and craftsmanship in all they do – even something as simple as the shirt on our backs.