In every marital bedroom in every home in the country, you can find it — the shirt.

Even though it has more holes than the plot of a Star Wars sequel, it’s also drenched in sentimental value. And woe betide the husband or wife who tries to throw it away.

Flickr CC/Quinn Dombrowski

As user BabsPym1 wrote on Mumsnet, she has nothing but love for her spouse, whom she says is a great dad and husband. There’s just one problem: she hates the way he dresses when he works at home:

He has these comfy home clothes — in particular an old, faded, shabby, pair of grey comfies that he often wears with a matching top/hoody.

I can’t bear them. They are so revoltingly shabby. I can’t bear looking at them. It’s a complete turn-off. I realize it sounds shallow […] but is it unreasonable to expect him to make just a bit of an effort around me? To make me find him desirable?

He has a very limited wardrobe, has little interest in clothes — which I knew and I’m fine with — but honestly, the home stuff is awful. I was away for a few days and got home and he greeted me with flowers in a vase (lovely, I know) but wearing this…

She adds that she’s mentioned that the old, shabby outfits are ready for the trash, but her husband simply laughs off her comments.

So what to do?

Well, Babs, I’m going to start by assuming that you are — without exception — impeccably dressed on a day-to-day basis. Because if you’re writing this question in an oversized t-shirt covered with mustard stains and a pair of yoga pants with only “a few” holes, you’re not in a good position to complain.

You also mention that you both work from home, which makes things a little more complicated. Needless to say, whenever I work at home, I do so while wearing a full-length evening gown, four-inch heels, and more jewelry than Queen Elizabeth. (Do not believe the rumors that I’m actually wearing a pair of sweatpants so old that they once danced to an NSYNC song.)

However, other people who work at home have been known to do so in their pajamas, and they usually love that part of the job. So telling someone who’s working in total comfort you wish they’d get rid of their favorite outfit and put in more effort can be a touchy subject.

You say he’s never been into clothing, which suggests he isn’t one of those people who thinks of “dressing up” as a way to show appreciation. When he wanted to show you he was thinking of you, he didn’t get spruced up to take you out — he bought flowers. On some level, you’ll have to accept that you married a guy who doesn’t primp, but will bring you flowers. There are worse things in the world.

Some people will tell you to secretly throw away your husband’s favorite clothes, but I’m going to warn you against that for two reasons. First, he’s likely to replace them with something you hate just as much. And second, if this just happens to be an outfit with sentimental value, you’ll end up in a very intense, very unpleasant fight.

You’re not wrong to feel that it’s good in a marriage to put in effort for the other person from time to time. But it also feels good to have someone in your life who will still love you and find you attractive even when you don’t suck in your gut.

So what to do? For starters, give thanks that men’s clothing lines have discovered athleisure. That means it’s possible to buy reasonably stylish clothing that is work-at-home comfortable.

However, don’t fool yourself into thinking he’s suddenly going to develop a desire to go shopping for the new outfits you want him to wear.

For some males, the idea of going to the mall and trying on clothes fits somewhere between non-poisonous spider bites and gangrene on the personal discomfort index. I once asked my son if he’d rather go get new shoes or clean his room, and he chose to clean. Even though he had socks under his bed so old they’d developed sentience and created a primitive civilization.

What I’m saying is that you’re going to have to shop for him. Start small, with an outfit that is comfortable, similar to what he prefers to wear, but which you could actually stomach. Then treat him like a timid woodland creature and leave a trail of pizza bites that lead to the outfit hanging in his closet.

Or just tell him, “Look, I get that you don’t like shopping, but that outfit is so gross that it has turned into a form of birth control. I know you like being comfortable, so I got you some clothes that are good-looking, but still easy to wear.”

Then, when he puts it on, jump him. Or at least tell him how good he looks. You know what they say about positive reinforcement.

Once you’ve established he can be comfortable at home and still be attractive to you, the awful old outfit should be ready for retirement. Just make sure it doesn’t hold any memories about the birth of your children or the last time he talked to his mother before you toss it in the trash.

Oh … but it just occurred to me that I didn’t tell you what to do if you hate the way he dresses, but you also like to wear shabby old clothes at home. In that case, the solution is much simpler: lead by example or let it go.

Leave a comment

In response to:

Advice Needed: I’m Sick of My Husband’s Awful, Shabby Work-at-Home Outfits

Your email address will not be published.

We are excited to announce Dearly has joined forces with Mama’s Uncut. Helping Mom’s across the United States answer questions on life’s big challenges.