Q: I recently heard that Teflon is being used to waterproof (and stain proof) neckties and raincoats. Is this really true?
A: Today when someone in the clothing industry talks about Teflon, he isn't referring to politics or even pots and pans. This year Teflon tags are showing up on a variety of garments that benefit from its protective surface treatment. It is awfully good at repelling spots.
According to E. I. du Pont de Nemours, the developers of the product, the coating has the further advantage of being totally undetectable by sight, smell or touch. In addition, a fabric's natural properties of breathability, weight and drape are unaffected.
Teflon, a chemical compound discovered in 1938, resists interacting chemically with anything else. It was used in the '40s to pack radioactive materials used to build the atom bomb. Later on, in the '60s, during a Christmas promotion at Macy's, it was introduced in non-stick cookware.
At long last, is the day of the truly spot-resistant tie actually at hand? Will men be able to add distinction and -- to their wardrobes without worry? Many men give as their excuse for not buying beautiful silk ties the perishable nature of fabric and its susceptibility to spotting. This is even more evident in recent years in the face of rising prices and tightening budgets. Today some neckties are Teflon treated.
Perhaps the most popular use of Teflon in clothing is in making raincoats water-resistant. In truth, what was formerly known as Zepel by Du Pont and is now being promoted as the new product, Teflon, does not work as a total waterproofing agent. Somewhat similar to the familiar Scotch Guarding process, it helps protect against spots from grease and water. But it is not -- and should not be relied upon as -- a perfect repellent.
Q: Have you any suggestions on either home or professional cleaning of a corduroy hat?
A: A professional "hatter" can clean and block a felt hat with fine results. But a corduroy hat presents different problems. Depending on the age and weathering of the hat, yours may be beyond help.
Unlike a felt dress hat, corduroy hats are made by gluing the fabric onto a backing made of a thick piece of polyester material, because corduroy is too soft to be blockable. In the cleaning process, the chemical sizing (glue) in the hat melts and small bubbles develop. (This same problem may also surface when you clean a suede hat.)
A reliable neighborhood dry cleaner should advise you to see a hatter or he should warn you of what is likely to happen when the hat is cleaned. Sometimes the bubbling effect is not noticeable enough to be a problem. In truth, some men (and many women) find a man in a somewhat weathered, beat-up hat rather dashing, even sexy. "Beat-up," however, does not include dirty.
As a home remedy, you might try spraying the hat with a foam-type rug cleaning product. Be sure to spray the whole hat with the rug cleaner, not just the soiled spots.
No matter how well the job is done, the corduroy is not likely to look like new. If what you want is a nearly perfect looking corduroy hat, I'm afraid your only recourse is to buy a new one.
Send your questions or comments to Lois Fenton, Today in Style, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Ms. Fenton welcomes questions about men's dress or grooming for use in this column but regrets she cannot answer mail personally.
Ms. Fenton, the author of "Dress for Excellence" (Rawson Associates, $19.95), conducts wardrobe seminars for Fortune 500 companies around the country.