Q: I hate poly-blend shirts. I only wear all-cotton, but I'm not ready to pay $10 a week to have them laundered professionally. Since I've learned how to cook and I do my own laundry, it seems I ought to be able to iron my own shirts. Do you have any hints?
A: Though not always convenient, the easiest method is to begin with a shirt that has been hung on a hanger to dry and is still slightly damp. Second choice, one that's been taken out of the dryer and immediately hung on a hanger; the problem is it then needs to be dampened or ironed with massive amounts of steam. A trick: store damp shirts wrapped in a towel or plastic bag in the refrigerator until you are ready to iron them.
I checked with retired Sgt. Maj. Al Scholt, a Marine drill instructor, whose tour of duty included demonstrating to recruits the rigorous ironing standards demanded by the Marine Corps. His hot tips for ironing creases -- or lack of creases -- are:
1. The heavier the fabric, the more heat and steam are required.
2. Place the shirt, unbuttoned, on a flat padded ironing surface.
3. Iron the back and sides first, making sure not to iron over the buttons. Instead, use the notch on the side edge of the soleplate of the iron, called the "button nook," to iron around them.
4. Move to the sleeves. Lay the sleeve flat on the ironing board. Start with the stitched seam on the inside of the sleeve and work your way toward the outer edge; this creates a sharp crease. When doing the cuffs, work toward the middle.
5. The collar is the most important part of the garment. To ensure that it stays unwrinkled, iron it last. Start at the collar points (on the reverse side) and work toward the middle, pulling taut as you work. Iron it flat (not folded); this prevents undue wear on fibers in the fold of the collar. For a fine finish, iron one last sweep on the right side, still starting at the collar points and working in.
Q: I've seen men who had hair transplants 10 years ago and you can see that their hairline does not look natural. Are things any better now?
A: Today's technology has changed -- and improved -- dramatically. Instead of round plugs (which tend to lose hair from the center over time), the new "line grafts" are small elliptical shapes, tapered in front and back. Set in tiny slits, they are much more natural looking.
Who makes the best candidate for hair transplants? He is 50 to 60 percent bald with a fringe of dense hair around the back and sides of the head. In "male-pattern baldness," the hair follicle atrophies, but leaves a healthy fringe. Transplant procedures are merely relocating hairs that have an optimistic future. Color is also a determinate; generally, salt and pepper gray is ideal.
A skilled practitioner does not strive for thick hair; he strives for a natural look with a realistic hairline.
The most important qualification for selecting a doctor is his experience -- not how many years, but how many cases. Often patients are afraid to ask questions; they should not be. If a doctor won't answer, look elsewhere.
Send your questions or comments to Lois Fenton, The Evening 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.