Saying no to the Undershirt

An undershirt
an article
of underwear worn
underneath a
dress shirt intended
to protect them from
body sweat and odors. It can have short sleeves or be sleeveless. The term most commonly refers to upper-body wear worn by males. It also makes dress shirts less transparent. It can also be worn during winter months as an extra layer of warmth. Wikipedia

The undershirt is an ubiquitous item of clothing for Egyptian children and men. Almost always white and something I hate.  It is another example of one of those things that people just do because everyone has always done it.  I think most Egyptians will tell you that their family has worn an undershirt since the time of Ramses the first.  That is basically the real reason why people wear them “we have always worn them”.  Then they will go on about how important they are in the summer because they soak up sweat (gross) and keep them warm in the winter (redundant).

Basically I think it was more about when people did not have automatic washing machines so it was just easier to wear undershirts and wash them instead of having to wash a shirt.  But we all have the wonderful device called the washing machine in our homes so I don’t find that argument really convincing anymore.  Especially for children, since they usually spill something or roll around in any available dirt, so you will probably need to wash their clothes anyway.

As for staying warm in the winter, SERIOUSLY? When it is cold, I usually dress her in a couple of layers so who cares if it is a purple t shirt instead of a white sleeveless undershirt.  If it is about warmth, the layers are what count not what we call that layer.

My grandmother keeps bringing it up until I finally gave up and bought one, so my daughter can wear it when she visits.  I am not really trying to defy anyone.  I just don’t see why it is such a huge deal and why every Egyptian and their mother needs to tell me that I need to dress my daughter in a certain way.

And this isn’t really about the “undershirt”, it is about all of those little things that we do without questioning because it is how everyone has always done it.  So many cultural practices that make no sense at all.  Questioning things around us is healthy, imperative actually.  Why can’t I start my meal with dessert?  Why do I need a living room when I really need a craft room/family room?  Do I really need to own a TV, when I already watch almost everything online?  Why do couples who get married need to have kids right away? Why do we need to have two children? Why are people who chose to have one child heckled all the time? I have no problem with people making these choices or others, I just wish we put more thought into what we choose.

We have shackled ourselves and our lives needlessly.

I have taken off the undershirt (literally and figuratively).

I invite you to try it.  And if you do want to keep it on, then do it because you like it, not because you should keep it on because someone a hundred years ago thought it was a good idea.

Oh and by the way I googled about the benefits of the undershirt and came up with nothing scientific.


  • At 2012.11.07 16:41, Fruitful Fusion said:

    This is so funny yet so serious! Being born and brought up in London I didn’t encounter this sort of thing much. I had my kids and apart from a couple of grandma comments I didn’t hear anyone tell me how I should dress my kids, what I should feed them, how I should live my life, nothing. Not until I came to Saudi Arabia. Here in hotter climes I’ve been told my kids younger kids should where vests (or undershirts) plus a few other bits of advice they kindly offered up. Now I’m preparing to go to live in North Africa, where my in-laws are, I think I’m going to need thicker skin to deal with all the bits of “advice” I’ll be getting there! I’m quite adamant to be me, to change something if I think it will be better changed and to keep it the same if it suits me and my family best.

    • At 2012.12.04 12:33, mostafa said:

      hi jessyz

      first of all: completely annoyed that you closed comments on the “quiet; book review” post, i would like you, if you please, to provide a comprehensive reason for such action

      secondly: i am mostafa ya yasmeen, same7a’s brother, from kuwait when we were all little kids in the same buidling, i knew you both met recently, but was more amazed that you are a blogger and moreover a reader! when i decided to look at what you write, masha2Allah, you have taste and quality in your writing, but again, more amazed of the fact that you understand the concept of introversion, i am AND VERY PROUD TO BE an introvert myself, and my life was full of agonizing memories about adapting with extroverts around the globe and inside my country, my friends, my family, this includes the 3 women that are the foundation of my soul; my mum, my sister, my wife; the 3 are extroverts, so you see, i am really amazed that you have knowledge about the matter, your daughter is a lucky little girl :)

      thirdly: i read your post -quiet i mean- and liked it very much

      fourth: if you would like to read more about introversion (i certainly did to understand why i was what i was, and behaved the way i behave, with a permanent relief that i am a normal human being, not an extraterristial creature from mars, nor superstitious being that fell on earth by mistake, i only have a different temperament that happens to be rare among my society) i certainly suggest “the introverted leader” by jennifer kahnweiler , this book is written by an extrovert woman, married to an introverted man, it discusses many facets of introverts in a rather professional way, and defintely “the art of speedreading people” by paul and barbara tieger, this book discusses the myers-briggs type indicator that include a major sections dedicated to introversion understanding

      fifth; thanx for pointing out to this book, i am surely going to get it and read it

      sixth; i used to write in my blog, in arabic, but recently stopped, so i used to invite people to my blog and take a look, and comment on whatever they like, but now i stopped, however, i truly would like you to take a look and leave a comment on whatever you like

      seventh; how is reem?

      eighth; you have a lovely blog, with a lot of passion and effort flowing around

      ninth; i especially liked the little smiley at the very end of the page 😉

      tenth; i apologize for the elongation, but FYI; introverts when engaged in a subject they value, they can talk endlessly more than extroverts


      • At 2012.12.30 15:23, Ahmad Alfy said:

        I don’t feel comfortable if I didn’t wear an undershirt. You are a female, you will never understand this but it really helps with the sweat. It protects your clothes and for a skinny fellow like me; it just add an extra layer :)