The Monopoly board game is getting a minor makeover. Toy-maker Hasbro asked the public to vote on changes to its iconic tokens. Businesses took note. A footwear company and a garden tool maker launched campaigns to protect the shoe and wheelbarrow tokens. Their fans prevailed. The big loser was the iron figurine.
Simon Doonan, creative ambassador for Barney’s New York, reacted to the loss with “a terrible dull sinking feeling of shock and horror.” He notes that the Monopoly iron was the old-fashioned 19th century kind you heated on a stove, which became obsolete decades ago.
“Historically, the idea of being pressed and Sunday-best was fashionably required,” says Cameron Silver, author of "Decades: A Century of Fashion." “In our casual society, ironing is not a requirement. There’s sort of schlubby-chic look that says it’s okay to be a little wrinkly.”
The notion of business casual has been taken to extremes. People consider it acceptable to wear yoga pants and sweats in public.
In fact, wrinkles can even be considered fashionable.
“It’s perfectly okay and perfectly groovy to wear a nice button-down shirt that is very creased,” says Doonan.
And technology has led to more wrinkle-resistant fabrics. Silver swears by his Brooks Brothers wrinkle-free shirts.
“We dress more like the Flintstones than the Jetsons because there hasn’t been that much change in the way we dress,” says Silver. “But fabrics have changed. And this is one of the reasons why irons might be anachronistic in some households where your fabrics are all permanently pressed.”
But the iron is still an essential tool in high fashion.
“In the creation of design, and in every couture salon, the iron is almost like a religious symbol,” says Doonan.
Speaking of religious symbols, you can still count on most hotel rooms to have a bible in the bedside drawer and an iron in the closet.
Harvard Business School retail historian Nancy Koehn says the number of irons in hotel rooms has increased “because hotel rooms, particularly large chains, have spent a lot of energy and money in the last five years trying to make hotel rooms much more comfortable and amenable to women business travelers.”
She says she doesn’t iron nearly as much as her mother did. But at the same time, Koehn hasn’t retired her iron.
“I iron a few of my clothes. And I have someone who irons a whole lot of my clothes. So my household is pulling up the national average by some measure,” says Koehn.
And just because business for iron-makers is declining in the U.S., the industry isn’t necessarily doomed. Koehn says the market for iron manufacturers is better in the United Kingdom, where the average woman spends 55 minutes a week ironing.