September 6, 2006 7:53 AM   Subscribe

What’s with the mystery fang holes in all my shirts?

Within days of wearing a new shirt, it will develop tiny holes in the lower front center - er, the bellybutton area, more or less, down near the hem. Example here. Sometimes there’s just one hole, usually two, never more than two. When there are two, they are placed exactly like this - never closer together, never aligned differently.

Sometimes the holes take several wears to appear, but sometimes they show up on a brand-new shirt, on its first wearing. They are definitely not there before I’ve worn the shirt - I’ve gotten obsessive about checking shirts in the store. It sometimes happens before they go in the washing machine.

These are generally cotton or cotton blend tshirts and tank tops, cheap thin ones, usually from Target. They fit me appropriately; I don’t wear them tight. I don’t yank on them and I’m fairly certain I don’t have a belly-poking tic. This happened long before I had cats. I don’t own a snake.

I have asked a lot of people about this, and everybody wants to say the shirts are rubbing against the button on my pants, but they’re not. The holes have appeared in shirts worn only with jeans, and shirts worn with trousers with a hidden button. It has happened with shirts worn only with soft pajama bottoms (I work from home and sometimes don’t get dressed properly for days). I am willing to believe the center bit of my pants, whether jeans button or pajama drawstring, might very well rub against the fabric of a shirt enough to cause a small hole, over time. But on the first wearing??

This does not have to do with a bag strap or seatbelt rubbing against me - again, the working from home thing makes me sure of this. I do not wear a belt. I do not clip a phone or anything else to my waist. I do not have a navel ring.

I am not being sabotaged; this happened just as frequently when I lived alone.

This has been happening for YEARS, not that most people believe me. It happens to most of my shirts; infuriatingly, not to all of them. My boyfriend’s dad believes me, because it also happens to his shirts - but in the middle of the back. He has been equally unable to figure out the source.

This isn’t ruining my life or anything - they’re just six-dollar tshirts for bumming around in, and the holes don’t spread. I’m just curious as to whether this happens to anyone else, and whether there’s something I’m overlooking. Is it possible that cheap mass-produced clothing tends to have weak spots in the center?
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (37 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Are they all from department stores? Could be where the security tag used to be, and the holes have spread open a little bit.
posted by Mikey-San at 8:01 AM on September 6, 2006

It's rare to sensor a shirt in the front near the hem- usually shirts are sensored in the side hem, or in the back collar hem.

/used to work retail
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:05 AM on September 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Do you regularly wear a belt with a particular buckle?
posted by SpecialK at 8:06 AM on September 6, 2006

I get those all the time, but never with new shirts. It happens with t-shirts, mostly, that are a year or two old. It always happens when they come out of the dryer for me.

I always assumed the fabric got very fine and then got snagged in the holes in the dryer and then tossed and turned till it tore free. It's annoying as hell.
posted by dobbs at 8:07 AM on September 6, 2006

Oh, and I don't think it has to do with belts or such as since it happens to my t-shirts, they're never tucked in. Nor do they come from places with security tags.
posted by dobbs at 8:09 AM on September 6, 2006

Do you have a compulsive shirt-tucking or pants-hitching habit?
posted by scheptech at 8:09 AM on September 6, 2006

Do you wear glasses? Do you take keep them on when you put on/take off your shirt?
posted by hooray at 8:14 AM on September 6, 2006

They happen to my wife's cheap Target shirts all the time, in roughly the same place as you're seeing them. She's taken to blaming the washing machine--mostly because she wants a new one.

I have a feeling that it's just really shoddy fabric. I'll ask her if it ever occurs in a shirt she pays more than $10 for (which is rare because she's a 1st grade teacher and six year olds are cyclones of destruction).
posted by togdon at 8:18 AM on September 6, 2006

Do you smoke? These types of holes can often be caused by hot bits of ash falling off a cigarette and burning a bit of fabric before going out.
posted by chrisroberts at 8:25 AM on September 6, 2006

Moths? Moths, which like to eat the natural fibers in your cottonwear, but not your inorganic stuff. You probably get two holes based on the way your clothes are folded (in other words the moth is eating straight down, creating two holes), while your boyfriend's dad perhaps gets them from having his folded a different way.

Get some moth balls.
posted by poppo at 8:25 AM on September 6, 2006

On my shirts, I'm about 99% sure it's from a'rubbin up next to the computer desk all day long.
posted by Hildago at 8:30 AM on September 6, 2006

Do you wear a watch or bracelet? I would think it would be hard to miss if it was one of those, but I figured I'd throw it out there.

I'd be most likely to blame a desk or counter edge. That should be right about where you'd lean against a counter at your bathroom and kitchen sinks, and possibly where the underside of a table or keyboard drawer would hit you. Have you, by any chance, lived in the same place and had more or less the same furniture for the entire duration of your fanging?
posted by Lyn Never at 8:43 AM on September 6, 2006

Do they typically show up after they've been washed? Do you wash your shirts in the same load as things with zippers, like your jeans? I've had similiar holes in shirts if I wash them with jeans and they get snagged on the teeth. Since I'm lazy, I still wash them together, but I make sure I zip up every zipper in the same load. That seems to minimize the amount of holes I get.
posted by Nerro at 8:44 AM on September 6, 2006

Do you work out? I used to get these and could never figure it out. One day I happened to notice that when I did lateral dumbbell raises, my shirt was getting pinched between the dumbbells when I lowered them down in front of me.
posted by MrToad at 8:45 AM on September 6, 2006

Do you have any exposure to sulphuric acid? Maybe jessicapierce is Battery Jumper Woman's secret identity or you maintain a pool or hot tub? Those holes look exactly like the kind I get if a little of the white crud from a battery terminal gets on my clothes.

dobbs writes "I get those all the time, but never with new shirts. It happens with t-shirts, mostly, that are a year or two old. It always happens when they come out of the dryer for me.

"I always assumed the fabric got very fine and then got snagged in the holes in the dryer and then tossed and turned till it tore free."

While holes caused by a pinching agitator in a washer or worn front rollers/slides in a dryer are common; usually you only get a single hole that has a cat's eye appearance.
posted by Mitheral at 8:46 AM on September 6, 2006

I get holes in the corners of my back pockets of my jeans. Eventually I figured out it was from not wearing a belt, because I would always pull up my pants by the belt loops and it would tear the denim there. I bet your shirt holes are part of a similar problem -- a habit that seems to have nothing to do with anything.
posted by danb at 8:48 AM on September 6, 2006

do you clean your glasses on your shirt?
posted by sonofslim at 8:55 AM on September 6, 2006

Moths, which like to eat the natural fibers in your cottonwear

Very rarely. And they'll also rarely eat synthetics, too! But mostly, moths restrict themselves to animal fibers. Cotton is usually safe, wool isn't.
posted by mendel at 8:56 AM on September 6, 2006

If you wear a watch, and the strap is buckled on the underside of your wrist, some normal arm-swinging or positioning may be allowing the tongue of the watch buckle to rub or snag that area.
posted by tomierna at 9:10 AM on September 6, 2006

Maybe it's from doing something routine that you take for granted, like doing the dishes. Run your hand along the edge of the sink counter to feel for rough spots. Ditto in the bathroom.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:18 AM on September 6, 2006

Do you work around any chemicals? Does anyone use chemicals or topical pharmaceuticals around your house? My brother in law used to work in a battery store, and always had shirts decaying like this from brushing his stomache/abdomen against his work surfaces. Even trace amounts of chemicals (bleach, benzoyl peroxide, etx) left for a period of time on cloth can cause holes like this.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:19 AM on September 6, 2006

You're not crazy, the same thing happens to me, also with Target t-shirts. I call them my belly vampire bites. Don't know why they happen, and I always wear sweaters over mine so the desk-rub isn't right for me. Just strange.
posted by pomegranate at 9:29 AM on September 6, 2006


Thanks for all the quick answers; I'm gonna just ignore the ones that posit wack solutions I already covered in the question.

I don't ever wear a bracelet or watch. Cleaning sunglasses might be a possibility if I did it more than once every couple of weeks, which wouldn't hit all my shirts, especially not the new ones.

The chemical / acid idea is interesting but unlikely - I don't use weird chemicals, can't remember the last time I handled a battery, and I don't know how in the world I could place one drop so precisely every time.

It does not have to do with a tag, sticker, or label of any kind being removed from the shirt. The tags are always at the neck or in the side seam. I should have mentioned that some of these shirts have side seams (the tank tops) and some don't (the tshirts). The holes don't care.

I don't smoke, but that's a good one.

It isn't moths unless the moths are in my car or my belly button - often, the shirts never make it to the wash & fold stage before developing holes. I buy a shirt, I bring it home, it probably lives in the bag for a few days until I need a shirt, I check it for holes, find none, put it on, and find holes when I take it off that evening. (This is also why I can't quite blame the waher or dryer, though I'd love to.) Besides which, I don't fold tshirts, they get tossed into a shelf bin, so there will never be any sort of regular center-fold on any shirt I own.

I don't tuck in my shirts.

I don't habitually lean on anything or let anything (laptop, etc) lean on me, but so far I think that's probably the most realistic reason - kitchen counter in front of the sink, or something. I'll stay hyper-vigilant today and post back if I find anything pokey.
posted by jessicapierce at 9:35 AM on September 6, 2006

Take a shirt that already has holes in it and stick a safety pin through them. You should figure out if you catch it on something during a routine day.
posted by sohcahtoa at 9:50 AM on September 6, 2006 [2 favorites]

If it helps, I've noticed the same thing. Most of my t-shirts are from Target or Banana Republic, and I get the same tiny hole in the front. I've never noticed two holes, though. I've been guessing that it had something to do with the laundry machine, because I've noticed it happening less since I moved in and have a different machine.
posted by hamster at 10:52 AM on September 6, 2006

This is weird. What about your bureau/dresser? Could it be catching on the screw that holds the handle for the drawer?
posted by saffry at 11:19 AM on September 6, 2006

The safety pin idea is good, I'll try that.

I don't have a proper bureau - my clean shirts go in a smooth, almost featureless plastic IKEA bin, which then slides onto a bookshelf. No screws or weird corners inside. They never catch or snag when I grab them out.

I'd be well over this already if the damn things weren't appearing in exactly the same spot every time. The precision is creeping me. It's like the time I kept finding the third button missing from every single one of my button-down shirts and really thought I was losing my mind until I realized a malicious roommate had snuck into my room and done it to weird me out. WORKED. If the holes are also sabotage, hats off, as it happened when I lived alone and happens now when I live with my boyfriend (who has been interrogated).
posted by jessicapierce at 11:43 AM on September 6, 2006

You seem to have a lot of interest in cats...
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:54 AM on September 6, 2006


okay, this made me laugh.

and now i am utterly riveted. please post when you know the answer!
posted by sdn at 12:30 PM on September 6, 2006

Since other posters have had similar experiences with inexpensive shirts from Target, maybe the holes are from the shirts being pinned on that spot at some point during either shipping or manufacturing. This would also explain the holes in your boyfriend's dad's shirts, even though he may buy his shirts elsewhere.
posted by La Gata at 12:45 PM on September 6, 2006

Do you wrap your shirt around your hand to open bottles? I ruined a favorite shirt opening a beer.
posted by Coffeemate at 1:04 PM on September 6, 2006

I'm with coffeemate; I used to get similar holes, and it was from using the shirt to give myself a better grip when opening bottles.
posted by Justinian at 1:07 PM on September 6, 2006

I want to know the answer too.. I have these same mysterious holes in shirts from Target. No other place either. Just the cheap Target tank tops and thin cotton tops.
posted by Lizc at 1:54 PM on September 6, 2006

I'd buy some tshirts from other stores and see if the same thing happens. Odd & intriguing.
posted by theora55 at 2:04 PM on September 6, 2006

If you're really into experimenting on this one, you might cover over that spot on the shirt with a piece of duct tape the first few times you wear it. That would (presumably) protect it from poking/prodding/rubbing damage while you're wearing it. If you still get your "vampire holes" after a few wearings with the duct tape on, you've ruled out that whole set of causes (glasses, desk, bottlecaps, etc).
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:39 PM on September 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Check your seat-betsand bag-straps for small, scratchy particles and snags,and - most importantly - try not to hang the shirts beside your studded bondage equipment, ok?
posted by ninazer0 at 2:38 AM on September 7, 2006

Target shirts are shipped to the store in plastic bags, inside boxes. No pins. But it could be from the manufacturing process.
posted by Juliet Banana at 1:25 PM on September 7, 2006

« Older How should I manage my phone contacts?   |   Excel pop-up won't leave Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.