Are We Witnessing the Death of Ironing?
Over drinks, my friend told me a funny housekeeping story. She was hosting a dinner party for her family and decided to use a tablecloth she had inherited from her mother. Since they were not really the tablecloth type, when she dug the linen out of the closet, it was wrinkled. So she pulled out the ironing board and was plugging in the iron waiting for it to heat up when her child stopped her with a question: "What is that?!"
Her kiddo was ten years old and in all that time had never once seen her mother iron. While my friend was slightly chagrined by the situation, her child is undoubtedly not alone in never having seen an iron. While women (mostly) used to spend all day doing laundry and then another day ironing, these days most people rarely prioritize removing wrinkles. Who has time for it?
Eschewing the iron is not really a new trend. Back in 2015, a writer at Bustle noted that millennials don't iron, and while her grandmother ironed diligently, her mother ironed a little less, and she didn't even own an iron. "Within two generations, the iron has disappeared pretty much entirely," the author wrote. That same year, The Guardian asked, "Is ironing a thing of the past?" The Guardian laid the death of ironing on the rise in trendy wrinkled clothing, or what they dubbed "fashion-enabled laziness." While pre-wrinkled clothing isn't trending right now, fashion-enabled laziness is very popular thanks to the rise of athleisure. These days coordinating sweatsuits, yoga pants, cut-offs, and cozy onesies are everywhere, which means people just don't need to iron that much anymore.
The clothing industry has recognized ironing's demise—and perhaps hastened it—with new wrinkle-resistant clothing that looks fine right out of the dryer. The appliance industry is helping hurry the end of the iron age, too. Dryers now come with wrinkle remover settings, so if a shirt or pants is wrinkled it can just be chucked in the dryer for a few minutes. Then there's the steamer, an invention that is now relatively cheap and easy to use meaning it is easier than ever to remove wrinkles without lugging out an iron. Add to the anti-ironing pile the invention of wrinkle-releasing sprays and all sorts of hacks that will make wrinkles vanish, no iron required.
On top of all that, fashion is simply changing. Not that many people have to wear crisp, perfectly ironed shirts to the office anymore. In fact, thanks to the pandemic, not that many people even have to go to the office anymore. While ironed sheets and tablecloths may continue to have a place in the world, the days of spending hours at the ironing board, carefully removing wrinkles from clothing may have vanished once and for all. The question is, will you miss it?