The stripes you see on a pilot's shoulders as part of our uniform are attached to a flat tube (is there such a thing as a flat tube? or do tubes have to be cylindrical?) that slides over a flap of fabric on the shoulder of the shirt. The flap buttons down to hold the stripes on. There's a word associated with all this: epaulettes, but I'm never sure whether the flap of shirt, or the stripes themselves are called epaulettes. The stripes are ludicrously expensive. If you ever have a job where you have to go to a pilot supply store and buy the correct colour of stripes for yourself, you'll find it runs you $15 to $25 for the pair. When you get a new job, or especially an upgrade to captain, it's important to leave your stripes in a sunny window so they will fade quickly and make you look more experienced.
When you're done flying for the day, and have to walk around in public, you take the stripes off and stuff them in your breast pocket, along with your pen, and your oversized aviator sunglasses. Stopping in to the grocery store while wearing your stripes ranks right up there on the dorkiness scale with tripping over your own shoelaces. I typically rebutton the flap, so it isn't just flapping around. Some companies don't have you wear stripes, just the shirt with the little flaps on, so that everyone knows you're a pilot. Either way, at the end of the day, when I get home and take off the shirt, the little flap is buttoned up.
Technically, according to pilot laundry lore, you're supposed to unbutton the flap before putting the shirts in the wash. I'm not sure where I learned this. It wasn't in flying school. The theory is that if you leave them buttoned, they will catch on something and the buttons will rip off. I think I did it for a while, then stopped bothering, and discovered that the buttons never ripped off.
Until today. A shirt came out of the laundry separated from one of its buttons. I think that's a pretty good average. If I took all the time it would have taken me to unbutton and rebutton shirts over the years, I think that would equal to more than the time it's going to take me to reattach this one button. So I come out ahead.
Someone is probably thinking at this point, "but she has to unbutton it eventually to reattach the stripes, so why not do it before the laundry rather than after?" Except that I want the flaps fastened while the shirts are on the hangers in the closet, so I would have done them up again, anyway. For no particular reason. And if you add in the time I just spent blogging about it, I really have wasted a phenomenal amount of time in buttoning, unbuttoning, rebuttoning, mending and talking about buttons.