Dale Irby was everybody’s favorite gym teacher. For the past 40 years Irby memorialized his time as a teacher by wearing the same outfit in every class photo. Since he shared his story with the media, his photos have gone viral, the Dallas Morning News reports.
The tradition began as a mistake – the Dallas resident wore the same shirt and polyester vest two years in a row without realizing it.
“I was so embarrassed when I got the school pictures back that second year and realized I had worn the very same thing as the first year,” said Irby, now 63. Then his wife, Cathy, who also works at Titche Elementary, dared him to wear the same 1970s polyester shirt a third year in a row.
“After five pictures,” he said, “it was like: ‘Why stop?’”
A slideshow video of the pictures was created by the Dallas Morning News. As the years pass, Irby’s glasses may undergo several style changes, his hair may turn to gray, but his outfit remains the same.
Comments online have been supportive of Irby’s unusual tradition.
“I had no idea polyester lasted that long,” Elizabeth Rozyskie posted on Gawker. “He aged well too, a few fat years in there ... but he came back every time,” Joe Somers adds.
Esquire magazine argues that Irby’s consistent style created an “iconic image of himself” akin to Steve Jobs’ jeans and black turtleneck uniform.
“And therein lies the power of dress. While peacockery has become increasingly popular in the past decade, there's a case for a simplicity and rigor, for creating a singular image of oneself,” Esquire’s Max Berlinger writes.
As for Irby, he says his class picture uniform will be spending its retirement in his closet. “I don’t think the Smithsonian would want them,” he said.