Texas Teacher And His Groovy Shirt Retire

For 40 years in a row as a physical education teacher, Dale Irby wore the same outfit for his school photo. He explains to NPR's Scott Simon how this annual tradition got started.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Back in 1973, Dale Irby was just beginning his career as a physical education teacher in the Dallas area. School photo time came around, he needed something nice to wear and had just the thing - a groovy new polyester shirt with large lapels and a brown sweater. Dale Irby has worn the same outfit ever since in every school photo for 40 years. He's now retired; so has his ensemble. He joins us from Dallas. Mr. Irby, thanks so much for being with us.

DALE IRBY: Thank you.

SIMON: So how did this begin? You walked into your closet 40 years ago and....

IRBY: Well, actually I did not have a nice shirt coming out of college, so I went to the neighborhood mall and it must have been something on the rack or something on a mannequin and I bought the shirt and vest and wore it the next day for the photo.

SIMON: I've got to tell, I'm impressed by the fact you can fit into the same duds for 40 years.

IRBY: Reasonably tight right now. Since the picture was only from about mid-chest up, so actually the last two buttons were not.

SIMON: What made you decide to continue this from year to year? I mean, some people have stopped wearing polyester shirts 39 years ago.

IRBY: That's true. And I'd actually had some others that I'd discarded but after the third year when it became a dare from my wife, we had the third one. I said well let's get five and she and I could turn them over and mix them up and actually put them in order, but when it got to about the 10th year it was like, you know, we couldn't put them in order, so I put the dates, 'cause everyone was in October.

SIMON: So you retired now, Mr. Irby, right?

IRBY: Yes, sir.

SIMON: So a long time from now, and I mean a long time from now, but when that time comes, do you think these will be your burial duds too?

IRBY: Actually, the gentleman that first interviewed us, Steve Blow, from the Dallas Morning News, said that, you know, you've already got your obituary, you know, taken care of. And I said well thank you, and it was just left at that.

SIMON: Well, I was a career teacher. I'm sure there's lots more to be said about you. Don't get me wrong. But you're right, we have talked about your clothes. Okay, I feel chastened. What would you like students listening this morning to know?

IRBY: Wow. I always taught them to be fair. I only had four rules in the gym and the last one was, you know, be a good sport and enjoy the rules of the game and, you know, sometimes life doesn't seem fair, but I told them, you know, in some fables, the tortoise actually wins the race.

SIMON: Dale Irby is a newly retired physical education teacher in Dallas. Thanks so much for being with us.

IRBY: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BEE GEES, "STAYING ALIVE")

BEE GEES: (Singing) Ah, ah, ah, ah, staying alive, staying alive. Ah, ah, ah, ah, staying alive.

SIMON: This is NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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