On Wednesday, Ironside, starring Blair Underwood, debuts on NBC. Although Underwood does not have a spinal cord injury, the character he plays, Robert T. Ironside, does. NBC didn’t fit Mr. Underwood with clothing designed for a seated body type. After all, Mr. Underwood can stand up and go home at the end of the day.
Still, if Ironside truly had a physical disability, he would want specially designed clothing for use in his wheelchair. Here are five reasons why this matters—and yes, wooing the ladies is on the list.
1. Rubbing the wrong way. Most likely, all of Ironside’s pants have thick center seams and possibly metal detailing that can cause horrendous pressure sores, whereas clothing for the seated body type does not. Seams can act like sandpaper, rubbing away the layers of the skin. If this goes undetected because you don’t have feeling in your legs to recognize a sore, the skin can erode all the way down to the muscle, or even the bone.
2. Cool comfort zone. Ironside wants to be at ease during long days on the job. He needs pants designed for people with seated body types that have longer leg length, extra padding in the sitting area, a longer rise, shorter front waistband and longer back waistband to avoid “bunching” up and that “nerdy look” in the front. Side pockets are moved from the hip to the thigh, and the back pockets are completely removed for added comfort. If he can find pants with a wider waist and longer inseam, he should grab them.
3. Wardrobe malfunction. Regular pants are also prone to sliding down at the worst moments. Elastic waists with adjustable cords can help, but it’s hard to find those in fashionable colors and materials that look good on a tough-talking cop like Ironside. He can try Legawear.com, a site that offers tailored adaptive clothing.
4. First impressions. Ironside is a working professional in a leadership position, so looking neat is a must. But his pre-accident blazers and outerwear are too long; they surely will get caught in the spokes of his manual wheelchair. Ironside’s jackets also have a lot of excess fabric that look bulky and sloppy when he’s seated. Since it’s clear on the show that he has a spicy dating life, he’ll need a good wardrobe to match his confidence.
5. Dressing with dignity. Getting dressed is a daily living activity that’s often taken for granted by able-bodied people. Clothing designed for the seated body type would give Ironside the power and dignity of dressing himself with very little or no assistance from others. After all, Ironside did have the handlebars on the back of his chair removed. Says Underwood in an interview about his character: “I don’t want anybody to push me; I don’t want anybody to help me—if I can be independent and do for myself, I’m going to do for myself. It’s who this man is.”
By the way, in real life Underwood does have a personal connection to a disability. His mother has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair. He’s probably familiar with wheelchair clothing issues, and could give NBC some tips on how to make his wardrobe more authentic for his seated body type, at least while the camera is rolling.
h/t to the Easystand blog.