a hair shirt

hair shirt

1. An uncomfortable garment made of coarse hair or other material worn against the skin. Used in some religious rituals as punishment or penance. In ancient times, men would wear a hair shirt as a sign of repentance to their deity for wrongs they had done.
2. By extension, something a person does to intentionally make an aspect of their life uncomfortable or unpleasant, often as a form of penance. I understand that you are sorry for your actions, but there is no need to wear a hair shirt because of it. All is forgiven. A: "Why aren't you eating dessert?" B: "Oh, it's my punishment—my hair shirt, if you will—for blowing off my schoolwork this week."
See also: hair, shirt

a hair shirt

If someone is wearing a hair shirt, they are deliberately making their life unpleasant or uncomfortable, especially because they feel guilty about something. No one is asking you to wear a hair shirt and give up all your luxuries. Note: Hair-shirt can also be used before a noun. Why adopt such a hair-shirt response to economic difficulty when there are so much more appropriate and comfortable alternatives? Note: In the past, hair shirts were very rough, uncomfortable shirts made from horsehair. People sometimes wore them for religious reasons, to show that they were truly sorry for their sins.
See also: hair, shirt
References in classic literature ?
In her little bit of a kitchen she did her own cooking; she wore a hair shirt next the skin, and castigated herself with whips--these aids to grace are exhibited there yet.
A hair shirt is made of rough animal hide, the hairy side going against the wearer's skin, the hairless side facing outward.