Clothing: An Argument for New
This feels like it should be a confession. That there is somehow shame in buying new clothes. Because I pay (mostly) full price. Because they are items (mostly) made overseas. Shame on me as a Conscientious Consumer. Or something. Because the more I think about it, and believe me I think things to absolute death, the more buying new clothes is a proper use of my time and resources.
I do a fair amount of thrifting. As the holder of one full time job, the blogger of this here blog, the tender of one Ugly Garden, and the owner to too many dogs, fair is completely subjective. I don’t generally have the time commitment it takes to ‘get to know’ my local thrift stores. I don’t get to stop by every day or every week. I don’t know when they put out the good stuff, when they have sales, who the good cashiers are, or all the other tips and tricks to improve my haul. Ditto garage sales.
When I thrift, I tend to get stuff. Good stuff. Mason Jars, Pyrex, Board Games, and strange art, but still stuff. Stuff that doesn’t require me to go into mildly disturbing dressing room, to contemplate sizes, to meticulously inspect for holes and stains, to carefully consider long term wear-ability. Talk about time commitment.
Combine that with my general clothing strategy, which goes a little something like this: Buy high quality basic items, and wear the ever loving shit out of them. Until just recently, I’d been wearing two pair of jeans since 2009. Granted they were $100 jeans, and in 2011 I supplemented with another pair. However, I wear jeans a lot. Like most everyday of the week. Even at brand new and $100, I’d say I got my money’s worth. It’s not just the jeans. I was wearing tank tops and t-shirts from before I got down to my goal weight. Not the best fitting of items at the moment, but usable and of good enough quality to hold up. Before I bought new shoes last December, I’d been wearing their predecessors from prior to The Leap.
Are you picking up what I’m putting down here? To be perfectly blunt, fashion maven, not me. T-shirts. Tank tops. Items with hoods. Although, I will admit to a little vanity (I love those $100 jeans!). When I’m done with my clothes they are ready for the rag drawer, and not much else.
I supplement where possible, with Groupons and even the occasionally thrifted or hand me down item that falls into my lap. Its just not enough to fight the tides of time on my wardrobe. Sometimes when your two favorite pairs of jeans have truly abandoned you with holes in unforgiving places, when there is no amount of bleach that will restore the luster of tanks and T’s, when even years of meticulous line drying have rendered items threadbare, sometimes you gotta bite the bullet. And go to the Outlet Mall.
The Outlet Mall, which while reprehensible, is still far superior to the traditional mall. Both in layout and (usually) in price. The Outlet Mall where with a 90 minute time commitment (Let’s call it 140 minute with driving) I can acquire enough items to see me through to my next major life change (since that seems to be when I acquire clothes). The quality of items I’m looking for, at prices I can swallow, especially given projected longevity. 90 minutes = 2 pairs of jeans, 1 pair of shorts, 2 workout shirts, 1 pair running shorts, 3 t-shirts, 1 tank top, and a pull-over hoody. It would take me time and eternity, not to mention multiple stops and trips, to wade through the rack after rack of Aeropostale, American Eagle, and Hollister for any hope of finding an equivalent thrift store haul.
I like the idea of it. Really, I do. Second hand, quality clothes at a fraction of the price of new. Who doesn’t like the sound of that? The reality is somewhat different. Stained clothes, higher than expected prices, limited availability. I will continue to peruse the clothing during my thrift excursions. If those diamonds in the rough make it my way, bonus! That prolongs the next trip for new that much further.
There are some yucky politics in play here too. I’ve not forgotten. Sweat shops. Livable wages. Carbon footprints. In actuality, those are still concerns with most thrifted items. Just one step removed. I don’t want to diminish that step. But, I’d rather focus my energy on making full use of the resources I do choose to acquire, rather than returning more of the same items back to the cycle. There’s got to be an awful lot of waste in those aisles of subpar clothes. Who’s really buying that pit-stained defunct tech company t-shirt? How many painting shirts do we need? Is processing into carpet pad the best use of those resources?
Maybe this is just justification for an area where I don’t have the time to ‘do it right’. Choosing not to buy an iPad? Easy. Holding on to an archaic cellphone for a little too long? Challenging, but still just inertia. I draw the line at spending hours on a quest which has historically netted me bupkiss. We all draw it somewhere.
What do you think? Cop out? New clothes? Or used? Am I the only one that consistently strikes out with thrift store clothing? Does anyone else wear their clothes until they are rags?