Like most American males of an uncertain age, I have a few sport jackets with padded shoulders so wide that they could be fitted out with airplane running lights. A few years ago I’d wear these coats with pride. Now when I see an Armani knock-off tailored like a walking sign made of a dark, nasty fabric that would look better on an automobile seat cushion, I wonder how long it will be before such a look becomes cool again.
Though my fashion-backward jackets have remained n my closet, the Wall Street Journal tells me that everyone else i wearing clothes less often before throwing them away.
This has little to do with Marie Kondo and her “keep only what you love” de-cluttering strategy. People in the United States and other developed countries now have so many cheap, fun, enjoyable opportunities to buy clothing that we’re getting tired of what we have and disposing of it–faster. The clothing itself isn’t wearing out. Our urge to wear and keep what we buy, is.
The Journal article (https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-your-used-shirts-are-destined-for-the-dump-and-not-the-recycling-center-11570008602) says we’re buying more clothes than ever before. But the number of times we wear what we buy before tossing it has declined by more than a third.
I personally have no idea how many times I wear my clothes. I prefer to wear them out, that is, keep them until there are too many holes, rips, frayed patches or stains that won’t come out in the wash.
The Journal goes on to blame much of our dumping on such fast fashion retailers, one of which (H&M) is experimenting with recycling technologies, with indifferent results. Less than 1 percent of recycled fabric goes back into a new garment. The global rag trade, on the whole, doesn’t know what to do with so much unwanted stuff.
Used clothing stores can’t price their stock low enough to compete with on-line discounts. For many years, what used clothing stores didn’t sell, or didn’t want to stock, was packed up and shipped to “developing,” a.k.a. poor, countries, some of which have blocked or taxed those shipments because imported junk clothing is harming sales from local manufacturers.
While we wait for someone to do for recycled fabrics what Impossible Foods did to the veggie burger, we may also consider what an anti-Marie Kondo approach to our clothing, and possessions in general.
I’m calling it Long Distance Love (after the Little Feat song, though the meaning in the song is different).
Instead of dumping your stuff after it fails to return the buzz you got when you bought it, consider the effort that went into designing it, making it, bringing it to you at a price you could afford and how flashing this stuff around co-workers, friends ‘n’ family has made your life better.
Then expend a little effort, when the item begins to age, in appreciating it, not as a fragment of a trend or a thing that connects you to someone else’s fantasy, but as possession that you can grow with, that’s part of your life and that is valuable (and maybe even cool) because you chose it, paid for it and gave it a place to stay.
You can enjoy how personalized your duds have become. Instead of buying washed, ripped, patched, “destroyed” clothing, you can savor the way items that you already own proudly show their age.
If you don’t love what you own, learn to love it again. Turn your relationship with your wardrobe into a satisfying, enduring partnership.
If that doesn’t work, you can always have a tailor sew running lights on your shoulder pads. It could start a trend.
Or, better yet, spend a little money (which will always be less than a new coat) and have the coat tailored so that it no longer emphasizes how intimidating, formidable or merely wide you can appear. Instead of inhabiting what a designer imagined way back when, make your clothes fit you, as you are right now, so, instead looking for excitement in what’s new, you can come back to appreciating what you’ve always been: your most fabulous, fashionable self.
Wabi sabi, mon amour.