Used Clothing (Weekly Review 29)

There’s something disgusting about used stuff. That someone has touched it. Worn it. Done-who-knows-what with, on, and in it.

It’s gross to wear clothes that someone else has worn. Their dead skin cells occupy the gaps like college students might squeeze into a hotel room. The clothes smell like someone else. They are worn.

We don’t tolerate used stuff in other areas of our life. We don’t buy used computers and iPods. We don’t read used books. We don’t live in used homes. We don’t drive used cars.
Wait. That’s exactly what we do.

We use used things all the time. Right now I’m writing this post on a new computer, but it’s surrounded by used books. The shirts and shorts I have on are both secondhand. My socks and shoes are new but my house is certainly well used.

I’m a big fan of used clothing, but I’m often in the minority. People don’t like used things and I don’t know why.

Clothing, like many other things, is a commodity. In the same way that an ear of corn is an ear of corn is an ear of corn (to some degree). Clothes are clothes are clothes. We often forget this and  fall into a spiral of thinking that clothes aren’t a commodity. That they are something special.

I was volunteering at a school event where the parents were bemoaning how much their kid’s clothes cost. Specifically “Nike Elite” socks. Retail, $20. Ouch. Socks are a bad example here, because socks are difficult to find used, but so many other things are not.

And it’s not crap. A short list of my treasures include an Eddie Bauer jacket, Timberland boots, Nautica shorts, and Gap vest. Good stuff can be used stuff.

I got started shopping used because it was economical and to find wild and crazy shirts (for “wild and crazy guys,” what my high school friend and I called ourselves). My friends and I would leave a thrift store loaded up with clothes that looked like they had been washed with Skittles detergent.

Over time though my shopping has gotten more ethical. It’s not good to consume so many clothes. My microeconomic views (save money) and macroeconomic views coalesced at used clothing. In a traditional open market, a company would be judged by the market and voting with our dollars, we would buy things from good people. That’s not what happens. John Oliver recently highlighted a series of companies that have repeatedly violated (moral) workplace safety conditions.

It’s worth watching the entire clip just to see the hypocrisy of Kathy Lee. It’s like being with a bad boyfriend, telling everyone how awful it was, and then dating his brother.

But my favorite stance on it comes not from satirical news but from a clothing company itself. In this video – founder, Yvon Chouinard, says that the best thing you can do is to buy used clothing. How often do you hear a company saying, hey, there’s something better than what we’re making, but if you have to buy something, we’re here. Just watch, it’s beautiful.

This post is a bit preachy. It’s a hard change. It’s the path of more resistance. The point in reading (things like this) isn’t necessarily to change your mind. When I read a book about an astronaut, I don’t want to become an astronaut. What I want is to encounter some new thoughts that might make my life better. That’s what this post is about. Think about trying on something new.

What I’ve been reading and writing.

A lot, but nothing much to share. I’m unplugged again this week. Less preaching to come next week.


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