Beloved commenter (for we love you all) artandmylife asked when we would do a clothing post.
I confess this is an area where I feel inadequate. I oscillate between dandyism and novelty t-shirts, my vanity conflicting with my laziness. And I do have a sense of style—the problem is, I have a sense of several styles, and none of them go. In short, I am not a credible authority on how to dress. Neither do I have much to say about the process of clothes shopping. Like many men, my motto is get in, make your mind up and get out.
So this post is written very much in the hope that you will remedy its deficiencies. Maybe artandmylife will volunteer for a guest post…
Anyway, as a starting point, here are the ways I personally know of save money with clothes.
New and cheap
Thanks to globalisation, clothes have never been cheaper in my lifetime. So it is that I can pop down to the Warehouse, and buy things that look modern for very little, and weird clothes that don’t look like anything for even less. If they don’t last more than a year, what of it?
However, my ancestral tailor genes revolt at the quality. Also, I have nagging feelings about the exploited labour that must be responsible for the cheap prices. So I don’t often buy my clothes there.
New and expensive
Well, why not? Provided you only ever buy posh stuff when it’s heavily reduced, and it’s really quality, it will probably take years to wear out. This is the “Vimes’ boots” theory. Sam Vimes is a recurring character in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels.
Early in his career, while he is still a nearly-impoverished Watchman, Vimes reflects that he can only afford ten-dollar boots with thin soles which don’t keep out the damp and wear out in a season or two. A pair of good boots, which cost fifty dollars, would last for years and years – which means that over the long run, the man with cheap boots has spent much more money and still has wet feet. This thought leads to the general realization that one of the reasons rich people remain rich is because they don’t actually have to spend as much money as poor people; in many situations, they buy high-quality items (such as clothing, housing, and other necessities) which are made to last. In the long run, they actually use much less of their disposable income. He describes this as The Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ Theory Of Socio-Economic Injustice.
This phrase has led to the use of the phrase “Vimes’ Boots,” or the description of a set of circumstances as a “Vimes’ Boots situation.” The phrase has widespread applicability. For instance, people who eat healthy food and get good regular medical care are generally healthier than people who do not. Although in the short run it costs more to provide medical checkups, wellness programs, and so forth, in the long run, those rich enough to afford them will not only spend less overall on medical care, they will have a higher quality of life. Thus those who cannot afford regular health care are said to be in a Vimes’ Boots situation.
The irony of the situation, coupled with the character’s own distaste for the wealthy and general cynicism, make the phrase a particularly effective and vivid evocation of the concept for those familiar with the Discworld novels, hence its becoming part of the vernacular in that subculture.
To economists and urban sociologists this phenomenon is known as the “ghetto tax“.
This is a strategy that works best with clothes that are merely stylish as opposed to fashionable. I particularly favour it for shoes, jackets and trousers.
For example, I was happy to pay about $180 for some trousers from Duncan and Prudence. That’s pricey for me, but the fabric was heavy, the cut was conservative, and the construction was solid. They were made locally and I expect them to last far longer than their cheaper Hallensteins equivalents.
This is where we hope other people have been following Vimes boots theory too, casting off stuff with another year or two in it.
The problem I find here is that now “vintage” clothing shops hoover stuff up before I can get to it, the kind of thing I might like to buy isn’t cheap any more. Only anonymous crap like business shirts escapes without a hefty markup.
Oddly, there’s a few things lurking in Dad’s wardrobe that appear to fit quite well…
My late mum used to make all our clothes when I was little. She was an excellent seamstress, and of course in the 70s sales tax and import duties made this a very worthwhile saving. I know sewing machines have got a lot cheaper, but are they cheap enough for this to be a frugal expenditure? I don’t know.
I notice that catalogue clothes are often cheaper.
My issues here are that I am oddly proportioned enough that I really need to try things on and I can’t alter them myself. And there’s something a bit tempting about catalogues. Dad used to joke, with respect my mother, that “Ezi-buy” should have been renamed “Ezi-sell.”
Our weakness in this household is novelty t-shirts off the internet. Up until a couple of weeks ago, the exchange rate meant that they were competitively priced with the local product, even taking shipping into account. No more, alas.