On not following fashion

· mumblings ·

It’s not news to regular readers of this blog that I dislike buying clothes. I have no interest in following fashion, and tend to wear clothes until they literally fall apart. Sometimes I continue to wear them after they have fallen apart, if the structural integrity of the garment is sufficient to keep the weather out or to avoid showing too much flesh. My rules for buying clothes are as follows:

  1. Do not buy clothes unless it is absolutely necessary.
  2. Never buy clothes from a bricks-and-mortar shop unless it is strictly unavoidable (see previous debacles here).
  3. When buying clothes from online retailers, try to stick to companies you have bought from before and buy the same items in the same sizes as your current (now worn-out) items. That way you know they will fit.
  4. If feeling daredevil, buy the same items in the same sizes, but in different colours.

My jeans are on the verge of falling apart, so I had to think about buying some new ones. Of all the clothes to buy, jeans are some of the worst because the current fashion dictates the shape of them so strongly, making it difficult to get what you want, or to judge what size you need. Still, I thought, fear not! I bought my last couple of pairs online, and it seemed as if the company still stocked the same style. So all I needed to do was order another couple of pairs in the same style and size (see Rule 3) and everything would be fine.

The package duly arrived, and I tried the jeans on. Horror. They had changed the style and the way it fitted, without making it at all clear on the site. The waist was lower1, and the fit was much tighter on the seat and thighs. I know that the old pairs had shrunk (because the inside leg was 1 inch shorter than when I bought them), but even so, they were a looser fit than the new pair which were ostensibly the same size and style. Grrr.

I’ve returned them and tried another company that I’ve bought jeans from before: another style/size that is apparently the same as a previously purchased pair. I hope that they really are this time, but I have a bit more confidence in this company, which stocks other items they have been making for years. My point is that I wish there were clothing companies that realised there is a market out there for basic, well-made clothes in reliable sizes, which don’t change with the fashions. If a company made exactly the same, classic clothes, year-in, year-out, I would happily keep buying them. The only other alternative is to do a Steve Jobs: when you find an item of clothing that suits you and fits you, buy a supply that will last you a lifetime. However, it’s not easy to justify the expense or the storage space unless you are very rich and have a huge house.

The idea of a company continuing to make the same styles from year to year only sounds crazy because the clothing world is so driven by fashion. Other companies make a good living out of this strategy (and have it as a key selling point). For example, the shelving company Vitsoe (designed by the iconic Dieter Rams), has been making the same modular shelving units since 1960. They are proud of the fact that people who bought the very first units still have those pieces and mix them with their current stock. They add a few new items now and again, but they all work perfectly with the units made since the beginning. This solves the ‘having to stock up’ problem. If you are confident that they will still be making the same shelves in 20 years time, you just buy the bits you want now and add to it as and when you need to expand your shelving (a practice which Vitsoe actively encourages). They are not cheap, but I would happily pay a premium for having this kind of confidence, and would do the same for classic, well-made clothes if I knew I could buy exactly the same pair of jeans in 5 years time.

  1. I just want the waist to sit on my waist. Is that so crazy? ↩︎