Personal Finance · Self-Improvement

How To Make Clothes Last

Clothing is THE critical issue. Around the nation, it drives people to their weekend or mid-week shopping sprees, greased so often by the need to appear “hip” or “sexy” on the Instagram dot com. Coming off as poorly-dressed is often associated with less respect, diminished romantic prospects, and even difficulty making money.  To show how serious the question is, reports indicate that the average American expels around $150 per month for clothing and related services – no small joke when the average income is under 64k before taxes. The sweatshop stitching intensifies.

Although less common as a financial topic, preservation of clothes is a fantastic way to break from the norm and spare a crying wallet more pain. What’s more, it need not fly at the expense of style or comfort, assuming certain steps are followed. The key aspect is to understand garments for what they are, obtain enough of them, and treat each one with the utmost respect.

Socks

Probably the last thing folks think about, even though they serve such a glorious purpose by keeping feet healthy and comfortable. Everyone knows socks wear out, but far less consider how this can be mitigated effectively. For one, purchase enough pairs so you have two for every day of the week. This allows for swapping at midday, which improves circulation to the toes and avoids too much strain being placed on the fabric. Consider a pair of slippers for the house, and avoid walking in socks on the driveway, where rough splotches can tear at the threads.

Also be sure to invest in a quality darning egg and stitching kit. When the heel or toes begin to show off more skin than a tradcon would approve of, you can fix them up lickety-split. Through this strategy I have been able to maintain pairs of Dickies going back 5 years, which beats purchasing a new pack every few months.

T-Shirts

Here again, quantity helps with longevity. Another useful approach is to buy more synthetic and polyester materials than cotton. Sure, they might feel tacky, but the quick-drying and sweat-wicking fabrics just feel nice, and seem to last longer, even without a Nugenix pill. I’ve had a surprisingly good experience with Wal-Mart’s Dri-Star materials, and you can go premium if that brings more satisfaction. Regardless, make sure to turn them inside out when washing, as this both cleans the fabric better and limits wear on the front. This is doubly true for any shirt (such as a uniform) that has velcro pockets.

Shorts/Briefs

Try to hand-wash these guys, including the sporty versions, as a means of increasing shelf life. I have seen some absolute tragedies coming out of the washing machine and dryer due to the underlying design. Adidas and Nike for example tend to leave the interior stitches exposed, and those threads will wear out rapidly when being tossed around.  If exercise shorts must go in a washer, remember to lace the drawstring up a couple times; doing so prevents it from getting dragged into the waistband by your machine’s impeller.

Pants

While it is fine to throw some pairs in the washer, they should be handled with care and turned inside out. Do not let them sit in the machine after it finishes. Instead, shake them out and place in the dryer for 10-15 minutes before hanging up to air-dry. Placing slacks or jeans in the dryer for long periods of time can result in damage to the buttons and belt loops, or even shrinkage. Get a decent iron and smooth out the wrinkles when they are dry before either folding them for a drawer or hanging the rascals up.

Washing In General

If it is not already a primary theme, limiting the use of washing machines and dryers is important (if not always practical) as we seek to preserve clothing. The reason why I emphasize synthetics is because they require less time in the dryer and can return to wearable status faster on even a lukewarm day than a piece of cotton will. Unless you are big into those fancy Gain or Downy scent pods, just consider a nice environmental detergent and be done with it. The especially brave might even try out a wash rack, but that is only for the muscled arms among you.

Finally, when a piece of cloth must be retired, keep to mind that it might be compostable, or even made into a cleaning cloth. This will not function as well for synthetics, but cotton socks can serve as excellent shoeshine pieces, and t-shirts past their prime become excellent rags or mopping heads. Alternatively, trim them up and add to a compost pile. Nothing wrong with that.

2 thoughts on “How To Make Clothes Last

  1. I have underwear going back over a decade! Plus who the hell spends $150 a month on clothing?! I probably spend that in a year. Also what about shoes?

    Like

    1. To quote a great Franco-American entertainer: “You must be kidding! Underwear, I got the picture! That’s life!”

      Like

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