My Permaculture Design: An Overview – Clothing

I did end up taking a day off blogging. Yesterday, as the day went by, I fell ill. I’m still crook today, took a sicky from work, but having spent most of it in bed, thought it high time to do something productive. Today’s post will be a short one.

Clothing. At first I wondered whether it is worthwhile to do an entire post on clothing. It seems kind of self-evident. And I think I say this as somebody that doesn’t care much about clothes. I use to. I use to concern myself with buying the latest fashion and brand name. When quizzed by the uninterested I would get defensive and would justify the premium price on the quality of the material and manufacturing, and the uniqueness of each piece. It didn’t take too long to ask myself a very loaded, McManusesque “What the?” What was I doing? Who was I trying to impress? As I tried to fight this narcissistic depression, I continued–and still do to this day–to be surrounded by people to whom fashion matters. I would try to suppress it and found myself feeling out of place. Fortunately, the expensive clothes I bought a long time ago continue to hold together, meaning that I don’t need to continue to consume to beat the social anxiety.

Thoreau, who inspired the list that contains clothing as a necessity of life, was critical of fashion: “We worship not the Graces… but Fashion. The head monkey at Paris puts on a traveler’s cap, and all the monkeys in America do the same”. He wondered why clothes had become a thing of novelty rather than utility. After all, “the object of clothing is, first, to retain the vital heat, and secondly, in this state of society, to cover nakedness”. But, obviously, clothing is a lot more than that. It’s an object of cultural identity, of self-express, of belonging. Go to a fancy bar dressed as a hobo and see how far that gets you. Likewise, wear the wrong shoes to a nightclub and you will not be allowed to enter. However, the utility matters too. Go trekking for a week in the rain decked in cotton. It’s impractical. This is nature denying you entry into her nightclub.

My tastes in fashion (well, clothes) has been assumed by utility. I believe buying secondhand is a good thing–and quite trendy today, too. I also believe buying quality, especially for a specific purpose. It’s not good buying cheap shoes that need to be replaced constantly, to save a buck. It’s a false economy. You’re better off buying quality from a cost point-of-view. But quality should come first–not style.

When I am living in Murraylands, I can be authentic with my laxness as to what I wear. I will not be trying to impress anybody. My clothes will be practical and hard-wearing. Perhaps some items will be ‘brand name’, but that will be incidental. Because sometimes–sometimes!–the expensive branded stuff is the best quality, but that is to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. When I return to the city to socialise, what will I wear? Whatever I already own that’s still holding on. Then I will opt for second hand first. New, quality, second. Importantly, I won’t buy–as I haven’t for years–clothes for the sake of fashion.

2 thoughts on “My Permaculture Design: An Overview – Clothing

  1. I too have struggled with the clothes thing, although from the other side. When I returned to off-farm work eight years ago, I struggled to comprehend the attitude to clothes my work mates possessed; it seemed to me that we were judging each other on our professional ‘look’ rather than our professionalism in the work place. Being a mostly outside worker (teaching gardening and environmental education) I was spared the majority of the competition and over the years as I have migrated to an in-class job I have taken my attitude to clothes with me.
    I buy second hand (except underwear and shoes) and have four sets of work clothes only which I wear every week. People seem to have stopped seeing my clothes and respond to me as a person, at last.
    Incidentally, I buy one pair of sandals every decade or so (from Kmart for $10 usually) and one set of work shoes or boots every two years (from Kmart for $15 usually); apart from work, I don’t wear shoes.

  2. I too love op shopping but as you say quality is important. One good thing about op shopping is that you rarely get poor wuality clothing in op shops. The badly made stuff falls apart before reaching op shops.
    We live in a climate that gets rather chilly in winter. When the temperature gets as low as -7 (that we’ve recorded) and can reach a high in winter of 6C then there is simply no point buying jumpers in any other fibre other than pure (or very close to pure) wool. As a knitter I try to knit only in the same. Again, in summer where it’s 30+ now and the week is forecast between 34 and 40C, why wear synthetics that don’t breathe? Yes I have plenty of synthetics but thes days I try to buy 2nd hand, natural fibre and quality. And when I can’t do that, new natural fibre and quality.
    Good post. 🙂

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