An Ode to Repaired Clothes

This story originally appeared on the Gents Cafe Newsletter. You can subscribe here.

As I just recently found out, the “fast” in “fast fashion” refers to the frantic pace at which new items – if not entire collections – are conceived, produced, and dropped into stores in the global race for validation and obsessive consumerism. In my vision, however, “fast” would better represent how quickly such garments find their way to the trash, doomed to a short-spanned life and inevitable decay by their poor quality and execution.

Besides the obvious environmental concern, a strong argument against fast fashion – and one most seem to miss – is the fact that no matter how low the price point is, the value is indubitably lower. I once heard the words of wisdom of an old woman, saying she was “too poor to afford cheap clothes”: the price tag of a good pair of shoes or coat can certainly shock at first, but rest assured that a mediocre substitute priced at – say – one tenth will by no mean last one-tenth, and you’ll end up paying a lot more just to have several bad quality coats or shoes over the same time.

There is, of course, a range of prices to which this rule applies – one that is both subjective and objective – but taking it as a general rule will help you buy less and buy better, eventually resulting in a well-built, life-lasting wardrobe.

What I find especially appealing – since the first times I went to the cobbler or to a Barbour store with my parents – is the repairability of good quality garments: no matter how careful you are, clothes will at some point need a repair – and that’s ok. And to see a beat-up pair of Church’s or a worn-out waxed jacket come back to life resonated deeply with me: despite my young age I somehow already grasped what it meant. Knowing you could wear something you liked for so many years, virtually forever, opened up new horizons in the mind of a little boy who’d never been happy to dismiss his sweaters and kicks, either because he outgrew them or simply because he’d trashed them while out playing.

As soon as I grew old enough to purchase my own clothes, I set myself the precise goal of investing wisely and trying to get myself what my parents had. And each time I added one of those repairable garments to the wardrobe, I couldn’t not look forward to the time I’d bring them in myself – reading the moment as a rite of passage in the life of a well-dressed person.

Now, after a decade of doing my own shopping, the time has finally come to wear repaired clothes with the greatest pride, remembering a moment through every patch or mark. Some might be of lesser interest – like the stitching above the left pocket of my green Bedale, from the time I clumsily got stuck in a door handle – but some bring back fond memories, like my first time at the Villa d’Este Concours of Elegance, forever sealed in the mayonnaise stain still slightly visible on the tip of my now resoled Cheaney tassel loafers.

And despite, of course, some pieces of clothing still come and go from my wardrobe, I now have a fair share of items that have somehow been touched up and act as powerful reminders of how much I enjoy wearing them. It’s a slow process, that’s for sure, but a very rewarding one too – for it gives you the safe and reassuring confidence that you might well have your most treasured garments forever by your side.

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