Eventually, all my shirts start to look old. The colors, once vibrant, now have a bland appearance. The pilling on the surface makes a subtle sheen that speaks of its age. What would seem beautiful, the sun peeking its way through the clouds, doesn't seem beautiful when the light is showing itself through the fabric.
I quickly pass over many of my shirts when I look through my closet. They don't bring me joy anymore. Whatever reasons I had for liking the shirt is all gone. What I thought was timeless style, now speaks its age loudly.
Not all shirts are like that for me, though. Slowly, over many years, I have been building a closet that gives me more satisfaction. Not because it is full of new clothes or stylish clothes, but because the clothes have more meaning to me.
A few years ago my wife bought me a NASA t-shirt on eBay. I really like the shirt. Not only because it has the logo of a fascinating organization, but also because it is used. Previously worn by someone not me. It was still in good shape, though. In this case, it did not become part of the 13 million tons (source: BBC) of clothing that gets thrown into the landfill every year because we saved it. Even though it is starting to sag a little bit after a few years of wearing, I still really like it. It speaks to something that I find important - to one of my whys: I want to reduce waste. I want to eliminate the impact of another one of my t-shirt purchases. Instead of a bunch of energy, growing chemicals, processing chemicals, and dyeing agents for a brand new t-shirt, this t-shirt was already made. Its impact has largely already occurred. No additional chemicals entering poor communities. Some emissions from shipping in the mail and the t-shirt was given a new life, a new home, with me. The shirt seems to align with one of my "whys" - love does no harm to a neighbor.
I have been adding used clothes to my closet via eBay. Now, when I look into my closet, I can flip through and recognize the clothes that I bought second hand. Those clothes, even though they might not have the perfect fit, have a warmth and brightness to them - like a pet adopted from the shelter, they have been rescued for a second life.
When I don't buy used clothes, my purchases are more expensive than they used to be. I wish it wasn't that way, but it seems that to find an item that aligns with one of my whys, it is more expensive.
Around 5 years ago, I bought a group of t-shirts from Patagonia. Some to keep nice, others I was going to wear often as my workout shirts. I use 2 of those t-shirts as my rock climbing and work out shirts, a green one and a once-blue, now faded blue-purple one. Both collars are a tad stretched out from all of the workouts. The t-shirts are in good shape otherwise and don't show a lot of light through the fabric. Patagonia shirts last a lot longer than other shirts I have owned. Even though they are a bit worn out and faded, I still really like them because they resonate with some of my whys. The shirts are made of organic cotton, which greatly reduces the chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizer) that farmers and their families have to be exposed to. The farmers also make more money (the margins on organic cotton are better than those for conventionally grown cotton). There are many more reasons that I could share regarding the benefits to farmers of organic and regenerative growing styles. The shirts were sewn in a fair-trade certified factory that certifies living wages, safety standards, no forced overtime, the right to unionize, and community investment among other things. Although fair-trade and organic practices aren't perfect, they seem to align themselves better with one of my whys - love your neighbor as yourself. I want my family to be safe from chemicals and paid good wages in a supportive environment, so it make sense to me that I should look for those things in the shirts I buy. To me, these shirts have meaning beyond the way they look and feel.
It definitely takes more time to build a closet that aligns with my whys than building a closet that doesn't. There are fewer options to choose from when buying new. Used options might not fit perfectly and, at least when shopping on eBay, I can't really try the clothes on before I buy them. Some of the used shirts I bought don't fit the way I expected them to. Buying items that are new and resonate with my whys, are more expensive. But, when I look in my closet, I'm happier. I see clothes that have more meaning to me.
If you are interested in finding an item that might resonate with one of your whys, check out our website. Underneath the headers at the top you can find lists of companies that are doing more. You can find all sorts of brands or websites that sell items which feature products that are fair-trade, made in the USA, environmentally friendly, and more. We tried to do the research and remove the obstacle of "where do I go to find these sorts of items?"
Don't dismiss used clothes. Just like pets at a shelter, there are tons of items on eBay or Amazon or Salvation Army used that are looking for a loving home. I recently bought a blazer on eBay with fabric woven in Italy that was normally $300, but I got it for $30. I had some help getting it tailored and now it fits like a glove. I know many people who have a particular Salvation Army in a, how should I say it, well-off neighborhood, where they find high end items. It's a different shopping pattern that has taken time getting used to, but now it is quite normal for me.
I find a great amount of satisfaction in the search for items that align themselves with my whys. I would not be surprised if you experienced the same thing.