One night during the first of my two week-long vacations in July my parents took us all out to a fancy dinner. Every vacation we go on my parents like to do one night like this. We all got somewhat dressed up (nothing too formal – think polo shirts for guys and summer dresses for girls) for it so we could look decent at the restaurant.
As we were waiting for the transport van to take us near the restaurant in town, I complimented my mother on the dress she was wearing as I hadn’t seen her wear it before and I thought it looked nice. She thanked me, and to my surprise she stated the exact opposite about my attire!
Momentarily stunned by her remark, I don’t remember the exact lines of what she said, but it was something along the lines of, “Thanks honey, I don’t like your shirt, though.”
Harsh words, right!? I even reminded her this was a shirt she had bought me!
For context, I was wearing a light blue polo that had been a somewhat favorite of mine for years, but have worn sparingly in the recent past. It’s not a bad shirt by any means, but perhaps some more background would be useful before you judge my mom too harshly for her comment.
The Light Blue Polo
I mentioned that light blue polo (now infamous among my family as I joking told my mother afterwards that I had destroyed the shirt since she didn’t like it!) had been purchased by my mom for me. What I failed to mention is that she had purchased that polo for me early on back in my high school days… over 10 years ago.
My parents tended to get clothes that were slightly big on me back in those days so I had room to grow into them, and it worked out perfectly in this case, hence why the shirt still fit well even after all those years.
However, 10 years of wear and tear and countless trips through the washer/dryer had left the shirt slightly faded, but nothing too egregious. Though my mom had likely forgotten this was a shirt she had once bought for me, she did notice it looked a bit worn and couldn’t help but comment on it.
From her perspective, she knows I make good money and can certainly afford to buy newer and nicer clothes. She also knows I’m pursuing this crazy thing called Financial Independence, and I think she’s concerned that because of this I’m being “cheap” and won’t spend my money on things even if I need them.
(If only she’d read my monthly reports to see all the expensive stuff I spend money on!)
What I’ve told her many times is that I’m not cheap, I simply spend my money on things I value, and when it comes down to it, I don’t value clothes all that much.
Spend Money on Things You Value
If I had to take a guess, I’d say at least half of the clothes I regularly wear are more than 5 years old. Most of my t-shirts, long sleeve shirts, shorts, sweatpants and sweatshirts qualify under this. A few of these date back to high school just like the notorious light blue polo.
The rest of my wardrobe dates more recently including most of my undergarments/socks (as those get more wear and tear from washing frequency) as well as a lot of my casual, going out with friends in public clothes, and work attire (dress shirts and pants) since I pretty much have to wear those 5 times a week.
The clothes I do have are pretty generic clothing. I hardly own any brand name clothes – I’ve always thought it was weird to walk around with a free company advertisement on your clothes!
I’m also not a super flashy guy. I don’t feel the need to try and impress people with the clothes I wear. Besides, if someone is going to judge me based on the clothes I wear (or don’t wear) I’d prefer not to be hanging around them too often!
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I dress like a slob or anything, my current clothing is more than sufficient! It’s just that spending lots of money on new clothes is not something I value. I’d rather spend my money on more fun things like travel and other entertainment!
Is a Wardrobe Upgrade Needed?
My college friends are always mentioning that “so and so company has a sale” and it’s a great time to buy “blah blah clothing”. I’ve never once bought anything from those sales. Why spend money to upgrade my wardrobe when my current one is more than sufficient!?
Having the status symbol of wearing the latest “in style” clothes from the expensive popular brands like Lululemon or other companies (I’m so disinterested in this stuff that’s the only company of dozens my friends have mentioned that I can name!) is just not something I’m interested in.
I’d rather buy my clothes on an as needed basis – such as when they get damaged from overuse (dang dress shirts ripping at the elbow seams!) or so worn/faded that they do indeed start to not look good.
Wearing my clothes until their bitter end also has the effect of being much better on the planet. By extending the life of my clothes I’m doing my part to reduce consumption and thus the overall material that needs to be used to manufacture this clothing.
So from my mom’s perspective – yes I can understand how she sees me wearing my 5-10+ year old clothing and wonders why in the world I haven’t upgraded to nicer or newer clothes yet when I most certainly can afford it.
My response: there’s no good reason not to keep wearing my same clothes over and over 🙂
Do you regularly keep clothes for extended periods of time? How old is your oldest piece of clothing? Do you value spending money on nicer clothes? Let me know in the comments!
6 thoughts to “Values Spending (The Story of the Light Blue Polo)”
This is incredible. I’m reading this post and thinking that I wrote it! 😂 Then I’m even more stunned when you mention dress shirts ripping at the elbow. I have gone through at least five or six of these, all torn at the left elbow. It is so frustrating because, like you, I HATE spending money on clothes.
I don’t know the exact age of my apparel but I’m sure I have some stuff from high school still, especially gym/athletic clothes like shorts, t-shirts and sweatpants. I look around sometimes at the gym and see everyone wearing the latest style shorts and such and I actually get a kick out of having older stuff. Like, why are you all wasting money on the latest fashion of Nike shorts that probably cost $30-40? 🙂
You are absolutely right. Spend money on what you value. If it happens to be clothes, so be it. To each their own. But for me, that’s not going to happen as I don’t need to “impress” anyone and I prefer to be casual as much as possible.
It’s so annoying when the dress shirts rip there! And agree so much about the latest gym clothes that everybody wears. Like why spend so much money on clothes yours getting all gross and sweaty!?
So agree on the causal part though. I am at my happiest when I’m in comfortable clothes and sometimes those dressier clothes just aren’t to my liking.
I get where you’re coming from – I had a few shirts and jeans from high school that never seemed too worn. A few threads loose here and there, maybe some paint on the jeans, but they were for painting so who cares? (Apparently my family, that’s who!)
But for what it’s worth, it sounds like you’re fine. Work clothes are updated, that’s really the only “attire” that needs to be up to a certain quality. Some people enjoy fashion or dressing well, and I support it – for them. For me, there’s no harm in wearing things to the ground, especially when fashion is the 2nd largest polluting industry in the world.
I recently decided to clear out almost all of my clothes (and stuff in general) when I moved in with my partner, and decided that from here on out, the only clothing I’m willing to buy will be used. This, to me, is values-based spending: it’s better for the environment, better for my wallet, and also prevents me from gathering more items than I need. And as I mentioned, I don’t really mind an errant thread here and there…
Also, whenever I turn the worn clothing into pajamas, I immediately hear Flight of the Conchords: “Team Building Exercise ’99!” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqZcYPEszN8
Hahaha omg I love Flight of the Conchords though I hadn’t seen this one!
That’s awesome you moved to only buying used clothing! So much better for the environment. I think I may try something similar at those few times when I actually need to get clothes!
I also don’t mind people spending money on clothes if they enjoy fashion or dressing well. Spending money on the things you value is what conscious spending is all about!