Cost Per Wear and the Nostalgia Variable
If you’ve been following our site, you might have noticed a tagline that reads, “Own things you want to use forever”. It’s a bold statement, particularly the last small bit about ‘forever’. Though the general ethos of the brands and products we feature center around ethically-made, hard-wearing goods, most of these brands/products would fall under the category of “workwear” and “heritage”.
The quirky t-shirt at the top of this article doesn’t exactly fall under the workwear or heritage categories, nor is it an artisanal, premium t-shirt. It’s a Hanes tee, a brand not exactly known for slow fashion or meticulous craftsmanship, but it’s something I know I want to use forever. And that’s because it’s sentimental to me.
But let’s backtrack a bit. Last year, we explored the concept of Cost Per Wear (CPW) when considering your clothing purchases. A multitude of variables factor into CPW, but the essential equation can be boiled down to this:
You can follow this CPW mindset, opting for garments that use the most durable materials crafted into clothes with first-rate construction and have a minimalist closet that will last you years, even decades. But will they outlast your attention? Will you grow bored of them before wanting to buy something new? That’s a different question entirely.
We can rely on the Tamagotchi Effect, hoping that the time we invest in keeping a garment alive through maintenance and repair will bring us closer to it. We can hope that the dollars we fork over for a premium product will result in greater attachment, again decreasing the relative money spent for each time we’ve worn the garment. But I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that there’s more to it than seeing clothes as a means to a purely utilitarian end.
I played the trumpet from elementary school through college. And my high school was located in an alternate universe where the music program was the school’s largest money maker, not the football team. We competed in and hosted various band and orchestra competitions, often taking not first place, but what’s known as “Sweepstakes”, a fancy if arbitrary name for first place (to make matters more confusing, “First Place” was actually second place). We even have not one, but two Grammy’s. Yes, Grammy’s. Music was a big deal at my high school, and really, my entire school district. Here’s the show from my senior year.
Our music director brandished a baton with an iron fist that was reminiscent of the tyrannical band teacher from Whiplash (but without the abuse). He was feared and loved, and the sense of camaraderie fostered under his baton was intense. Every marching season, among many “bando” traditions building upon that camaraderie, each instrument section would design their own t-shirt.
This one was from my freshman year and I designed it. I remember finding the Gatorade logo, saving it to our family computer and cleaning it up in MS Paint (which is apparently still alive). My skills were rudimentary by this point and I literally colored in the logo to match our school colors, pixel by pixel. Painstaking computer work that’s left me hunchbacked ever since.
There would be other school spirited-shirts in the years to follow, but this first one was special because it saw me through the rest of high school. Through every Wednesday night rehearsal, Friday night football game (half time IS game time), and most importantly, through the friendships and memories that came with it.
These days, it’s more likely to be worn to bed than out in the world, but I still cherish it nonetheless. Like many of you, I try to buy responsibly and choose to purchase lasting pieces. But I’m not perfect and I certainly stray from this. I had 1000 Mile boots at one point and wore them until the soles gave out, but never had them resoled. I’ve bought artisanal jeans and “classic” jackets thinking I’d keep them forever only to resell or donate them once I grew tired of them (or, in some cases, physically outgrew them). But, 16 years on and I still have this shirt because it means something more to me than any bespoke or handmade garment will, and that’s something to factor in.
Building that connection with your clothes isn’t quantifiable (I don’t think?). But other than commemorating your participation in your high school’s music program with a ripped off logo screen printed onto a Hanes tee, there are plenty of ways for nostalgia to take on in your clothes. Gifts from loved ones, heirlooms passed down through the generations, traveling the world with the same piece of luggage—all of these are ways to build that connection that transcends beyond aesthetics and quantifiable factors. Some of these are an instant bond while others require putting in the time. When you consider your closet and calculate Cost Per Wear, factoring in nostalgia isn’t the most concrete variable. All I can say is that when you do mull over a purchase or clean out your closet, lean into that personal connection, and if you feel those joyous emotions washing over you from a wave of memories, that’s when you know you’ve got something you want to keep around forever.