This whole thing started when I needed to replace a shirt. My 3 cylinder Westerbeke claimed a shirt when a sleeve snagged on one it’s pointy bits. I went to the closet to get a new shirt and realized my clothes were in pretty bad shape. Other than bad whiskey, nothing haunts my nightmares more than having to go to a store and search for clothes.
At first I thought ‘Suck it up Todd, you’re a grown man, stop in a clothing store and grab a new shirt’. It went something like this:
Salesperson, “Can I help you?”
Me, ”Yea, I need a men’s medium tropical long sleeve shirt, in a tan, white, or blue color?”
Salesperson, ”I’m sorry but we’ve restocked the store with our winter and fall selections, you can try our clearance rack, there might be something there?”
Well that didn’t go as planned, The store is on the coast and my request is pretty simple. Why would they not stock something that common? I guess, it’s the internet to the rescue.
I buckled downed, fired up Firefox and started surfing the web for some new threads. In the beginning I was surfing in circles checking out vendor one then surf over to vendor two then vendor three…four…five…six. Oh wait, isn’t that the same shirt I saw at vendor one’s website. Ah crap!
I decided that wasn’t working for me either. I needed a new plan. I started writing down what features my shirt needed to qualify as a ‘good’ shirt. Wait a minute!, this is exactly how I shop for tools and other boat gadgets. The more I thought about it, the more I started to realize. “HEY! Someone has brainwashed me!” Even though clothes have a stylistic quantity to them why am I searching for them based on style instead of functionality? Style is important obviously, but that precept should not be the primary reason for my clothing choices.
Someone has been subtly messing with my head. After recognizing the rouse, I looked around and saw it everywhere. Marketers are telling me how great I’ll look in their stuff: thinner, taller, richer, smarter, cuter, etc. and omitting quality and functionality. I felt like Neo taking red pill’.
Okay now that the Madison avenue agents no longer has a hold over me. What do I actually want in the clothes I wear on my boat?
Lets make a list and prioritize it and see how that plays out?
- Functional – Clothes should cover and protect the naked bits I want covered.
- Comfort – It should have a good fit: not too tight as to restrict motion and not so loose that it’s cumbersome.
- Durability – It should last multiple wash/wear cycles without stitches coming apart, buttons falling off, or zippers breaking.
- Convenience – Does the article of clothing have extra features that make it more convenient for me?
- Cost – You want how much for that? Does the cost/benefit ratio work out in my favor, can I get X dollars of use out of it?
- Style – Even though I poo-poo’d style earlier, it does have it’s place just not at the top of my list. Does it look good?
From this list I think it’s safe to say that I subscribe to the form follows function rule. Fair enough, it’s my list, why not?
Armed with my new list I hit the internet again. Whoa what a difference that made! The selection paralysis that I was suffering from has completely disappeared. My choices narrowed down to a manageable few at which point I could then take styling into account. I don’t know where things went off the rails, putting styling and brand names before quality, functionality, and durability. Clothes are just like everything else on the boat. Yet we seem to treat them differently when we shop for them.
The more I thought about it, the more it became clear, ‘clothes are tools’. Their primary job is to cover our nakedness following that they should be comfortable, durable, and beneficial to our daily lives. Whether that’s cleaning a boat or enjoying a sunset dinner. If a pair of shorts or a shirt makes our daily routine easier, safer, or more efficient then is that not by definition a tool?
I know some of you are saying styling and looks is very important and I’m not disputing that statement. If Shakespeare is to be believed, “Clothes make the man [or woman]”. What I’m getting at is that the clothing/fashion industry has hoodwinked us into sacrificing functionality for trends and style. That in my book, is not OK. Tricking us in to chasing fashion and trends, which they control, is deceitful and manipulative.
So what’s the purpose of this whole post? To put the clothing industry on notice that I’m on to them and I’m telling all my internet friends. We work hard for our money and they should work equally hard to earn our patronage and produce products that benefit us. Next time you’re out shopping for clothes stop for a second and put style at the bottom of your list. Look closely at that piece of clothing: is it well made, does the cut fit properly, will it hold up over time, will it make your life better, then lastly does it look good? You may be surprised.