Cheap clothing

I’d like to make a confession. Today I’m wearing a Nike T-shirt.

It’s probably the second or third time I’ve worn it in 15 years. I know this because, about 15 years ago, I vowed never to buy anything with that instantly recognisable ‘swoosh’ again following the scandal over their south-east Asian sweatshops, and this T-shirt represents the final time I gave my hard-earned cash to a massively wealthy corporation which awards multi-billion dollar advertising contracts to already obscenely rich sports stars in exchange for their standing around as obliging clothes horses whenever required, yet pays a pittance to the modern-day slaves who make their goods. It’s a nice colour, a good fit and excellent quality. It probably cost £15 at most. I’d rather not dwell on how much the person who made it got paid.

I’ve only been in a Primark store once and the experience left me needing fresh air, a stiff drink and probably a cigarette as well, not that I’ve ever been a smoker. It had three floors (God, the escalators confused me), and each one was crammed full of waist-high tables stacked with clothes that had once been neatly folded yet now resembled a disorganised jumble of straggling sleeves and collars that had been twisted and turned so as to expose the sizing label. I doubt many bargain-hunters cared to look at where it was made. It was pretty much how I imagine Hell to look. People were struggling to squeeze through the narrow aisles, their stupidly-shaped baskets bulging and overflowing, bumping into other moving things; a dozen tills were beeping every other second and the lights were dazzling. Frankly, it was a scene of chaos and vulgarity and I swore I’d never return (I probably swore more than once about the people shopping there being inconsiderate and slovenly, too) because, first and foremost, the place made my head spin and nothing on the endless racks or unkempt tables was worth making me feel like I needed a cigarette.

Of lesser importance, I’m now ashamed to admit, was the fact that its clothes, like Nike’s, were produced in far-flung sweatshops by people working 20-hour days for pennies. Ignorance is bliss, as they say.

By buying them, I think it fair to say, you are supporting the sweatshops. I didn’t buy them any more, or so I thought, so I didn’t give them much thought. There’s that blissful ignorance again. I conveniently kept my Nike T-shirt hidden in the back of my wardrobe and only wore it around the house if I knew I’d not be seeing anyone that day or, more importantly, that they wouldn’t see me advertising this evil multi-national corporation and think me a hypocrite for so often preaching to them about the evils of Nestlé, Barclays or eggs from caged hens. It’s almost a dirty little secret.

The guilt of not wearing it, though, has also weighed heavily on my mind these last few weeks.

It’s now been almost a month since the catastrophic collapse of Rana Plaza, an eight-storey building in Savar, a commercial hub north of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Roughly 2,500 people were rescued from the rubble. Last week, the search for survivors was called off; 1,127 bodies had been recovered.

Several days earlier, another eight people were killed in a clothes factory, this time by fire raging through an even taller building in the Mirpur industrial district of Dhaka. The death toll might well have been much higher had the fire spread when the factory was operational rather than shut for the night. A fire in November at Ashulia, another suburb of Dhaka, claimed 112 lives. In fact, since 1990, more than 400 workers have died in 50 major factory fires in Bangladesh.

I didn’t think I had any clothing made in Bangladesh. But I do. The chances are, unless you are able to afford ethical-everything these days and check those labels carefully, so do you. From Benetton to Wrangler via Bon Marché, El Corte Ingles, J.C. Penney, Joe Fresh, Kik, Lee, Mango and Texman, Bangladesh plays its more-than-considerable part.

Its clothing industry accounts for a giant 80 per cent of the country’s exports. It is the world’s second-biggest exporter of clothing after China. Before Bangladesh, of course, it was Indonesia and Vietnam, South Korea and Taiwan. Wherever there has been an abundance of cheap labour, corporations have been attracted like bees around a honey pot knowing they won’t have to pay out so much in wages or benefits and will get to keep more of the money for themselves. The same corporations are, naturally, to blame for unemployment in your town. But we all want cheap clothes, right? When wages are forced up by eventual union organisation and pressure for workers’ rights becomes unbearable, don’t worry; they’ll just move their factories somewhere else and find an even cheaper workforce so the clothes will still be cheap. It’s a win-win situation for the rich, as per usual.

(They’ll next move to Latin America and Africa, according to chief executive of H&M, the biggest buyer of clothes from Bangladesh.)

I can accept that a low wage is better than no wage at all, and that women (3.5 million of the 4.5 million employed in this industry are women) have greater opportunities to better themselves if they are earning an income. But £25 a month? $37 a month? That’s about as much as many people reading this spend on their mobile phone each month, I expect.

The majority of garment workers in Bangladesh earn slightly more than the minimum wage, which is set at 3,000 taka per month (approximately £25). 5,000 taka per month (approximately £45) is considered a living wage: the absolute minimum required to provide a family with food, shelter and, it is hoped, an education. Prior to December 2010 and rioting over low pay, they were earning just 1,662 taka per month (approximately £15).

As always, there are many other factors to consider here: the moral responsibility of assisting poorer parts of the world with their industrial revolutions weighed against the environmental cost, measured in air miles, of so much of our clothing coming from overseas, for example. Another is the demand for more and more cheap fashions to clothe a growing population in Europe and North America against the need to provide employment to a growing Third World population.

The effects of retailers following Disney’s lead and pulling out of Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest and most densely-populated countries, would be an altogether different kind of catastrophe. The manufacture of clothing makes up a fifth of the economy and four-fifths of its exports. There is growing unrest among workers.

Now that this haunting image has been shared a thousand times around the world, and its shock value diluted somewhat by other incredible international news events since, most obviously from Cleveland and Oklahoma, I wonder if your thoughts have changed at all since the Rana Plaza collapse. Is this another guilt-trip, designed to make consumers willing to pay a little more for peace of mind, just like with fair trade and organic food? I’m not convinced that the manufacturers who set the prices have no control over wages or working hours, labour abuses or safety standards. I think they’re taking us all for fools while the government of Bangladesh knowingly sends its citizens, like lambs to the slaughter, for the price of progress craved – as all governments have always done, let’s not forget.

There are more than four million garment workers in Bangladesh, most of them women. Less than one per cent are represented by a union. How very convenient for the manufacturers and factory owners.

The global union for textile workers, IndustriALL, claims that workers’ wages could be raised with almost no effect on prices. Doubling their wages for the roughly ten minutes it takes to make a basic T-shirt would increase its cost in the UK by just two pence. I should hope we could all gladly agree to paying such a tiny amount more if it meant doubling workers’ wages.

There are so many tragedies occurring all around the world, the latest being the sheer destruction wreaked across the American Midwest by some of the fiercest tornadoes ever recorded. How our hearts break for those who have lost everything they possess, everything they toiled for and took pride and comfort from. There goes the awesome might of Mother Nature taking it back once more, you might say, and there is little we can do to stand up to her. But we all share a moral responsibility for the tragedy in Dhaka and can do something to prevent another.

Isn’t it high time we stop placing our role as voracious, insatiable consumer above that of citizen sharing the one planet we are at this moment able to inhabit and take responsibility for the things we put into our shopping baskets as we march, robot-like, through our malls and supermarkets? We fund slavery. We fund apartheid. We encourage deforestation and vivisection and brutal oppression of our fellow citizens through our inexcusable ignorance and over-reliance on confected needs.

Bangladesh will now raise the minimum wage for garment workers, following protests from workers, international condemnation and, perhaps most significant of all, through fear of retailers taking their custom to places with claims to safer factories. Will we still buy their goods now that our consciences have been shaken?

By the way, Gap and Asda-Walmart – that’s Walmart, the world’s largest private employer, with some 2.1 million workers – have failed to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, as 40 other leading worldwide retailers have managed to do, to make more than 1,000 garment factories in Bangladesh safer. You might want to ask them why? Consider that, every second, 330 people buy something from one of Walmart’s 8,970 stores worldwide.

In the interest of fairness, I should point out that Nike has improved conditions for its workers since 1997 (and that rival Adidas has sweatshops of its own, so is not much better) and also that Primark has led the way by promising to pay compensation to the victims and their families, including the provision of long term financial support (whatever that means exactly).

Author: FEd

Features Editor of David Gilmour’s official blog, The Blog (‘Features’ previously being its rather naff title), affectionately – or lazily – shortened to ‘FEd’.

60 thoughts on “Cheap clothing”

  1. I felt guilt about buying the inexpensive clothes and tried to justify it by telling myself that it was okay for me since I was in such a low income bracket.

    But the guilt became too strong. Now, I save up to buy clothes and shoes. I have two pairs of shoes and very few clothes, but they can be washed often and worn often.

    It’s like I’ve said before, it can be done, it just takes a lot of work and imagination.

    I have also worked out a deal with the Veteran’s Hospital on eliminating some medications and getting on a payment schedule that I can afford.

    I’m just not one to sit on my bum and take handouts, but I do want to be treated fairly. I get down at times, but I am willing to do everything I can to be fair and; to be aware of the ripples my decisions and actions spread.

    Karma rules!

    1. It sure does, mate. Good for you.

      That’s another thing: I want, if not expect, things to last. With respect to the people making many of the cheaper items of clothing, because they can only work with the materials they are given and you do tend to get what you pay for, a lot of it is flimsy and only expected to last a season.

      That doesn’t apply to Nike or Adidas, I have to say. But they’re not selling their clothing for roughly the price of a burger, fries and large Coke at McDonald’s.

      If you’re disgusted by society’s disposable attitude to everything, isn’t cheap clothing a major part of the problem? I expect most of it ends up in landfill, because once it’s worn out or too shabby to give to charity, the bin is the easiest means of disposal. I wonder how common and convenient the recycling of textiles is around the world. Many councils in the UK collect worn-out clothes at the kerbside, along with the other more obvious recyclables such as paper and glass. I’d hazard a guess that few people realise their council even provides this handy service.

    2. For example, recycled clothes can be used for home insulation.

      Here, a social enterprise called ‘Le Relais’ (mostly operating as a door-to-door service to collect unwanted clothes with the purpose of recycling them) has developed a thermal insulation product called ‘Métisse®’ and struggled against exclusion by creating sustainable jobs in France and also in Africa.

      Oh and can’t natural fibre shabby clothing be composted at home?

    3. Clothing recycling/reclamation by my local council contributes to keeping the local Air Ambulance in operation, so I do my bit for this cause whenever I have a clearout.

  2. You’ve been very busy at the current topic I can see FEd.

    This is a topic I’m very familiar with and the garment industry is a particularly complicated one. Cheap, mass-produced clothing is an enormous industry-wide problem but the mass market consumer demands it because of the “penny wise, pound foolish” way we have evolved over the decades.

    There are really four distinct categories when it comes to clothing: mass produced which would include clothing sold from as low-end as a Walmart let’s say to a mid-range Gap or Target with lower price points; fashion, which starts getting into the higher price points and would include the likes of a Juicy Couture, Prada, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen; high luxury, Hermès, Chanel, Azzedine Alaïa; bespoke and made-to-order. There is an overlap on the categories where often a designer will guest design for a store like Target (or as Stella McCartney did with her line of baby clothing at the Gap) to reach the ‘aspirational’ market with more reasonable price points or where a particular Brand that is more ‘fashion-oriented’ will have a high-end, limited production of luxury pieces. Bespoke is at the whim of the client and truth be told, only the really wealthy can afford it (unless you have a great relationship with a tailor/seamstress 😉 ). In my view, the last category is the most “socially conscious” of all (along with haute couture) since there is no mass production involved, fabrics are sourced from factories that have fair trade practices, there is very little taxing of resources (except the poor b*stard cutting the custom pattern and then painstakingly sewing together the custom suit or whatever garment is being made). It appears the consensus for those “in the know” is that the pieces are an ‘investment’ — they are made to last decades (give or take a decreasing or expanding waistline ::laugh), are timeless and often end up (along with some other ‘coveted’ brands) in very high-end second hand shops, selling for very high-end prices! Suffice it to say, if I could, I would!

    As FEd has pointed out, there is the ‘argument’ that mass production of clothing does lead to employment for masses that would otherwise have no employment at all and could potentially end up in a life of prostitution which is an especially troublesome topic when it comes to children who have no choice but to contribute to the household income to make ends meet.

    A lot of production is sent off-shore because it cannot be locally produced for mass-market consumption: the labor costs are too high and the garment would then have to sell 5 to 10 times more than the cost to make it and even at the low-end of the consumer market, no-one would buy the product. Then you have the fashion brands who target the aspirational market and more often than not produce a mediocre product but the label calls for the higher price point.

    There are dozens of things that come to mind to solve some of the issues but there has has to be a symbiosis. Global standards that allow for cultural variations need to be adopted (the few organizations that currently exist don’t collaborate), governments need to adopt and implement, there needs to be enforcement at the corporate level, the consumer needs to be educated on production methods and fair trade practices. Building codes need to be strengthened and enforced with violators prosecuted to the fullest extent possible. Corporations need to demand safer buildings within which to conduct their businesses and workers need to demand safer working conditions and fair wages. The consumer needs to demand to know where what they wear came from.

    I guess it depends entirely on who has a social conscience — governments are very well paid to look the other way, we can sign the Kyoto Protocol and all the trade agreements but if enforcement isn’t there and people aren’t educated, it’s for naught.

    Came across this after receiving a Reuters alert on the topic of sweatshops in my former hometown in South Africa a few days ago. Interesting and reminds me a bit of the Responsible Jewellery Council. The problem is there are hundreds of “responsible this and responsible that” sites — they should all ‘talk’ to each other, collaborate …

    We try to purchase clothing responsibly in our home but the labels don’t always tell me what I want to know. I recently bought (online) my husband and son a pair of shoes each from a place called Toms. I liked their corporate responsibility narrative and that’s what I look for when I shop. However, there is always the chance that I’m being fleeced (pun intended) – how would I know for sure – does that make be guileless and guiltless …?

    1. As with so many other products now, the labels are misleading. Buying online, as we are doing more and more these days, is often no more helpful to the ethical consumer even though we should be able to find out lots of useful information to help us decide with relative ease before committing to buy. Several times now I’ve bought something online on the basis of the description, as you do (not so much country of origin, more technical specifications), only to find – once your living room is full of cardboard, polystyrene and gratuitous plastic bags – that the description was wrong. But does anyone really want to go to the expense and inconvenience of sending it back? Can you even get everything back in the box half the time? I bought online in the first place to cut out the chore of driving, parking, queuing, carrying and everything else in between (mostly kids getting under your feet as they bawl or screech and their parents fail to notice, I won’t pretend there’s anything else that makes shopping so unbearable as wild children). It’s already enough time wasted once you’ve e-mailed to point out the error – and been ignored.

      I realise that these annoyances are nothing compared to slogging your guts out day and night for a pittance, but I agree that labels should be clearer. It’s too convenient for too many that they are unclear.

  3. I’m with you on this one Fed. I cant be doing with Primark, but then again it employs people here and abroad. Yes, the money may be poor for the workers but as you say it puts food on a table that may be empty without. Then we have to think of the people who really can’t afford to shop anywhere else. I’m sure they are an Irish firm. But how are we going to know where any of our clothes are made before we buy, and then are we going to put someone out of a much needed job?

    It is really down to the governments of these countries to get the best deal for these workers and we should really be willing to pay a little extra.


    1. All good points.

      If we could look at it selfishly, not in terms of cost to us as buyers, but in terms of jobs created in our own countries if manufacturing returned on a serious scale… I wonder if the quality of goods would be any better, with a reduction in waste, in carbon emissions, and all the other societal problems that come from high unemployment and social deprivation. Would we happily pay more if our clothes were made locally, even if the quality was of little or no improvement to the clothing currently coming out of Bangladesh or Pakistan, I wonder?

  4. If you’re disgusted by society’s disposable attitude to everything, isn’t cheap clothing a major part of the problem? I expect most of it ends up in landfill, because once it’s worn out or too shabby to give to charity, the bin is the easiest means of disposal. I wonder how common and convenient the recycling of textiles is around the world.

    I suspect this narrative merely skims the surface …

    Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry

  5. In the US, we have charity, flea market and thrift shops where I proudly buy 2nd hand clothes, mostly cotton or wool 2nd hand, preferably country of origin fabrics or USA made (which is impossible to find for shoes and knits). I’ve maintained a boycott of Chinese products for several years now. Americana is mostly “Made in China,” but I have seen the “Made in Bangladesh” label on clothes at our WalMart, which I only shop at when put to torture! 🙂

    We do see some differences in public awareness, but none in the courts and only after nonprofit or public conflicts with the WalMart loyalists!

    For everything else, my shopping techniques change to boycott countries that have humanitarian or environmental violations. Reading labels became essential with food in the US, and clothing purchases. After years of lax consumption, I’ve become high fructose intolerant: I’m not joking at all when I say that a bag of typical McDonald’s ketchup would cause me great agony by the following day. I’m a label reading professional these days, spotting High Fructose instantly, but usually buried in a list of sometimes 50-100 chemical ingredients. It’s one of the reasons why I garden: to protect myself from the chemical onslaught!

    What appals me about the Bangladesh tragedy is what equally appals me about High Fructose: it is the immorality of the product in the first place that hurts everyone in the long run. It is only a short step from disposable clothes to disposable human beings.

    This winter, my greyhound wore très sheik recycled wool “Made By Mama” sweaters! She’s quite elegant in turtlenecks! 🙂

    1. This winter, my greyhound wore très sheik recycled wool “Made By Mama” sweaters! She’s quite elegant in turtlenecks! 🙂

      Excellent idea and well done, you.

  6. Yesterday on the radio I heard about the considerable market in most places for quality recycled textile. People donate their old clothes and the usable materials get re-used to make something new. The problem is that it is getting increasingly difficult to find good materials in the donations because so much of our clothing is now made from crap. When this is donated, it is sent to the landfill because it cannot be reused.

    I do not like to use those boxes outside of churches that ask you to donate your old clothes. You never know where your donations will wind up. Instead, I bring things directly to local organizations that serve the homeless. I know my old clothes will actually go to a person who needs them, and will neither be sold for profit nor placed in a landfill for lack of quality. And I like to donate clothes BEFORE they become too worn-out to wear. Because everyone needs clothes and nobody deserves to look like they are wearing someone else’s castoffs.

    1. Thanks for that, Dan. We could all bear that in mind and follow your example.

      Do you get charity bags pushed through your mail box in the US? I’m getting several a week, mostly for charities I’ve never heard of. (Few want books or bric-a-brac these days, I notice. What they really want is clothing.) Like you, I prefer to take anything I no longer have a use for directly to the charity shops I choose to support, because I’m not convinced we can trust the van drivers who collect the bags we all leave on our driveways in good faith. I suppose you could say the same about the old dears working in the charity shops. They could be setting aside all the best stuff for themselves or eBay…

      Forget I said that.

  7. Fed, you are becoming alarmingly good at picking topics that prick our middle-class, first-World, existentialist guilt.

    Cheap clothes. I don’t wear them. (This doesn’t mean I disrobe in public … well not often anyway.) Partly because I’m a snob. Partly because I can afford not to. Partly because I appreciate better quality fabrics and production. Partly because I aim to wear clothes for years on end rather than change with the seasons. Partly because I’m a sucker for certain brands. Partly because I prefer not to be so overtly exploitative of cheap labour.

    The idea that some of these premium products could also exploit cheap labour makes me feel uncomfortable and cheated because I’d happily pay the extra for them to be made under better conditions. We know the labels say China (as does my Berghaus shirt), Indonesia, Bangladesh, etc (sorry my Penguin t-shirt is too washed out for me to read the label) but we trust that this doesn’t have to mean slave labour, that these are the model employers setting the new benchmark. We also recognise that these jobs are desperately sought after in those countries, that they could be part of its progression towards something better (“Better” being more like us presumably, which I rather doubt). After all, as you point out, the (direct) labour element isn’t such a large part of the cost, although we have to remember the cheap labour built into the cotton (usually) production as well. The big branders have to be careful about that. Act cheap and you’re in danger of bursting the bubble that makes us think we are trendy, chic, image aware or whatever when we pay your premium. Let’s hope that message gets through.

    The issue for those in our society who struggle to clothe themselves and their kids (it’s very much the same with horse burgers and junk-food) is of course more tangled. But these are not the majority of the target customers. Programmed as we are to be consumers, we respond to affluence by wanting more and more, rather than better. We want more than we need. We like variety, disposability. We are stigmatised if we wear “that dress again” or something out of fashion or, perish the thought, from a charity shop. Some people step outside that and make a look of their own, a sort of shabby chic, a retro-look, a fixation with black. Perhaps that’s the answer. We become a nation of Goths. After all we feel miserable most of the time.

    I share your sentiments about Primark and on the two occasions I’ve stepped into that portal to consumer Hell I’ve felt as uncomfortable about it as you. The last time, I walked out again and went to the Salvation army shop instead, bought two t-shirts for £1.50 each, gave them the change from a fiver … and felt a lot better about myself. This is the way forward for some, but the snob in me confesses that the T-shirts were for Dog Junior to wear to keep her from licking at a wound .. but hey ho, she looked just fine in them.

    We’re all a part of the system. It takes an extraordinary effort to avoid complicity. Raised awareness is good. It can lead to change. Be happy with less, be creative and create your own style, support higher ethical standards when you identify them … and take a style lead from David … as far as I can see the poor chap only has one T-shirt and a pair of dark jeans, bless him.

    1. The issue for those in our society who struggle to clothe themselves and their kids (it’s very much the same with horse burgers and junk-food) is of course more tangled.

      Very true; it’s exactly like the horse-meat scandal.

      At the risk of sounding like a heartless Tory bigot with more money than compassion, if the size of our families better reflected the lifestyle we could comfortably afford for them, perhaps these things wouldn’t be such major issues and we’d all be happier for it. But that’s my answer to everything. I just like trees more than I like people.

    2. In the US, we have Goodwill stores that employ the needy and sell just about everything you can imagine that is second hand. My sister and I shop there and do not hesitate to say that this outfit is one of our “GW’s”. I’ve also gotten many household items at Goodwill. By shopping there, you are helping the needy as well as getting some very good bargains.

    3. “…that’s my answer to everything. I just like trees more than I like people.”

      Reminded me of this – couldn’t resist. 😛

      There was a slight variation … The Goon Show, was it? ♫I talk to the trees, that’s why they put me away♫

  8. Another well-written, well-researched, and thought-provoking topic, FEd. 😉

    I always appreciate your insight and enthusiasm for getting to the heart of the matter at hand.

    Peace ~

  9. And then there’s the destruction of cultural traditions that these sweatshops represent. The patchwork quilt is an American tradition that is holding on by threads (pun intended), because China makes most of them, these days! We have family quilts pieced from printed cotton flourcloth fabric from the Great Depression in which my Grandmothers and Great Aunts could point out which dresses they wore during the 1920s-30s as children! They could point out squares and triangles of floral print that belonged to soft cotton flour sackcloth made at the time to be reused and recycled to make quilts. They were and are beautiful, durable and warm! For us, it is not just a sentimental tribute to family but perfectly rational to cut up and reuse the family fabric! Over the years, I’ve taken the memorable pieces of clothing and made quilt squares. For me the issue of “what happens to the clothes” was of no question.

    I also make repairs once a year to clothes. Guess which ones require the most work?

  10. I can’t believe that you’re wearing a Nike T-shirt and smoking? FEd, you must be having a bad day. But I know how you feel with all these sweat shops like in China, Korea, and I am sure there are many more places that make clothing, shoes and many more items for pennies. The people that are making these items can hardly put food on their tables with such little pay. It’s really a shame. Something has to change.

    Take Care, Thomas

  11. Have you noticed on the UK high streets these shops that pay you by the kg of clothes you bring in?


  12. Without wishing to undermine the ethos of another intriguing blog from FEd, I thought I’d attempt to stitch together a topical A to Z (albeit somewhat tenuous in some cases) as a means of some light relief, so here goes…

    Arnold Layne – Pink Floyd
    Baggy Trousers – Madness
    Cover Me – Bruce Springsteen
    Dedicated Follower Of Fashion – The Kinks
    Emperor’s New Clothes – Sinead O’Connor
    Fashion – David Bowie
    Green Shirt – Elvis Costello
    Handbags and Gladrags – Stereophonics
    I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) – Genesis
    Jeans On – David Dundas
    Keep The Customer Satisfied – Simon & Garfunkel
    Living In The Material World – George Harrison
    Material Girl – Madonna
    No Jacket Required – Phil Collins
    Ol’ Rag Blues – Status Quo
    Princess In Rags – Gene Pitney
    Queen – Under Pressure
    Rag Doll – Four Seasons
    Spirits In The Material World – Police
    Tuxedo Junction – Glenn Miller Orchestra
    Up On The Catwalk – Simple Minds
    Vogue – Madonna
    Working For The Yankee Dollar – The Skids
    XTC – Senses Working Overtime
    You Wear It Well – Rod Stewart
    ZZ Top – Sharp Dressed Man

    1. Ooh, I want to play. Good idea for a Friday afternoon, Ken. Excellent stitching.

      Dirty Laundry – Don Henley
      Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress) – The Hollies
      Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag – James Brown

    2. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat – Bob
      Man In The Long Black Coat – Bob
      Donald Where’s Yer Troosers – Andy Stewart

      (Back to sunbathing now)

    3. Ken has done it again. :))

      [Do shoes qualify for this?]

      Fairies Wear Boots – Black Sabbath
      Jean Genie – David Bowie
      Bell Bottom Blues – Derek and the Dominoes
      Diamonds On The Soles Of He Shoes – Paul Simon

      …and this precious little number (crap recording/video) – love the honky tonk.

      I could do this for the remainder of the day …

    4. Can I join in?

      The Needle and the Damage Done – Neil Young
      Blue Suede Shoes – Elvis Presley
      You Can Leave Your Hat On – Randy Newman


    5. Man in a Box – Alice in Chains.

      OK, so I am reaching here.



  13. Clothing By Floyd– I’ll be back with more of these: I couldn’t resist (after all, I’m a dyed in the wool Floydian!) 🙂

    – Any Colour You Like
    – “One of these days I’m going to cut you into little pieces!”
    – “…and the inevitable pinhole burns all down the front of my favorite satin shirt!”
    – “I’ve got elastic bands keeping my shoes on…”
    – “I’ve got a pair of Gohills boots and I’ve got faded roots…”

    1. Wearing the Inside Out

      Women in my family have the same ” thing ” about fabrics Sharon. 🙂


  14. ‘Lo all. 🙂 …FEd,

    Great topic again. Never been a cat walk queen or fashion victim (except the time “me mom bought me a pair of brown baggies” with a “tartan waistband”, way back in the 70s). And must admit have never paid that much attention to conditions, pay that cheap/expensive clothing that workers who produce endure. I will in future reflect. Although I tend to wear my jeans till the knees and ass wear out, not buy them ready made, if you know what I mean.

    Can vaguely remember something called Benetton causing a bit of a stir years ago? There has been some focus in the press about electrical items/mobile phone/PC workers’ conditions, pay etc. in China of all places. Who would have tweeted that eh?

    Anyway hope this fits.

    Have fun all.

  15. Coming to you from the 3 Sheets to the Wind Pink Floyd Line:

    “Arnold Lane had a strange hobby. Collecting clothes… they suit him fine…distorted view, see-through baby blue…”

    “Put on a gown that touches the ground…”

    “Shopping in sharp shoes…”

    “In yellow shoes I get the blues…with my blue velvet trousers…there’s a kind of stink about blue velvet trousers. In my paisley shirt I look and jerk, and my waistcoat is quite out of sight….And my pants and socks …they don’t make long of my nylon socks…And all the lot, it’s what I’ve got, it’s what I wear, it’s what you see, it must be me, it’s what I am!”

    “Every night I turn the light out, waiting for the velvet bride…”

    “When night comes down you lock the door, the boot falls to the floor…”

    “And who’s the fool that wears the crown?”

    “So all things time will mend, so this song will end.”

    “You raise the blade, you make the change…”

    “Oh by the way, which one’s pink?”

    “So, do you think you can tell…a smile from a veil…”

    “Pile on many more layers, and I’ll be joining you there. ”

    “After a while, you can work on points of style, like a club tie and a firm handshake…”

    “Who was fitted with collar and chain?”

    “You’re hot stuff with a hatpin.”

    “You’ll just have to claw your way through this disguise.”

    “if you should go skating…”

    “Mama will keep baby cosy and warm…”

    “Hey you! Standing in the aisles with itchy feet and faded smiles…”

    “You better make your face up in your favorite disguise, with your button down lip and your roller blind eyes…”

    “Waiting! To put on a black shirt…”

    “Stop! I wanna go home! Take off this uniform and leave the show…”

    “Her cold eyes imploring the men in her macs…”

    “Of our possible pasts lie in tatters and rags.”

    “Or was it the hand of fate, that seemed to fit just like a glove?”

    “Button your lip and don’t let the shield slip. Take a fresh grip on your bulletproof mask. And if they try to break down your disguise with their questions…”

    “A man in black on a snow white horse…”

    “She stands upon Southampton Dock with her handkerchief and her summer frock…”

    “I never had the nerve to make the final cut.”

    “I don’t know what it is, but it fits on here like this!”

    Wearing the Inside Out

    Take it Back

    “There was a ragged band that followed in our footsteps…”

    The Final Cut

    “Across the stream with wooden shoes, bells to tell the king the news…”

    “He wore a scarlet tunic. A blue-green hood, it looked quite good…”

    “The black and green scarecrow as everyone knows, stood with a bird on his hat and straw everywhere, he didn’t care…”

    “I’ve got a cloak, it’s a bit of a joke. There’s a tear up the front, it’s red and black, I’ve had it for months. If you think it could look good, then I guess it should. You’re the kind of girl that fits in with my world…”

    “His boots were very clean…”

    “And I’m grateful that you threw away my old shoes and brought me here instead dressed in red!”

    Green is the Colour: “White is the light that shines through the dress that you wore…”

    1. *blushes* Thank you! Truly gratifying “research” if you could call it that, it was really fun!! Syd Barrett certainly loved his clothing!

    2. Wow, that’s quite a wardrobe there Sharon. You can add these, to fill it (if you have any Empty Spaces):

      Let There Be More Light – “For there revealed in glowing robes, was Lucy in the sky”

      The Gunners Dream – “And touch the silk in your lapel” and “You never hear their standard issue kicking in your door”

      Learning To Fly – “Into the distance, a ribbon of black”

      On The Turning Away – “And casting its shroud over all we have known”

    3. Wow, thanks for catching those missing pieces, Ken!

      There’s a whole untouched closet full of solo work that I entirely missed as well (note that I gave up on alphabetizing).

  16. It is extremely tragic the work ethics throughout the world! The only way we can know that what we purchase was not involved in the mis-treatment of others, the planet or safe for consumption is if we go back to the very basics and process it from start to finish. Most of us do not have the land to grow the cotton, hemp, animals for wool, etc. to do so or the area it would take to set up the looms/spinning wheels etc. to process it into material that we need. I have looked into sewing but even then it is hard to find items made local (even made in the USA).

    Growing up my clothes were mostly home made till I was about 18. Then I mostly bought used or clothes were given to me. The last decade I have bought some clothing. It is better to buy quality and not quantity. But to find labels that are local is nearly impossible. Even looking at higher end stores. In 1980s there was a big push to by local. It opened up a lot of people’s eyes how challenging to find local merchandise is. Food you can find but other needs not so easily.

    Everyone’s comments are so wise. And, as always FEd, your topic is thought provoking.

    Love the list of songs with clothes in the title Ken. Very creative.

  17. … again a post that hits the nail on the head. As an atheist I do not believe in paradise, but it seems to me, that we manage well to make living on earth a hellish experience…

    It seems like a catch 22 to me. If I’m buying cheap, I’m exploiting the workers. If I’m buying expensive, I’m getting exploited. If I keep my clothes as long as possible, the workers’ jobs are in jeopardy. If …

    I decided long ago to buy only clothes that aren’t ridiculous cheap or expensive for the average consumer and to keep them until either they are falling in pieces or they do not fit any more.


  18. This is off at a tangent a bit but relevant to the clothes we buy.

    I’m listening to the news about closures of high street shops because of the recession and the rise in online shopping. I wonder what will fill these empty premises (I should have tried to say, “what shall we use to fill the empty spaces?” :)) ). Anyway, charity shops? They get short term leases and don’t have to pay so much in rent and business rates.

    More post offices might be a good idea because of all the returns there will be from all this online shopping. There could be different ones for different types and sizes of packages. A huge supermarket sized one for women returning poor quality clothes whose fabric they couldn’t feel for quality and whose labels they couldn’t check online for country of origin, but really because women just love to shop and doing it online saves time instead of all that tramping round the shops. What will men do now on a Saturday afternoon when the women want company? :))

    A very much smaller size for returning small electrical goods like kettles and toasters, hairdryers shavers, lamps.

    Wrong size screws? Unused rolls of decorating paper? There’s been a downturn in DIY stores’ profits apparently. My god, are we all buying new instead of repairing, redecorating, making our own?

    Consider the increase in road haulage transporting all our packages.

    Mind boggling and a whole afternoon and evening giggling about it in a pub garden (Pavlov? New venue instead of kitchen table?)

    Maybe we should try to get shops like Primark to turn their shops into sewing factories. One of the three floors (Fed 🙂 ) could be their post room for sales and receipt of returns. The other one could be turned into new living spaces for some of their new sewing machinists. Their rent and rates could contribute to the city centre premium rent and rates the company has to pay.

    I find it very worrying about what the motives of our government might be when they are pushing hard to privatise the Royal Mail when there is a boom in mail packages about to begin. Never mind my fun/doom ideas about the shop premises (worrying though that is), this mad government is about to sell off another publicly owned asset!! You have to ask why.

    Any budding entrepreneurs out there who like my ideas, I wanna cut in your profits. 😉


    1. I’m absolutely investing in one of those “soon to be vacant” high-end shops and pub garden (an indoor garden with great LED lighting) is the ideal use for it Ash. :)) We’ll have Tim advise us on financial matters (no mattresses I’m afraid Tim, unless we designate a place to rest our weary heads for a short time after all the guffawing). Naturally there’ll be lots of beer — international beer and munchies (wursts come to mind), wine and all sorts of other goodies. We’ll get subsidies from somewhere — after all, it’s for the common good, no? That’ll be a starting point and we can come up with more ideas over drinks and eats (yeah, right!).

    2. Here in the States, the Feds are defunding the postal service and imposing expensive regulations to the point where the postal service (which has been self-sufficient since the beginning) is on the brink of insolvency. And then they blame this state on the Postal Service itself! For those like me who are paying attention, it is clear that the Feds are trying to make it better for FedEx and UPS. But I challenge you to find anyone else who can deliver a small letter across the continent within three days for less than 50 cents? When the Postal Service is done in, who’ll deliver those letters?

  19. Wowwww. You guys have nailed this blog down and made it humorous to boot. 🙂 (Pun intended.)

    and…there you go again Pavlov, being all genius on the subject. 🙂

    ♥♥ A special award should be give to Sharon, that was just amazing. ♥♥

    Unfortunately I am not clever in this way. 🙁

    So I’ll leave it at that.

    Reading this blog always fascinates me, so much good information in very intelligent and entertaining ways.

  20. So many talented people on this topic.

    How ’bout Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'”? “Lady in Red” – Chris De Burgh?

  21. What you have said, New York Dan, exactly my concerns too. The postal service has done a wonderful job! I have always been impressed with the cost, how efficient they are, the many service provided (general delivery) being a nice one of many, and their speed. I figured they were being pushed out so the private companies can rape us when the postal service asked to discontinue Saturdays. And they were denied. Anything that is a good service and works well seems to be doomed. Heck, they want to get rid of public television. Can not have the general public having too much of a thought process. Glad to see others seeing the same thing I am.

    Guess the “Us and Them” forever will be…. As long as the people running our governments treat the people as trapped consumers.

  22. Interesting that Ash mentioned how the push to privatize the Royal Mail is also occurring on the other side of the pond. Strange what governments push to eliminate.

  23. I really wanted to contribute to this blog a bit more, but as I peruse my closet all I observe is a blur of blue denim jeans, T-shirts and tops in various colors and plain white tennis shoes. 😀 Practically all of the sweaters given to me, usually as Christmas gifts, are still in boxes. I hate sweaters. 🙁

    I haven’t owned a dress for more than 4 years, and then it was only 1 or 2 versatile little dresses. I am in no way a clothes horse and never have been. When I worked I wore uniforms and simple tops. I actually hate buying clothes or shopping for anything for that matter. 🙁 I only buy gifts online if I’m familiar with the website. Not that often really, we have a small family now.

    The blog is about cheap clothing so I checked out some tags on my jeans and came up with, Lee, Arizona, Chic, and Levi. Other tags were indecipherable. I can no longer read the tags inside the jeans, I’m telling you, I haven’t bought new ones for a couple of years. 🙁 Denim lasts forever. 🙂

    Tennis shoes are Keds and Grasshoppers, simple. I’ve always loved them and I stick with what I like. T-shirt tags don’t survive washing so that tells me nothing. Soooo, I went online and checked out some of the company websites and they do not tell you where the clothing is made (I wonder why).

    I am a compassionate person and I DO believe that something should be done about the sweatshops. The loss of one person’s life is not worth having cheap clothing to me, let alone the number (1,127) of lives lost in the Dhaka factory fire. It makes me physically ill to think of it. Human exploitation is a disgrace in Asia, and anywhere else for that matter.

    I was thinking back to the ’60s and all of the protests and boycotts. If someone got a good protest going against companies that utilize sweatshops, I would be one of the first to climb onboard. Where is our social conscience nowadays? I no longer have the energy to stand on university campuses and protest, and it is not my place now. Young people have to become passionate again, to care about their fellow man, fight for human rights and stand up for what is good and just in this world. It is the young that are going to inherit this world, pathetic as it may be.

    Say what you want about the ’60s but we did change the world in many, many ways. I think back to Janis Joplin and her shabby chic clothes purchased from second hand thrift shops. We followed her lead and loved it. The clothes were great because they were already “broken in.” 🙂 Especially the jeans.

  24. Bro, you can wear a NIKE T-shirt anytime. Just be yourself, don’t let NIKE overcome you. Wearing an expensive or inexpensive shirt won’t change you, unless you do because of it.

  25. So the appropriate protest here would be for FEd to organize a day sans clothing. Just bring a paper bag with you to sit on so you don’t stick to everything. Towel would be more comfortable but that may have been made in Bangladesh as well.



    1. Now that is a horrible, horrible thought.

      Towel Day is great, though. We should all carry towels with us, as they come in very handy. Paper ones wouldn’t be as good…

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