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The Case for Expensive Clothes


Stashed in: Brain, Couture, Psychology!, Consumers, Personal Finance

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Hey, it's an argument in favor of a more thoughtful approaching to spending.

There's an interesting logic at play here:

If you’ve ever found yourself buying clothes just because they’re cheap, or if shopping itself has become a form of entertainment for you, I’ve got a proposal: The next time you buy something, spend a whole lot on it. Enough that it makes you sweat a little.

The point is to make you pause and ask yourself, “How much do I really want this?”

It all comes down to the brain's pleasure of acquiring vs pain of paying:

The process for all of us, whether we’re shopping at Forever 21 or Prada, is psychologically similar. Researchers have found that the insula—the part of the brain that registers pain—plays a role in purchase decisions. Our brain weighs the pleasure of acquiring against the pain of paying. As clothing prices decline, that pain does too, making shopping easy entertainment, disconnecting it from our actual clothing needs. It’s something I think of whenever I stumble on the haul videos that have blown up on YouTube in the last few years.

To restore that balance, the price of the clothing we consider purchasing should be high enough that it “hurts” at least a little—and for me, around $150 fulfills that requirement.

Higher priced clothing might reduce the likelihood of worker exploitation.

The quality of my clothing is noticeably better since I set my goal. Cheap clothes are cheap for a reason. Giant retailers keep prices down through economies of scale. They pay less per garment to manufacture 10,000 pieces rather than 1,000, and often want factories to do the work in a short time frame. There’s truth in the saying, “Fast, good, or cheap. Pick two.”

Companies also reduce costs by using lower-quality fabrics and the least-expensive construction methods available. Those lesser ingredients make for an inferior finished product.

Of course, it’s the workers sewing the clothes who are typically being squeezed most by the pressure to keep costs down. I’m all in favor of retailers employing people in countries such as China, Bangladesh, and Vietnam to make clothes. Those jobs have provided essential economic development and are critical to many in warding off poverty. But I think those workers should be paid better—and I’m happy to pay extra if it means their wages are substantial. That’s unlikely when the retail price of a pair of jeans or a shirt is less than $20.

If you buy more expensive clothing, it doesn’t guarantee that your clothes will be exceptionally well-made, or that workers haven’t been exploited in their making. (Some would argue that, at some point in the garment’s production, someone was probably exploited.)

And even expensive clothes are responsible for polluting the environment when the textiles they’re made from are dyed, and when they’re eventually discarded and left to sit in a landfill.

But it may reduce the likelihood of worker exploitation. And if nothing else, spending more should mean buying—and wasting—less. And it hopefully means buying from the brand that came up with the design, rather than one copying it—fast-fashion and some other low-price labels are notorious for knocking off other designers.

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