Or only #30wears, some mistake surely?
How often do you wear any given garment in your closet? Apparently, for most women, the answer is not very often. Indeed, it is said that in many cases clothes are bought but are never worn. The #30wears campaign is the brainchild of Eco-Age’s Livia Firth and aims to make fashion more sustainable by the simple expedient of getting more wear out of it. The campaign has been successful on social media and many female fashion bloggers have written about it.
In brief, Ms Firth recommends that when buying any item of clothing you should ask:
- Will I wear it at least 30 times?
- Is it a high quality piece?
- Will it last for at least 30 washes?
- Will I still want to wear in six months or a year?
I presume an exception may be made for wedding dresses.
The male view on #30wears
My first reaction was, only #30wears? A lot of my clothes are only getting broken in at #30wears. I know some raw denim fans who will not even have washed their jeans for the first time at the #30wears mark. Come to think of it, I know some men who won’t have washed any of their clothes after #30wears. Yes, it’s different for guys. It is also easier. We are under less pressure than women to wear different outfits and we have fewer options to choose from. Winter or summer, formal or casual, our basic wardrobe is usually a variation on pants and tops.
The above guidelines, and I prefer to call them guidelines rather than rules, may be aimed at women but they do apply equally to men. Any man who is serious about sustainable style should be taking the time to think about and build on the #30wears guidelines.
So why #30wears?
1. Wear often, wear green
Quite simply, it is more environmentally friendly to maximise the use of any resource, including clothing. The environmental damage caused by the clothing industry does not stop at manufacture or distribution. Catastrophic levels of waste are caused by our casual and careless chucking of clothes after a few wears. This can be counteracted by getting as much wear as possible from any given garment and significantly reducing the amount of material being thrown away. For example, wearing the same shirt thirty times as opposed to replacing it every three wears will reduce your waste generation by 90%.
#30wears is 30 steps towards a more sustainable fashion industry. Every time you rewear an item of clothing you are actively changing society’s relationship with the fashion industry. By consciously looking for better quality, longer lasting clothes you are encouraging the development of an ethical clothing industry. We know that consumer patterns affect business. The fast fashion industry relies on a large market of people buying cheap and buying often. Without that market, the economic imperative will force change upon the industry’s current model. By buying less and by buying better, you are becoming an agent of change.
2. Wear less, wear better
I believe that best solution for a man wanting to be both ethical and elegant is to live with a small wardrobe of stylish pieces. Your wardrobe should be centred on the idea of owning fewer but better clothes that all work together in a coherent style. One way of achieving #30wears with all your clothing is by concentrating on only buying clothes that work with what you already have. By avoiding impulse buys and really considering every purchase you will build a better, greener wardrobe faster. In so doing you will also be focusing on improving the character of and relationships within your wardrobe.
3. Wear green, save green
For the man on a budget, wearing less better does not just look good, it is also more cost effective. As with the waste equation above, the maths is quite simple.
Taking a €30 shirt and wearing it 30 times, the effective cost-per-wear is just €1. Were you to wear the same shirt just three times, the cost-per-wear rises to €10. However, the real value here is in the over-time savings. Were you to wear the same shirt three times and then throw it out in favour of a new one, the cumulative cost for #30wears would be €300. Accordingly, wearing the shirt in this example 30 times represents a nett gain to you of €270. There will be a small additional cost in terms of laundry and/or repairs but that is minimal.
Further, the unspent money can be put towards buying other long-wearing pieces that will exponentially increase the money saved. Taking €250 of the money saved and investing in a jacket that you then wear ten times more than you would with a cheaper, lower quality one, generates a saving of €2,250. Obviously, some clothes last better and give greater savings but as a rough guideline the #30wears principle will save you money over time. For the man trying to dress well on a budget this is an important way of stretching the pennies.
How to achieve #30wears
If you are serious about getting good use from your clothes, you will need to change more than your buying patterns. In addition to the guidelines set out above, there are a number of things you can do to extend the life of your clothes and increase the wear you are getting from them.
Don’t over-wear clothes
Counter intuitively, not over-wearing your clothes will allow you to wear them more often. No matter how much you like something, you should not wear it every day. Every other day is better as it gives the garment time to rest. When I worked outside the home, I would change out of my suit as soon as I came home in the evening, carefully hanging it and leaving it to air for a day or two. Whatever your work clothes, this is always a good practice.
Air your clothes
Ideally, you should be hanging your clothes outside to air; sunshine and fresh air are effective natural cleansers. But even hanging them indoors will help. Failing to hang clothes causes them to lose shape, wrinkle, and marinate in the smells and dirt of your working day.
Don’t over-wash your clothes
Airing your clothes does not mean you can avoid washing them but you should try to avoid over-washing them. Obviously, socks, underwear, some shirts, will need washing after every wear, but most clothes do not. When you must wash your clothes, do so at the lowest effective temperature with a gentle, environmentally friendly detergent. Drip drying is preferable as it is less damaging to fabric and reduces the amount of wrinkling often caused by tumble drying. For most clothes, spot cleaning combined with airing and proper storage will extend the working life of your clothes between washes.
Repair before you recyle
Nor should you overlook repairing aging clothes. Lost buttons, separating seams, even small tears can be repaired. While previous generations were used to mending and making do, most men no longer have the skills to do so themselves. Every man needs to know a good tailor, one who can add a little extra life to your clothes when practical. Remember the old saying a stitch in time saves nine (wears)!
My experience of #30wears
As a viewing of my Instagram account will show, I already tend to wear the same clothes very often. This has been accentuated during the last eight months in Paris as I have been living out of a suitcase. I do not keep count but as a general rule I get far more than #30wears from my clothes. As I said, it is easier for men and I always try to buy stuff that will wear well.
Doing a mental inventory of my wardrobe, the oldest item I own is a Donegal tweed jacket which I bought about twenty years ago (technically, in the last century) and which I still wear regularly. I bought it in a charity shop so, quite possibly, it had been worn more than 30 times before I ever wore it.
The least worn item in my core wardrobe is probably my dinner suit and that will eventually achieve #30wears. It is only the second dinner suit I own. Its predecessor, which did pass the 30wear mark – I must have been invited to more formal events during the Celtic Tiger years – is still at the back of my wardrobe. I am hanging onto it in the vague hope that I will someday regain the waist I had in my early 30s (it’s not just women who think like this).
As I write, I’m wearing a 14 year old pair of Gucci loafers that I bought (in a sale) the year before my son was born. They are now quite worn but have a few years of life left in them. As they are one of the most of comfortable pairs of shoes I have ever owned, I intend wearing them until they are beyond repair.
It would appear that like Moliere’s M Jourdain with prose, I have been practising #30wears all my life!
“Well wear” is a common expression in Hiberno-English. It is a compliment often offered to someone wearing a new piece of clothing; it is admiring the wearer’s taste and hoping they will get good wear from it. By the way, it is not limited to clothing, it is often used for any new possession from watches to cars. The origins are unclear; it may be a rough translation of an old Irish saying or a contraction of “well may you wear it”. Regardless, it fits nicely with the #30wears concept. So the next time someone wishes you “well wear”, you can respond with “at least 30 times”.
#30wears and the male wardrobe
While my response is somewhat tongue in cheek, I do appreciate the value of the #30wears campaign. If you have not already incorporated these practices into your wardrobe shopping and maintenance, they are a good starting point. In an ideal world we would all be buying sustainable eco-friendly clothes. But it is not always practical to do so, whether for reasons of cost, fit or availability. If you must buy less green conscious clothing, then maximising the wear is one way of minimising their impact on the environment.
As a man you will probably have a reasonably compact core wardrobe compared to most women. You will have fewer choices in what you can and cannot wear in your day to day life. While some men lament the restrictions of contemporary dress codes, you should see this as a strength, not a weakness. With less pressure to follow the vagaries of fashion, the thoughtful man can more easily concentrate of getting more wear from his wardrobe. Indeed, the relative conservatism of the traditional older man’s wardrobe is an ideal base for building an ethical wardrobe.