the lifecycle of discarded clothes
April 26, 2015 7:02 AM   Subscribe

Unravel ‘Maybe the water is too expensive to wash them’: a short documentary on how Indian women recast and recycle the clothes the West throws away
posted by dhruva (45 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wow...that was really interesting.

I guess this is why stuffed animals and such always have those tags that say "new materials only"?

What happens to the blankets? It says they travel to the west again? Are they sold here? Are they all that mixed-blah colour or is that just the colour they were making that day? It seems strange to sort clothes by colour and then mix everything back together in the blanket.

Hmmm...so I found this web site of panipat blankets for sale. They are not all mixed-blah colour. In fact, I'm pretty sure that those blankets under "pet blankets" are ones I've bought at Dollarama. However, the blankets are sorted by material (cotton, acrylic etc.), and I don't imagine they could do that with these recycled blankets, right? The recycled must be mixed fibre.

It looks like this web page (which includes a link to a report on clothing recyling) is part of the same project that produced the movie.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:30 AM on April 26, 2015


I was surprised that while they sort the clothing for colour, they don't seem to sort it for fibre content. I'm surprised that anything useful can be produced out of yarn made from wildly divergent fibre types.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:31 AM on April 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm getting an error that says the video's privacy setting prevent it from being played.

However, the summary reminds me NPR's Planet Money. They did a fascinating series of podcasts last year on the life cycle of a T-Shirt.
posted by COD at 7:46 AM on April 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


That's a whole lot of feelings all at once...

- my God we do get rid of our clothes awfully fast, what's WRONG with us?
- wait, if we did all stop and got more conservative with our clothes this is an entire industry that'd dry up and that's not good either.
- she seems so HAPPY. God love her. Man, now I want her to be able to travel the way she wants.
- wait, what would she think of her own life if she did, though?

....the link "if I only had a penguin" posted does give some good context - the blankets these are used to make go mostly to Southeast Asia and aren't great quality. And the clothes that are getting sent here are deemed unsalvageable by the thrift store market for some reason, although that wedding dress seemed awfully intact so who knows what's "unsalvageable".

We in the west are so spoiled sometimes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:47 AM on April 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


Unsalvageable often means badly stained, so in that sense, 'they just don't want to wash them' is kind of true. Though there wasn't a giant red wine splotch visible in the video or anything that serious, pale coloured stains might not have shown up on film that would have been visible in person.

That wedding dress looked like it might have been homemade -- it was quite a simple design. Demand for used wedding dresses is already not great, because women want that once-in-a-lifetime dress, and demand for homesewn anything is also very low.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:10 AM on April 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


That was lovely. She was lovely. I like the parts where they laughed at the clothes. [holds up bathing suit - "That's the whole outfit!"]
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:26 AM on April 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


I used to volunteer sorting clothes with a big thrift organization, and we had a contract with a rag recycler. How it works is, we sorted out the usable clothing from the unusable clothing -- and to be unusable, it had to be REALLY GROSS ... super-stained, reeking of mildew, etc. We tossed all of that into a bin for the ragman.

The ragman then sorts it again and "grades" it. Like, denim can be recycled into "better" things than other rag and is easily picked out (it becomes insulation). Light-colored cottons can be recycled into higher-end paper. Sweaters get turned into thread; "mixed rag" (various fibers and colors) become industrial rags like for wiping down machinery, or turned into upholstery stuffing, carpet padding, etc. It's a whole process and the ragman basically sorts it out and sends it onward to the next applicable industry.

Other thrift stores (like Goodwill) send on their unsold stock, so the ragman would in that case send the usable clothes onward (usually to the third world), and lots of textile recyclers (the proper name for "ragman") also take leftover logo stuff or IP-violating logo stuff of whatever, which is why you see the guy in the video wearing a perfectly fine "Bud Light" T-shirt.

The economics of how the clothes get sorted and graded is different in the third-world -- I just sort of have that piece of hazy knowledge, I don't really know HOW it's different, but sending stuff on is often more profitable even though it then gets regraded -- but most of the time if you're donating or recycling clothing in the US, they're going to be "graded" in the US and they have to be in PRETTY BAD SHAPE to end up in the rag pile. In fact, that might be why so much usable stuff ends up in India -- the ragman in the US pick off the really bad stuff for their local industrial recycling, and send the fairly usable clothing onwards to the third world where they get a slightly better price for "clothes" than "rags" and the Indian graders then grade it as appropriate for their market.

Also the parts where they sort clothes were very familiar to me, because all the volunteers sorting were women at my thrift store, and we did basically the same thing ... sort, sort, sort, make fun of old 80s clothes, tease each other about wearing crazy things, try on insane cowhide vests with 12" fringe, sort, sort, sort.

BTW, if you have a bunch of gross stuff you want to get rid of but save from the landfill, and there's no textile recycler in your area that you know of, you can usually bag it all in a trash bag and label it "RAGS" and drop it at St. Vincent de Paul or Goodwill ... they earn a little money selling rags to the textile recyclers, and if you pre-label it they don't have to bother sorting it. They do sell it by the bale, which is a LOT of raggedy clothes, but yours helps make the bale! You can always call and ask -- virtually every thrift store has a contract either with a ragman or with a lower-down-the-food-chain thrift store that has a contract with a ragman. They'll know where your stuff should go. (PS, whoever the lowest-on-the-stuff-totem-pole thrift store in your area is will probably also come pick up all your unsold shit at the end of your garage sale, including furniture, electronics, etc. Anything they can either sell, or recycle at a small profit. Around here it's Goodwill; where my mom lives it's Salvation Army; AmVets is another big one.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:34 AM on April 26, 2015 [49 favorites]


That was a lovely, really well done film. I particularly liked how extensively the women's voices were used, explaining the process and giving their perspectives and explanations of what they were seeing. Some moments really cracked me up, like when the woman talked about watching British women on the Discovery Channel, and when the older women expressed such sympathy for women forced to wear such impractical underwear.

Used clothes here have basically no value, unless they fall into the very narrow category of "vintage" or "retro." Every step of the process is so inexpensive, from production through to transportation, that I am wearing items made on the far side of the world and when I discard them they will be baled up and sent again around the world.

As was said above, I hope she gets her dream to travel and see the world with her own eyes.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:47 AM on April 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Amusingly, used denim used to be literally turned into money. There was used jeans in your US dollars. This isn't the case anymore as most jeans are no longer made of pure enough denim so now they buy the material for the bills brand new.
posted by srboisvert at 9:04 AM on April 26, 2015


Oh, I also really liked the bits of the stories about the people who first owned the clothes that they were making up. When you sort used clothes for a long time, you do a LOT of that, almost involuntarily, and if you're sorting with other people, a MAJOR topic of conversation becomes "Who was the person who owned this?"

"Oh, man, I bet she worse this to do country-western karaoke." "No, no, in my head she was in a biker gang that really liked fringe ..."

But we would frequently get a big bundle of donations all from one household and then you actually COULD piece together a bit of narrative ... "Oh, man, this woman lost a LOT of weight, good for her," or "Oh, look, maternity clothes, infant outfits, and a bunch of obscene T-shirts, this guy decided no more swear words around his new baby." You could just tell when someone had died and you were sorting the totality of their leftover wardrobe (and usually how old they were). You could sometimes make a pretty good guess that someone had just started a first job, or changed careers, or retired. You could tell when kids went through growth spurts based on the size and seasonality of donations of old kids' clothes. It was just ENDLESSLY fascinating.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:28 AM on April 26, 2015 [28 favorites]


So many interesting images, the girl at the cutting plant in the discarded wedding dress, the rag-factory where the workers keep pictures of women in bathing suits above the machines, and her optimism.
posted by cacofonie at 9:39 AM on April 26, 2015


That was delightful, the women were wonderful. It really puts a different spin on waste by framing it through the eyes of these women trying to imagine how we live and what our world must be like. I laughed with them -- but it's thought provoking.

Eyebrows MCGee thanks for adding your knowledge and experiences to the thread, too - very interesting!
posted by madamjujujive at 9:55 AM on April 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just a note--the comments on the film: Not awful.
posted by hexatron at 10:07 AM on April 26, 2015


It doesn't take much of a stain to ruin a piece of clothing. As for washing - how many people wash stuff that they're basically discarding.
posted by wotsac at 10:17 AM on April 26, 2015


Those people are beautiful. The main character's smile, carried the film.
posted by Oyéah at 10:34 AM on April 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't understand the part at the beginning about "slashing" the clothes just after they're imported; they say it's to avoid them being stolen. But if they're more valuable before you do it, why not just sell them as they are?

Anyway this was fascinating and lovely.
posted by bracems at 10:43 AM on April 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm getting an error that says the video's privacy setting prevent it from being played.

Yeah, I can’t play any of the videos on Aeon.co in Firefox (current release version). I was assuming it was because of one of my privacy-preserving browser extensions, but after wasting time selectively turning off adblock, etc., I disabled all extensions and restarted Firefox. Still have that damn message. They are using Vimeo to host, but Vimeo itself works (as it did before I disabled anything). I vaguely remember encountering this problem with Aeon.co before.

Went to Safari (with adblock and a few other things installed). Loads just fine.
posted by D.C. at 10:51 AM on April 26, 2015


my God we do get rid of our clothes awfully fast, what's WRONG with us?

This is kind of a complicated answer and it is not as much 'what's wrong with us' as you think.

I have a somewhat unusual perspective, coming from unassimilated immigrant stock. My grandmother and mother were both housewives who had been trained by housewives who had been trained by housewives who thought that the pinnacle of achievement was to know everything about a household, and who raised girls inside the household and didn't send them to compulsory public school.

My mother and grandmother knew how to remove even the most difficult of stains from clothing through hand washing. They knew how to cleverly mend a garment so that you would never know it had been mended. If a garment were somehow rendered completely unusable - which was rare - they would sew it into something else. And they spent hours and hours of unpaid labor - which we romanticize as loving, but actually was motherfucking hard - engaging in that stuff at the same time as they made delicious home cooked meals and basically did everything else too. I literally cannot remember one of my grandmothers ever sitting down to relax - ever in my entire life! - she was always working.

Here in America we have made a conscious rejection several decades ago of women existing as the unpaid slaves of their family, and you know what? It's fucking good. It's fucking good that when my daughter gets home from her just-like-the-boys education, she gets to spend an hour or two reading a book or experiencing leisure, not mending the family's socks. I fucking get almost an orgasmic thrill when I see a badly torn sock and know that I don't have to mend it, I can just throw it in the scrap box and buy more. And if I already have that fabric, I can throw it away! It's wonderful. And you know, my mother and grandmother aren't/weren't sad about that - they were happy that I could live a much more rewarding existence than they could.
posted by corb at 11:35 AM on April 26, 2015 [46 favorites]


I don't understand the part at the beginning about "slashing" the clothes just after they're imported; they say it's to avoid them being stolen. But if they're more valuable before you do it, why not just sell them as they are?

The people who bought the clothing did so specifically so they could bring it to their factory, rag it, turn it into thread, and weave it into blankets. So they want to be sure that it isn't stolen by people who want to wear it or resell it. It's a matter of what the buyer wants to do with it, and has invested in equipment to do with it, not what could be done with it.
posted by limeonaire at 11:39 AM on April 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't understand the part at the beginning about "slashing" the clothes just after they're imported; they say it's to avoid them being stolen. But if they're more valuable before you do it, why not just sell them as they are?

There are tariffs and duties on clothes imported to India--they seem to be between 10% and 20%. Ruining the clothes doubtless avoids this.
posted by hexatron at 11:44 AM on April 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Ok, 100,000 tonnes of clothes per year. Wow. That is one of those numbers I am unable to grasp. Maybe it's naive but I was glad to see so many of the workers smiling. That is not the image the media has left in my mind regarding garment factories in India.
posted by Glinn at 11:52 AM on April 26, 2015


my God we do get rid of our clothes awfully fast, what's WRONG with us?

Lemme know when you find a pair of jeans under $200, or a good flannel under $100 that doesn't fall apart in a year.

My clothes fit properly and everything, but they just fall apart. I switched to buying used and thrift only a few years back not to ~make a statement~ but because I don't own the machinery to make old jeans in to money, and this shit was getting ridiculous.

It doesn't seem to really matter what brand it is. If it's something reasonably within firing distance of someone in their early 20s who isn't making 6 figures in Silicon Valley, it falls apart. And I have my doubts that the more expensive stuff is that much better.

This isn't an us problem, or an lol stupid Americans problem. It's on the manufacturing side and I haven't found a reasonable way to vote with my dollars yet.

It's everything too. Pants, socks, underwear, shoes, t shirts, button ups of various stripes, jackets. The only stuff I have that's really lasted is decent boots and older jackets. Everything else is self destructing garbage. I'm not looking for "oh, buy this brand!" type advice either because the problem is how much of the market is saturated with crap. Even if I buy something better, everyone else is still buying it.

My toe just popped out of a sock I've worn maybe 8-10 times yesterday. Fuckin cmon guys.

I even make a point of washing my jeans and shirts and stuff less often to try and prolong their life, but nope. Barely makes a difference.
posted by emptythought at 1:01 PM on April 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


I went to an estate sale Saturday. The owners must have been in their 90s, and lived there for 50 or 60 years. It's an older established neighborhood. They did sewing and carpentry. The basement had a wood shop. The owners must have adopted these thrifty, useful hobbies in the Great Depression or WWII (or later, but the mentality persisted that you should make it yourself, fix it, mend it). Sadly, the wood shop looked seriously neglected, as if the old guy (I'm assuming guy) lost his skills or strength and then just couldn't make the stairs anymore. Similarly, the sewing stuff got a hoardy appearance.
posted by bad grammar at 1:06 PM on April 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I ripped the armhole seams out of a "heritage" style chambray shirt when attempting to pick up a monstrous empty file cabinet (not at that estate sale, last summer). I cut the sleeves out and kept the shirt. I doubt that would have happened with the real thing, the original worker shirt.
posted by bad grammar at 1:11 PM on April 26, 2015


Glinn: "That is not the image the media has left in my mind regarding garment factories in India."

To be fair these are UNgarment factories.

Garment factories do the piecework sewing, which is just fucking miserable work, even with a sewing machine. Many parts of clothing manufacture are essentially completely mechanized, but constructing an actual garment still requires a human to put the pieces of cloth together and guide them through the machine. It isn't HEAVY labor, but it's eye-straining, back-aching, detail-requiring, tendonitis-giving, mind-numbingly-boring work when you do it more than a couple of hours at a time. These women are moving around physically among the piles of clothes, sorting colors, etc., rather than hunching over a sewing machine for 10 hours a day. I don't know how the pay compares, but having sorted discarded clothes for many hours AND being a sewist who's hunched over a machine for many hours just for funsies, the sorting is way, way easier on your body in the short term.

(That said, garment manufacturing in India isn't the bottom of the barrel, working-condition-wise in the worldwide garment industry. It's not great, and there's definitely exploitation, but it's steady, semi-skilled labor that women can do in majority-woman companies, and can do for many years, without significant risk of loss of fingers or whatever. For a woman supplementing her family's income (in a local factory without dormitories), so her children can go to school, with workdays shorter than about 10 hours, it's a reasonable sort of job. But, yeah, there's a reason why garment manufacturing in the United States was a hotbed of union organization -- factories full of exploitable young women who have just arrived in the city and know no one, who can be forced to work 15-hour day and to sleep with their foremen, and locked into the building to burn to death so they don't take too many pee breaks? YES THAT IS EXACTLY HOW CAPITALISM WORKS.)

bad grammar: "Similarly, the sewing stuff got a hoardy appearance."

I have never met a sewist (or knitter) who doesn't have a secret shamey hoarder thing going on where they store their stash. BUT I SHOULD SAVE ALL THESE TINY BITS OF FABRIC I COULD MAKE QUILTS.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:45 PM on April 26, 2015 [22 favorites]


It doesn't seem to really matter what brand it is. If it's something reasonably within firing distance of someone in their early 20s who isn't making 6 figures in Silicon Valley, it falls apart. And I have my doubts that the more expensive stuff is that much better.

This isn't an us problem, or an lol stupid Americans problem. It's on the manufacturing side and I haven't found a reasonable way to vote with my dollars yet.


The steady reduction in the quality of manufactured goods has made me paranoid the west is already experiencing third world poverty, and we never see it because of the veneers of marketing and branding.

I have a very hard time finding shoes that don't fall apart in a year. Either shoes cost $200+ or they collapse like plastic shopping bags.

Our food is either made of processed corn solids invented to prevent famine in wartime, it's too expensive to eat on a daily basis.

Interior walls in practically every new building are made of a material that disintegrates when it gets wet, and cannot hold up under light impact.

You simply cannot buy a window sash in the U.S. that doesn't leak some air.

Miniaturization of electronics has reduced thier physical durability. Our computers get faster and faster, and some of them are made of very nice materials, but they contain components that have a very limited lifespan.

And these devices that manipulate and display information are distracting us from the fact the material structures around us are falling apart.
posted by clarknova at 2:02 PM on April 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


I have never met a sewist (or knitter) who doesn't have a secret shamey hoarder thing going on where they store their stash. BUT I SHOULD SAVE ALL THESE TINY BITS OF FABRIC I COULD MAKE QUILTS.

SHUT YOUR DIRTY MOUTH THEY ARE DOLL CLOTHES OKAY I mean maybe.
posted by corb at 4:30 PM on April 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


As was said above, I hope she gets her dream to travel and see the world with her own eyes.

All I'm saying is if there's any kind of kickstarter or whatever to send that woman around the world, I'd donate an unwise percentage of my income.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 5:05 PM on April 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I went to Europe with my parents in the 80s and it was all like "we heard you guys threw your clothes away after wearing it once, WTF?"

I blame the dryers. Hang your clothes on a line, they'll last forever.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:08 PM on April 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I blame the dryers. Hang your clothes on a line, they'll last forever.

I started hang drying pants and other items that have a high failure rate for me. It makes a difference, but i'd peg it at maybe... 25%? even less? I've definitely had some stuff that fell apart after it was dried a few times, but those were outliers.

It's the actual quality of the materials and manufacturing honestly. Most stuff fails at seams, it doesn't just wear through... but once it does even if you repair it then it just keeps failing in random other places in the same way rapidly.

I might be willing to accept this was some hurr durr disposable products for america because americans cheap america lol thing, but i don't know if i buy that it's fabric care habits making stuff fail. I think it's all just one step above directly disposable garbage.
posted by emptythought at 7:38 PM on April 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah seams, those mean seams with insufficient margin for stress, sewn too close to the edge of the fabric and overlocked to delay the fray. Built-in obsolescence.
posted by valetta at 1:04 AM on April 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Trip down memory lane: one of my teachers (ca. 1973) said when his wife was in Switzerland, she was asked if Americans wear paper clothes, because they throw everything away. He wasn't kidding, either. So this idea that Americans throw away their clothes is not recent.
posted by datawrangler at 3:20 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


On the hardy vs. fragile clothes thing, my white athletic socks bite the dust pretty quickly (usually Hanes). But a couple of years ago I bought 6 pairs of new white socks with a green seam at the Raleigh, NC flea market. They were locally made in NC and really cheap, and those things are still fluffy and solid after I dunno, 75 washings? I need to get back there and get some more ...

The video is really cool. Reminds me of a thing I saw in National Geographic some years ago showing people in India scraping old paint off buildings, smashing it into dust with a mortar and pestle I think, and making *new paint* out of it. I was totally floored ... now that's re-use!
posted by freecellwizard at 7:55 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


See, that's what I mean about how fast we go through clothes - I get that mending everything and making all your own clothes from scratch can be labor-intensive, but - sewing on buttons? Patching a hole in jeans? Mending a hole in the toe of a sock? That kind of stuff you can do. My socks also wear holes in the toes fast, but...I sew them shut. Or, hell, if you're not feeling like you want to do that yourself, there are also tailors that will do it for you. There's a shirt I have that I'm only finally giving up on after three or four "a sleeve ripped" tailors' visits. But I suspect that there are people who would have given up on it after one rip.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:07 AM on April 27, 2015



See, that's what I mean about how fast we go through clothes - I get that mending everything and making all your own clothes from scratch can be labor-intensive, but - sewing on buttons? Patching a hole in jeans? Mending a hole in the toe of a sock? That kind of stuff you can do.

I've committed to taking better care of my clothes, line-drying and hand-washing and making small repairs rather than discarding them and it does, as emptythought points out above, make a marginal difference. But seriously, people aren't kidding when they say an alarming amount of clothing just falls to pieces with little provocation.

My socks don't get a little poke-hole in the toe, they become completely see-through threadbare within a couple of months.

I sew loose buttons back onto my shirts but I'm not skilled enough to re-sew the three layers of flounce that literally FELL OFF the hem of a sundress that was just sitting in the closet under no stress whatsoever. Just fell off! From what I could tell they were sewn on with about 3 stitches per flounce, which came apart literally just under the weight of the (flimsy, cotton) dress. Someone with a sewing machine and intermediate skill could have fixed it, but that person isn't me.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:44 AM on April 27, 2015


under the weight of the (flimsy, cotton) dress.

er, replace "dress" with "fabric."
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:55 AM on April 27, 2015


I get that mending everything and making all your own clothes from scratch can be labor-intensive, but - sewing on buttons? Patching a hole in jeans? Mending a hole in the toe of a sock? That kind of stuff you can do. My socks also wear holes in the toes fast, but...I sew them shut. Or, hell, if you're not feeling like you want to do that yourself, there are also tailors that will do it for you.

It's a matter of cost vs time and remembering to value your own time.

The socks we buy for my husband cost about 3$ for a pair. We buy them all the same, so they all match. One sock out of this pair is worth roughly $1.50. For me to note the sock, set it aside, then go get the sewing box out, get the needle threaded up and thread matched, takes at least 15 minutes. My fifteen minutes, to me, is worth far more than $1.50.

However, his fancy pants that he wears to work also start bursting out at the crotch - they get these tiny holes because the seams are shitty that can be easily fixed by any old thread very swiftly. The pants cost anywhere from 40-80$. Those are worth more than fifteen minutes of my time. Same with coats. I sew buttons back on coats all the damn time, because coats can cost $100 or more, and it still takes me the same 15 minutes to sew. I sew doll clothes from scratch because it takes me about an hour, and those damn hand detailed dresses from American Girl are more money than I am willing to pay.

Patching a hole in jeans is actually hard, though. For you to patch it so skillfully that it is not visible as a patch requires a level of skill I don't have - and I sew more than most. And for better or worse, visibly mended clothes read as 'poverty' in our current culture, and that's not something I'm willing to have people thinking of my family.
posted by corb at 9:03 AM on April 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


The clothing worn by the women in the documentary is so much prettier than anything I wear day-to-day.

Most clothing we buy in the U.S. is unflattering crap. When I try to think about it so as to write a coherent comment, I feel like I can't even get a handle on the dimensions of the problem.

I was going through my closet yesterday, getting rid of things. A lot of mass-produced things in synthetic fibers, poor quality workmanship, and cuts that don't correctly fit my body. I have probably hundreds of pieces of clothing -- maybe around 300? But very few items I feel at home in.

We throw away so many pieces of clothing because those pieces never worked correctly to begin with.

Before mass production, people had fewer pieces, but those pieces were made especially for their bodies (or am I romanticizing this?).

Sometimes I think this might be a better way to go -- like, I could have a couple of pairs of good wool pants made up by a tailor. This would be outrageously more expensive in the short run.

But in the long run, it might be cheaper.
posted by spacewaitress at 9:49 AM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


freecellwizard: " They were locally made in NC and really cheap, and those things are still fluffy and solid after I dunno, 75 washings? I need to get back there and get some more"

They miiiiiight be Renfro Company, which is the largest (and maybe the last) of the legacy sock manufacturers still in North Carolina. Renfro does now have manufacturing facilities overseas, but mostly for overseas markets. Their "Renfro" brand socks are Made in USA (but I think in Alabama ... I'm not sure they manufacture in NC any longer).

I know this about socks because -- true fact! -- my dad used to have a condo/loft in a converted Renfro factory building and it had big framed pictures of the history of Renfro socks in the lobby. My dad says they're pretty sturdy socks, still.

Some of the other old sock factories in NC have been taken over by more hippie-ish businesses (like Farm-to-Foot) who do made-in-USA socks but either with very high-end materials or in crazy-ass colors, so they can sell to a higher-end part of the market still earn a profit when competing with cheap socks from overseas. But if they were plain white socks, imma say Renfro.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:57 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Spacewaitress - yeah, it's the Boots theory of economic unfairness at play.

I also admit that my own willingness to spend time darning holes in 5-dollar socks is probably more due to some neuroses born of having been raised by super-frugal New Englanders than it is any kind of eco-sensitivity.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:01 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I know that I should spend time sewing buttons back on pants and things like that, but since I spend like $3 or $4 on each pair of pants at the thrift store, it hardly seems worth the time to painstakingly push that needle through the heavy denim, especially when these are available and my size is in fluctuation anyway. So usually I don't, and I bring anything I don't feel like fixing back to the thrift store for someone else to snag.
posted by limeonaire at 4:32 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Lemme know when you find a pair of jeans under $200, or a good flannel under $100 that doesn't fall apart in a year.

I have standard issue Levi's from a decade ago that I still wear. They are not fashionably colored or cut in the least and may have some minor holes, but they certainly haven't fallen apart and the holes mostly trace to specific incidents - bike gears etc. Did someone buy up all the cheap quality denim since then or do you have acid blood or what?
posted by atoxyl at 5:19 PM on April 27, 2015


Buttons! To keep them where they should be, put a very tiny bit of clear nail polish on the thread at the front and back of the buttons, and they will never never fall off. (Seriously. My clothes wear out before the buttons come off.)
posted by bestwishes at 5:31 PM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Did someone buy up all the cheap quality denim since then or do you have acid blood or what?
I don't get this either. I buy cheap as chips jeans from Target or similar lower end clothing stores and rarely have any quality issues. But I am male, so maybe the lighter fabrics in women's clothes is whats going on?
posted by bystander at 5:03 PM on April 28, 2015


I am a lady with thighs, and every single pair of jeans I own rubs threadbare in the thighs. Weirdly this never happens with my dress pants.
posted by corb at 5:10 PM on April 28, 2015


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