Clothing and The Man

Mark Twain once quipped, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society,” a saying that is both cheeky and true. But his words have so much more depth when we consider the following (also by Twain), “There is no power without clothes. It is the power that governs the human race. Strip its chiefs to the skin, and no State could be governed; naked officials could exercise no authority; they would look (and be) like everybody else–commonplace, inconsequential.” Whether we like it or not, clothes are an important part of our culture.

Clothing Quote by Mark Twain, featured in a blog post by EcoGoodz, a mixed rags supplier

It’s interesting to note, however, that in the past thirty years, US households have come to spend less and less on clothing:

In 1985 the average US household spent $1419 per year on clothing, shoes, accessories, and related products and services. Adjusted for inflation, that is $3130 in 2015 dollars.

Fifteen years later in the year 2000, US Households spent  $1865 per year on clothing, shoes, accessories, and related products and services. Adjusted for inflation, that is $2570 in 2015 dollars.

And ten years after that, in 2010 US Households spent an average of $1700 per year on clothing, shoes, accessories, and related products and services. Adjusted for inflation, that is $1850 in 2015 dollars, a 59% drop from just 25 years prior.

US Dept of Labor Statistics Spending on Clothing, Shoes, and Accessories, featured in a blog post by EcoGoodz, a bulk linens and used clothing bulk supplier

(Nominal dollars are not adjusted for inflation. Real dollars, on the other hand, are nominal dollars which have been adjusted for inflation using the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Inflation Calculator)

This drop in spending could be caused by or correlated to several different factors. For example, with the advent of “fast fashion” clothing has become cheaper and more plentiful in the last 25 years than every before in human history. Households can spend the same amount or less and get the same amount or more clothing than they have in years past.

Another reason for the drop could be the diminishing size of the US Household. In 1985 the size of the average US household was 2.69. In the year 2000 it was 2.62, and by 2014 it had fallen to 2.54 people per household. It stands to reason that as household size decreased, so should the household’s spending on clothing.

Also worth mentioning is the rise of thrift stores and the resale industry. We’re unsure about whether these spending numbers include dollars spent on used clothing and used shoes through resale outlets, but somewhat doubt it. With the rise of fast fashion came the rise of the resale industry. More people are choosing to buy gently-used clothing items than before. “Thrifting” and “upcycling” are popular as never before.

Most likely the drop can be attributed to a combination of all three: households are smaller, clothing is cheaper, and more households are opting to buy gently-used clothing from resale outlets and thrift stores. However your household chooses to purchase its clothing, we hope you’ll remember to always donate your gently used clothing and recycle items that are damaged (stained, torn, etc)!