Patches, poverty and pesticides

Every time my son comes home for a visit he brings his jeans with him. Or what’s left of his jeans. At this point they’re literally threadbare.  Except for the places they’ve been patched; those are holding up nicely. Pretty soon he’ll have more patch than original denim.

These were jeans that cost $100+ when new, a figure I find appalling.  When you’re a 24 year old who lives in L.A. it’s all about the brand – I doubt they’re as sturdy as Levis at half the price. The holes are air-conditioning?

If he had more money he’d toss the lot of them and start fresh, but he’s broke and I have a sewing machine, so he’s adding one more layer of patches.

America has been living on borrowed clothing for a long time.From a 5/29/08  article in the NY Times:

As consumers adjust to soaring prices for gasoline, food, education and medical care, just about the only thing that seems a bargain today is clothes — mainstream clothes, anyway.

Clothing is one of the few categories in the federal Consumer Price Index in which overall prices have declined — about 10 percent — since 1998 (the cost of communication is another). That news may be of solace to anyone whose budget has been stretched just to drive to work or to stop at the supermarket; in fashion, at least, there are still deals to be had…

Over all, apparel prices have gone down primarily because of two factors: the overwhelming movement of manufacturing to countries with cheaper labor, where the clothes are made, and increased competition between traditional retailers and discounters, where the clothes are sold.

But how low can we go?…

The divergence of price extremes has become so striking that some fashion executives are openly asking whether prices have reached both their nadir and apex at the same moment. “As far as bottom costs go, we’re there,” Mr. Konheim said. “I think we’ve exploited all the countries on earth for people who really want to work for nothing.”

All denim is produced in the US then sent abroad to be sewn. But cotton growing is problematic itself. From an Alternet article “Dress for Excess”:

The United States produces 8.5 billion pounds of cotton fiber each year, but that fills less than a third of the nation’s always expanding demand for textiles. Fully 25 percent of the world’s cotton crop, in the form of lint, thread, fabric or finished products, ends up in the United States or Canada. Cotton is grown on less than 2 percent of farmland but accounts for one of every four pounds of pesticides sprayed. Currently in the global south, estimates suggest that half of total pesticide use is on cotton.

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