The many sides of buying more ethical clothing

Tuesday, December 5th 2017
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One of the fundamental aims of Permanent Style has always been to show the value and enjoy of investing in better clothing.

Quality menswear not only often looks better with age, but can be better value than cheaper alternatives, if kept for a long time and looked after well.

It also absolutely minimises waste.

With quality clothing you might have one pair of shoes that lasts 10 years, perhaps, rather than three that last 3 or 4 each.

Buying less is not easy.

When you become more passionate about clothing, it’s hard to buy less of it. (You want to do the opposite, if anything.)

And we all know that heady retail fix - the thrill of the irresponsible purchase, the bright bag and the tissue paper.

I’ve always thought that’s one of the reasons men love shoes so much. It’s the one thing you can clean, cream and polish, and feel like you have something new again.

Eggert Johannsson, the Icelandic furrier who is stocked at Anderson & Sheppard, has always talked to me about waste.

He gets very frustrated with the strength of the anti-fur lobby, fear of which leads some governments to destroy thousands of culled animals every year, rather than try and re-use them for fur.

These include red fox in Germany, muskrat in Holland and brushtail possum in New Zealand. One of Eggert’s collections recovers baby lambs that die in their first few days, in order to re-use their skins.

Words like ethical, sustainable and ecological are often used interchangeably, as if they mean the same thing - rather than very distinct ideas.

Such discussion always reminds me of a friend that said he was proud to buy Fair Trade products and support local, English farmers. Even though those two ideas are mutually opposed.

As with many of my preambles, this is slowly getting to the point: Eggert sent me this article on Craftsmanship.net, which I would recommend reading.

More than anything, it shows how complex any argument about ethical clothing is: it requires balancing animal suffering, human livelihoods, environmental destruction, sustainable ecosystems and the natural landscape.  

You cannot have all of those things. Prioritising one always means de-prioritising another.

Buying vegan, for example, is ethical in many ways but also usually means buying more plastic, which involves factories and emissions, and creates waste and landfill.

Fortunately, most of the things we value on Permanent Style come off pretty well.

Linen and hemp are the best materials, and vegetable tanning is a lot better than chrome. Leather is bad in some ways, but if you wear that leather jacket for a long time, it will be pretty good too.

Do have a read - the article is here, and you can support Craftsmanship.net if you feel moved to as well.

Images: top, Permanent Style; second, Eggert; third, Luke Carby; fourth and fifth, Craftsmanship.net