Your Next Item of Clothing Should Be so Expensive It Hurts

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Author: Marc Bain | Published: October 2, 2015

If you’ve ever found yourself buying clothes just because they’re cheap, or if shopping itself has become a form of entertainment for you, I’ve got a proposal: The next time you buy something, spend a whole lot on it. Enough that it makes you sweat a little.

The point is to make you pause and ask yourself, “How much do I really want this?”

In the US and much of the industrialized world, cheap clothes are everywhere. At any fast-fashion chain store, you’ll find piles upon piles of jeans that cost less than $20. The problem is, all that low-cost clothing is produced, sold, and finally discarded in mass quantities, which has serious consequences for the environment, the workers paid poorly to make them, and even the mental well-being of the people buying them.

As a fashion reporter, I like clothes probably more than most. But I also know all the troubling facts represented by those cheap t-shirts and jeans. For more than a year now, I’ve set myself a simple goal for every clothing purchase. It’s an entirely personal choice that I feel helps me buy less and enjoy my purchases more. My hope is that it also reduces how much I contribute to some of those issues mentioned above.

The goal is to spend at least $150 on each item of clothing. And I propose you give it a try.

Let me explain

The immediate reaction I get when I tell people about this goal—and I call it a goal because I don’t always live up to it—is that $150 is a lot to spend for a piece of clothing.

That’s especially true if your standard for pricing is a store like Primark, the insanely cheap Irish fast-fashion chain that recently opened its first US location. For designer fashion, where a t-shirt can easily clear $150, it’s actually a pretty low hurdle.

But it’s enough that it causes me to seriously hesitate, which is the real point. It forces me to think about just how much I want that item of clothing, how much I’ll wear it, and whether I think the value it offers is worth a significant cost.

Importantly, $150 is also enough that I can’t make these purchases all the time, at least not without sacrificing elsewhere or going broke. It’s an investment, rather than the cheap buzz of getting something new.But it’s enough that it causes me to seriously hesitate, which is the real point. It forces me to think about just how much I want that item of clothing, how much I’ll wear it, and whether I think the value it offers is worth a significant cost.

Now, not everyone should have the same dollar limit. Each person should determine a standard based on income and other financial responsibilities. But it should be just enough that it causes you to wince slightly. My limit—as a married, childless, working journalist, saving up to one day buy an apartment—might fall somewhere between that of a single parent on an hourly wage and that of a high roller like author Buzz Bissinger, who wrote of his addiction to Gucci in GQ. (If you’re shopping like Bissinger, though, setting a dollar floor isn’t going to solve anything.)

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