Realist, not conformist analysis of the latest financial, business and political news

Fast Fashion – The Idiots Are Complaining That The People Are Getting Rich

The historical human problem has always been that the people were poor – now that we’ve largely solved that problem the idiots are complaining that the people have got rich. So it is with this current obsession with fast fashion. Quite literally the complaint is that us oiks, we standard peeps out here, are able to have new clothes. We no longer have just the Sunday Best and the other set of garments for the rest of the week, we’re actually able to dress ourselves in different pieces of cloth each and every day!

What a damn thing to complain about, eh? And what makes it so infuriating is that this is exactly the example used by Adam Smith to talk about the relative nature of poverty – the linen shirt.

But then without idiots and fools being swept up in fashionable fads and nostrums what would The Observer or Guardian have to write about?

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] So-called fast fashion has ushered throwaway culture into the clothing business, with items so cheap they have become single-use purchases. Last week, the young-fashion brand Boohoo had 486 dresses available online for less than £5. Many – like a black bandeau jersey bodycon number – were just £3.75, meaning the delivery charge cost more than the contents of the package. Rival Asos was offering 257 dresses and 2,141 different tops for less than £10. Now, however, some fashion experts believe the party could be coming to an end for such disposable clothing and a backlash could be brewing, just as it has against takeaway coffee cups, plastic packaging and meat. [/perfectpullquote]

Will you just look at that? They really are complaining about how the proles have got rich.

Think back a bit. The specific numbers here might not be quite right but the general thrust most certainly is:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Let’s talk clothing. When the Industrial Revolution began, it started with factories making cloth. Why? Because clothing used to be frighteningly expensive. Back in my teaching days I gave a standard lecture, which is about to follow, on the $3,500 shirt, or why peasants owned so little clothing. Here’s the way it worked.[/perfectpullquote]

Even Hugo Boss wasn’t charging the SS that much for their spiffy uniforms.

As Schumpeter pointed out, we do actually know that Queen Elizabeth I had a pair of stockings, also that the average woman of the time did not. It took until the Satanic Mills of the Industrial Revolution that those who made stockings could afford a pair. And we’ve also Adam Smith’s point about linen shirts. Not having one does not make you poor, But if you live in a society where not being able to afford a linen shirt is taken as a sign of poverty then, if you can’t afford one in that society you’re regarded as poor. A point made in this – I’m actually wearing a linen shirt to make that very point.

This is the very process that these people are whining about, us all getting rich. So, we can now buy a dress for £3.75 can we? 30 minutes of minimum wage labour gets you kitted with clobber? Isn’t that such a vast increase in human wealth from the above stories? Yes, actually it is – and they’re whining about it.

We peeps can now clothe ourselves at a fraction of the human labour it used to take, this makes us very much wealthier, and yet the fast fashion maniacs are whining about that very process of the poor getting rich. Are the dunderheads all taking their logical analysis from the models themselves or something?

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Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan
2 years ago

Problem is you can no longer tell the gentleman from the villein if they all get to wear similar clothes.

Rhoda Klapp
Rhoda Klapp
2 years ago

Will we still be able to get a hair shirt when all the cheap alternative nice shirts are banned?

TD
TD
2 years ago
Reply to  Rhoda Klapp

there will be a lot of short tailed horses around.

Jonathan Harston
Jonathan Harston
2 years ago

It’s envy, pure and simple. The proles being able to afford should be reserved for their betters.

TD
TD
2 years ago

Progressives are generally horrified at the notion that people are becoming wealthier and can be quite open that they want it stopped. What’s baffling is how they draw votes.

EAP
EAP
5 months ago
Reply to  TD

It’s not people getting richer that we have an issue with, it’s people getting richer at the expense of others (usually in the Global South). Fast-fashion garment workers (predominantly women) work in terrible conditions so that we can afford that £3.75 dress, so yes, we’re going to ‘whine’ about it.

EAP
EAP
5 months ago
Reply to  Tim Worstall

Do I need to remind you of the Rana Plaza disaster or are you just blindly ignoring those kind of events? Factories still have inadequate fire safety standards, among other issues. Just because they could be treated worse in other industries, that does not make it humane to allow them to work in the current conditions. The way you are clearly separating yourself from human beings that are being treated horrendously in garment factories is very telling of the patriarchal capitalist system we currently live in.

EAP
EAP
5 months ago

So, is this pro fast-fashion? What exactly is the point of this?

Quentin Vole
Quentin Vole
5 months ago
Reply to  EAP

If, like me, you can’t see the point of ‘fast fashion’, you’re at liberty not to buy it. But obviously enough folks do see a point for a profit to be turned. How do you propose stopping them from spending their money – the return of clothing coupons?

ANNRQ
ANNRQ
5 months ago
Reply to  EAP

The same point as all economic activity – to fulfil our desires, no matter how trivial. Whether it’s a £5.00 dress or a £5.00 artesian, free-trade latte. It’s good for us and good for them.

john77
john77
5 months ago
Reply to  EAP

You don’t have to like fashion, fast or slow, to like the idea that those supplying the women (and even some men) who like fashion are rescuing Bangladeshis from poverty and near-destitution (occasionally even from actual destitution) by paying them wages – and, even better, higher wages than other . employers. Unless you are an old-fashioned Puritan who wants all those in rich countries to limit themselves to only buying drab essential clothes.

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