Friday, August 31, 2012

It's Fashion Friday!: There Is No Such Thing As A High End T-Shirt

$65 Linen T-Shirt by Calypso St. Barth

           I need to address something mindboggling I came across while waiting in a doctor’s office. Have you ever seen this magazine Real Simple? I find the magazine to be a bit of a joke… Its main premise seems to be to suggest all kinds of crap you can buy to “simplify” your life. I don’t know about you, but my thoughts on simplicity generally involve buying less and throwing out as much stuff as possible. The magazine is clearly geared towards middle-aged women so they include a rather pathetic attempt at a fashion segment.
            A matrix of sweet little t-shirts was staring me in the face. At first glance, I didn’t see anything offensive. Then, like evil crickets, the prices of these t-shirts started jumping out at my face, one after another, $30, $46, $58, $65, $73, NINETY FIVE FLIPPIN’ DOLLARS. Hold – the – phone.
            As a fashion lover, art lover, mod furniture lover, I am used to seeing outrageous price tags attached to things I would like to own. That alone is not enough to send me to the moon. What made it possible for me to go and have lunch with “Curiosity” on the red planet was the blurb I read when I turned the page, which actually rationalized paying $65 for a t-shirt. They would have you believe that paying more for a t-shirt actually gets you a better quality t-shirt. A t-shirt is a t-shirt is a t-shirt. I am a shopper’s (retailer’s) best friend and can rationalize the purchase of just about anything ($695 black sequin stilettos as concert attire shoes for a musician, $160 jeans – because they make your butt look much better than the cheap ones,  $26 nail polish), but there is absolutely no circumstance when paying $65 for a t-shirt is rational. The time when I bought a magazine subscription for $75 from a toothless man who showed up on my doorstep was less crazy.
            T-shirts that were made in Europe or the US will cost more, yes. The magazine was right about that. They are still made with machines, however. Little European grandmothers are not hand-stitching the hems on these garments. Very few brands actually manufacture their t-shirts in the US or Europe. Lots of high end designers still have their product made in China – Vince, Kate Spade, Joie to name a few. So, they are laughing with your money all the way to the bank. Imagine the markups. Anthropologie is another one with ridiculous markups on Asian craftsmanship, and their t-shirts are definitely not always the greatest quality.
            So they’re not hand-stitched, they’re made in China. Are the fabrics really better if you pay more? No. This article says they are, but I beg to differ. I’m just speaking based on personal experience, but the t-shirts I’ve had that have stayed nice the longest have been the ones I’ve bought off the clearance racks at the Gap outlet for $4. They’re soft, they’re not too thick, but they’re not tissue thin. Tissue tees are comfortable, but they don’t hold up very well. They tend to end up with holes in them, sort of like their namesake. The article claims that silk and linen would raise the price, but I don’t know that I would call something a t-shirt if it were made out of silk! Wouldn’t it then be a blouse?! And RAYON. Rayon’s great, if you own stock in a drycleaner. What a magical combination – a $65 rayon t-shirt that you have to pay $12 to have dry-cleaned.
            T-shirts are a year round staple. You can sleep in them, layer them, wear them with jeans, wear them with shorts, spill food on them, wipe your hands on them, hang out with little kids in them… They are an everyday piece that’s going to need washed a lot. I won’t pay more than $10 for mine. I splurged on one a few months ago… $15. It had a bird printed on the front. I will not judge you if you choose to spend $65 on a t-shirt if you really like it. We all make ridiculous purchases now and again. Just don’t think for a minute that what you have done is rational in ANY way. 

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