You are standing in a store at The University Mall. Fluorescent lights bathe the merchandise in a dingy yellow; Carly Rae Jepsen rattles through the shabby speakers.
All around you are neon signs boasting shirts for $10 and socks for $3. Honing your primal instincts, you pounce on a blue T-shirt. Its a pretty cool shirt not that you need another one but for only $10 who cares?
We buy so many clothes these days. According to Elizabeth Clines book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, Americans spend an average of $1,100 on clothes per year, most of which is spent on cheap, trendy clothes.
We know that inexpensive clothes do not last and that they are made of low quality materials. We know that to have such a low price, workers especially children were grossly underpaid. We know that textile production is destroying the environment.
But do we really care?
Clearly not. The demand for man-made fibers, such as polyester, has doubled in the last 15 years according to data from Technical Textile Markets.
Synthetic fabrics require more energy to produce, release more toxic emissions and particulate matter and produce acid gases such as hydrogen chloride, which can trigger respiratory disease.
In spite of millions of horrifying statistics on environmental deterioration, child labor and other scandals that are readily available on the Internet, all seems to be forgotten when we open the doors to the mall.
Too many have fallen for the addictive cycle of wastefully buying new clothes and throwing old ones away. Recycling of Low Grade Clothing Waste, a report by Oakdene Hollins, reveals that only 21 percent of annual clothing purchases stay in the buyers possession.
In other words, 79 percent of the clothes we buy end up in landfills and secondhand stores such as the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army in Brooklyn, N.Y. alone processes an average of five tons of clothing a day.
There needs to be a greater consciousness of what type of clothes we buy, where they come from and how they are made. If an item is under $50, chances are that corners were cut, whether it is in chemically laden materials or underpaid workers.
But what is a broke college student to do about all this? Buying clothes is difficult, especially since clothes have become more polarized in price cheap is now cheaper, expensive is now even more costly.
My advice is to buy less, and invest in items that will last at least three years. Your overflowing closet will thank you, and you will value your clothes more because they are good quality. Eco-friendly clothes are also a great option, from recycled materials to organic fabrics.
We cannot continue this consumerist, destructive cycle. Trends come and go so quickly that it is impossible to keep up. So why bother? Say no to that $10 T-shirt and save your money for a nicer item down the road.