Like most people, I’ve been making do with clothes that are a few years old. When you’re young and fit, it doesn’t feel like that much of a problem. You can throw out what you don’t like and replace what’s worn out. But as we age we tend to accumulate things we don’t need.
It’s not just the clothes: it’s the furniture, the house, your car, and your health care plan. And it doesn’t take long before you become dependent on all of them: if they break down, you’re screwed.
Costumes are not just for Halloween. There are couples who meet at the end of every year, and get married at the beginning of the next.
There are people who wear costumes for holidays or special occasions all the time. A world full of people like that would be astonishing. But it has happened before.
The costumes have to cover all the main styles, so you don’t look too old-fashioned, too new-fangled or too weird. You have to have a costume for every occasion at work, so you don’t look too boring or too flashy, too corporate or too individual, too nerdy or too cool. You have to have a costume for every day of the year at home, so you don’t look dated or dowdy or weirdly out of touch with your surroundings. And you have to have a regular wardrobe that always fits properly and is always safe to wear in public; otherwise people will think you are nuts if you insist on wearing it regularly.
It’s amazing how much cheap stuff you can buy online without looking like a total freak.
If you are not someone who has a lot of money, the best thing you can do for your wallet is to buy less stuff. The problem is that if you buy less stuff, it will cost more money.
If you are me, this means that I have recently started buying fewer clothes. I still have about as many clothes as I did last year. But I am now buying fewer pairs of shoes and fewer accessories; the result is that the cost per item has gone up by about 20 to 30 percent.
The cost of clothes keeps falling. A few years ago, I bought a pair of jeans for $100. Now I can get them for $40. The reason is that the world has gotten better at producing denim. But if your wardrobe is full of clothes you don’t really like, the price doesn’t make up for the fact that you are wearing clothes you don’t like.
The same is true for cars. Used-car prices are falling because the world has gotten better at producing cars. But if you own several old cars and you’re not happy with any of them, it’s not worth the price cut to replace them all. So far most people have been happy to hold on to their old cars, and that will probably continue for a long time.
If you are wearing the wrong clothes, you are wasting money. The reason is that when other people are looking at you, they are paying attention to how well you look. Even if what you are wearing costs exactly what you would have spent on something else instead, if other people think that other thing looks better, they will think you look better too. They will judge your appearance in terms of the way it looks to them.
But there’s no reason for this to be so. You could wear a different kind of suit or a different kind of dress, but nothing about how it looks to other people would change—unless their opinion were somehow changed by seeing you wearing it. But this is not possible because everyone would know exactly what you were doing and no one would care about how it looked to them; any such change in their opinion would be due to some new feature of the thing itself.
But if we all knew each other’s tastes perfectly, we wouldn’t need clothes at all; we’d all be wearing skin-tight bags with coloured patterns and plastic jewels sewn onto them and we’d all think we looked great:
I like to go into that costume section at the Halloween store, and I’ve noticed that things are getting more and more expensive. Prices keep going up, even though our wages don’t. That’s because the economy is messed up.
The economy has been messed up for a long time. But prices kept going up anyway, so even though wages didn’t, every worker ended up every year with less stuff than he had before. That’s not fair or right or fair-ish or balanced or any other kind of rightish thing. The main thing you should know about the economy is that it’s unfair.