Yesterday was National Poetry Day so I thought I’d share with you a poem I remember from my childhood by the fantastic Michael Rosen.
This poem makes a point of the emotional bond that we have with our clothes and the way that attachment affects our use of them.
“I’ve had this shirt, that’s covered in dirt, for years and years and years
It used to be red, but I wore it in bed, and it went grey, cos I wore it all day, for years and years and years
The arms fell off, in the Monday wash, and you can see my vest, through the holes in the chest, for years and years and years
As my shirt falls apart, I’ll keep the bits, in a biscuit tin, on the mantelpiece, for years and years and years.”
At TRAID we sort through 6-7 tonnes of clothes donations every day in our warehouse. It is not uncommon that some of the clothes that are donated still have the shop labels attached. These clothes will have never had the joy of being experienced, loved and worn to death as Rosen describes in his poem.
Of course, this poem was written many years before the introduction of ‘cheap fast fashion’ into our lives and with it, its unsustainable over-consumption of our precious resources.
Owning clothes doesn’t necessarily mean that we know how to use them, and ultimately value them. In fact it’s clear that we have a disengagement with these clothes past the point of purchase, with the value of unworn clothes in our wardrobes estimated at £30 billion in the UK. Why then do we continue to spend our hard earned money and buy more clothes if they don’t provide us with the basic satisfaction of use?
We are educated into obedience and it is with obedience that we buy, lured by the promises of brands and advertisers that their products will make us happy. Surrounded by alluring emotional language we become puppets in a consumer led economic system that puts profits over people and planet (but you knew that anyway).
So it is with childlike eyes brimming with a nostalgic disposition I’d propose re-reading this poem and think about that item of clothing that made you feel good and provided you with the warmth, comfort and familiarity of a friend for years and years, till it could be worn no more.
Now consider those unloved clothes that are buried deep in the back of your wardrobe and giving them the life experiences that they deserve.