Slow Fashion: The Importance of Paying for the World We Value

Fun Fact: My most popular "Stoic" post has to do with my underwear.

You've likely heard about the factory collapse tragedy in Dhaka, Bangladesh. There are multiple reasons that horrible events like this one happen but, outside of the effect of gravity, they are all human generated reasons. There is no shortage of knowledge to design nor ability to construct safe buildings, there is only a lack of willingness. One of the widest reaching and most troubling reasons for this aspect of industry is the modern ability to systematically avoid paying the true cost of the items we purchase. From our clothes and mobile phones to our food, we invest in industries that cut corners at the expense of other human beings, present and future. Flint and Tinder founder, Jake Bronstein, recently posted about Slow Fashion v. Fast Fashion, which discusses this from the point of view of the clothing industry. I support his company, in part, because it allows me to step outside of this corner-cutting system. I believe it is incumbent on me, as a Stoic, to participate in the advancement of human affirming systems whenever possible.

Stoicism challenges us to expand our view of the world. We are to see ourselves as intimately connected to the universe and never as islands set apart. The Discipline of Action, in particular, demands that our choices be made for the common welfare of humankind. Marcus Aurelius expressed it this way,

Your only joy, and your only rest, is to pass from one action performed in the service of the human community to another act performed in the service of the human community, together with the remembrance of God. (VI, 7)

One of my favorite features of the Stoic philosophy is it recognizes that rational thinking leads us towards others, not apart. Lived Stoicism is not an egocentric experience. It can sound that way, as much of our practice is directed inward while we wrestle with our own minds. However, when we win out over false impressions of the world we are meant to be freed to be active within it. Conquering desire and fear, we take actions that build a just and wise society. Those actions can cost us in reputation and reward. Sometimes it can hurt the pocketbook. What's that matter? The only good is virtue anyway.

Sartorial Stoic: Flint and Tinder

Men, you should be wearing Flint and Tinder underwear. I would know, I'm an underwear expert. Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill and I have thirty five years of underwear-wearing experience! So listen to me and try on a pair.

I've been spending time thinking about my purchases in general. I want my acquisitions to expand the world with which I'm pleased, whenever possible. That sentence was awkward. What I mean is, I prefer home-cooking and local restaurants to  fast food. I want neighborhoods to be walkable. I drink filtered tap water instead of getting it shipped in from Fiji. I listen to KPBS, therefore I donate to them as well. William Gibson once said, "the future is already here - it's just not evenly distributed."  I think the seeds of the world I want are already here and I need to invest in them to keep things growing. With that in mind, I've been trying to make better spending choices.

So back to underwear. Flint and Tinder started as a Kickstarter darling, one that has actually worked. American Apparel used to be the only company that sold Made in America men's underwear. Everyone else has been shipping in our skivvies from far, far away. Thanks to the generous outpouring of Kickstarter backers, there are now two companies selling patriotic underpants. I'm not against international trade. Actually I think it can be great. However, overseas trade is often about chasing lower costs, not better products. If someone wants to make my products closer to home and up the quality, I will pay for that. F&T products aren't as inexpensive as a 3-6 pack from Target, but every dollar you pay is returned in quality. I'd rather buy one item made with care than three items cheaply constructed.

 F&T really does improve on quality. They use very nice cotton. It ends up that the type of cotton matters. The texture of the fabric is leaps and bounds more comfortable than Haines, Fruit of the Loom, or whatever. Also, the stitching stays stitched. F&T claims that the care they put into picking materials and constructing the garments will translate into a longer lasting product. It will be a while before I can speak to that. What I know is, I own their boxer-briefs and they are the best undergarments I've ever worn. F&T made me ask, "why haven't I cared about underwear before?"

Buy Flint and Tinder products. The holidays are coming up. Surprise someone you love with a stocking full of underwear. I guarantee the look of surprise will be genuine. The thanks will be as well, at least, after he's worn them a while.