in the late 80s and early 90s i wrote an environmental column for a little independent vancouver newspaper, the revue, run by rod raglin. a propos of earth day, i thought i’d reprint one of the articles, written in 1990. since i just bought some great stuff at grand central today (including a pair of super cool onesole exchangable sandals), i’d say not too much has changed 🙂
proud to be a rag doll
you probably know “rag doll”, the 50s (or is it 60s?) song where boy falls in love with girl who lives on the wrong side of town and wears hand-me-downs. the fact that she does not wear new clothes definitely disqualifies her as a suitable addition to the boy’s family. fortunately, boy does not care! which of course leads me to the question whether the author of this schmaltzy song had a premonition about things to come 30, 40 years thence – being now, the greedy 80s and the new age 90s. how do we think about a person wearing used clothes nowadays? to be more direct – what do you think about me? 90% of my clothes are either purchased in such laudable (or would you say despicable?) establishments as value village, swapped or hand-me-downs.
enough bragging. when it comes to my kids – a 7-year-old tomboy and a 17-year old young man – the story is a little different. they wear only about 60% used clothes and would not mind if it were 6%. why? well, used stuff just isn’t cool, man. that attitude developed especially during those awful two months this summer when both kids got into a fit of tv-watching. luckily, this is over and the glimmering media monster with all those enticing, colourful moving pictures has left our house again. but it certainly convinced the children of the necessity of new sneakers and new t-shirts and new jeans (not to mention all the junk food that they started to consume in inordinate amounts all of a sudden). tv indoctrinated them to three of the most important doctrines of consumerism: everything that can be seen on the tube, whether in commercials or in shows, should be bought right away, and new; if this is not done, one must surely be deprived; and whatever one does own but which has no counterpart in television must be wrong.
on the other hand, my story, the story of the stubborn, medieval non-tv-watcher goes like this: clothes are made either of animal products, plants, or chemicals. for my foot to tread securely on, let’s say, the trails of grouse mountain, an animal had to die. for my legs to be warm against the cool air of those altitudes, crops had to be raised. and for my back to be protected against the chilly winds in those lofty regions, chemicals had to be combined in a way alien to nature in order to produce a polyester wind jacket.
how steep is the price? how many of my fellows on earth, be it pigs, cows or whatever, have to die to provide me with shoes? how much earth has to be drained from its natural nutrients and artificially whipped on to produce a hundred times more than it was designed to, to raise cotton crops? is the man or the woman who sprayed those cotton crops with carcinogenous pesticides still alive? the fumes produced in the process of manufacturing the wind jacket – have they returned to haunt me in the form of acid rain on the lettuce i will eat tonight?
yes, everything does have its price. but when i am faced with the choice of paying a high price so that i may conform with the laws laid down by the church of eternal consumption or of paying a much lesser price by using up what others refuse in turn for the danger of being called a rag doll – to me it’s not even a choice. i’m proud to be a rag doll.
on a lighter note, it’s also fun. i mean, the selection at value village is just so much bigger than the one at eaton’s. plus it changes all the time. and just think of that delicious feeling of surprise and accomplishment when after 2 hours of going through a 40-year history class of fashion you actually do come up with that dazzling european designer kashmir dress for $10 which originally probably cost $350. never mind the moth holes. i have thread and needle.