Expensive Things: Not Getting Any Cheaper

October 1, 2013

Expensive Things: Not Getting Any Cheaper

For years I’ve put off buying one of J. Press’s “Shaggy Dog” shetland sweaters–the fuzzed, Scotland-made wool crewneck that’s a winter standard at Press, that most glacial of men’s stores. I first handled one in the D.C. Press store in 2006 (I think; that’s when I discovered we had a J. Press here), and even bought one as a gift, but always figured I’d pick one up for myself when I had a little extra cash or when sale season hit.

In the meantime I’ve recommended the sweaters as an unassailable classic–made well and in the traditional country of manufacture, resistant to both chilly fall breezes and trends, even a good value at $165. Well, $165 in 2010. $165 in 2009, too. In 2013? $230. You can pay another $15 for the York Street version, although it’s not immediately clear what that buys you.

Clothing prices are significantly outpacing inflation, with men’s clothing leading the way. Anecdotally, I’ve heard this attributed to raw material price increases (e.g., cotton and wool) and the scarcity and increasing expense of quality manufacturing. The takeaway here isn’t necessarily “buy more now”; it’s risky if not foolish to treat clothing as you would treat a financial investment, although thoughtful consideration of how much value you get out of your clothing can help determine what’s affordable for you. The truth, though, is that what’s not affordable for you now is not rushing to become affordable for you in the near future.