In an era where many measure life in likes and shares, Jake Welch, a 36-year-old brand director at an advertising agency, quantifies his wardrobe in a way that might seem peculiar to some. Every evening, Welch diligently updates a spreadsheet that lists 200 clothing items, detailing the price he paid for each and tracking the number of times he’s worn them. Excluding socks and underwear, this unique approach allows him to assess the cost-per-wear of his fashion choices, helping him understand the value he derives from each purchase.
Welch’s method started 12 years ago, in stark contrast to the prevailing trend of fast fashion. Rather than impulsively buying the cheapest items during sales, he chose to evaluate the long-term value of his clothing investments. As inflation looms, Welch’s strategy resonates more than ever. Last month, he showcased his findings during a company meeting, reflecting on the validation he felt as his seemingly eccentric habit gained traction. “I was onto something rather than being perceived as off-beat,” Welch remarked.
As consumers become more cognizant of their spending habits and the environmental impact of disposable fashion, retailers are adapting their marketing campaigns. Old Navy, for instance, promises a full refund on uniforms that don’t last a year. Kohl’s and Untuckit, an online shirt retailer, are emphasizing the durability and versatility of their offerings. Meanwhile, American Eagle markets the longevity of its jeans made from recycled materials.
But the value isn’t solely in the price tag. A $200 timeless sweater could provide more value if worn frequently than a $40 dress donned occasionally. Kohl’s chief marketing officer, Christie Raymond, poses questions that reflect this mindset: “Will this item endure? Can it be styled in multiple ways?”
Yet, GlobalData Retail’s Neil Saunders highlights a crucial point: the cost-per-wear philosophy mainly appeals to those who can prioritize quality over immediate price concerns. Despite rising inflation, fast-fashion giants like Shein and Temu continue to flourish.
Rohan Deuskar, CEO of Stylitics, observes that consumers are becoming discerning. They’re spending more on fewer items and expecting greater value. Saunders notes that price doesn’t always equate to quality. Some items, like a winter coat, are considered long-term investments, while others might be seasonal.
For Welch, his color-consistent wardrobe – dominated by blacks, blues, and grays – is carefully curated for adaptability across seasons. Inflation has sharpened his discernment, making him question the necessity of each purchase. Interestingly, his cost-per-wear methodology has familial benefits. With two daughters, the wearability of items stretches further, amplifying the savings.
While Welch’s wife leans towards quality over quantity, she’s yet to adopt her husband’s spreadsheet approach. As for their children, Welch jests, “If we have another daughter, that’s even more savings.”