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Mar 16, 2017

My Jockey Journey or "The Crapification of Men's Undershirts"


Readers, today I need to get something off my chest and I don't mean my undershirt.

Are you familiar with the term crapification?  It refers to the gradual, inexorable reduction in quality of manufactured goods over the last few decades.  Remember the toaster oven you owned for twenty-five years and replaced with one made by the same company (or so it seemed) that lasted six months?  That's crapification.

Compare the Singer sewing machine your grandmother used with the one you use today.  Which do you think will still be working in another twenty years?

I tend to keep things -- when I can -- a long, long time.  My fridge dates back to 1990.  I use a Eureka vacuum cleaner purchased in 1987.  I have Corningware casserole dishes that go back to the Nixon administration.  When it comes to clothes, however, no matter how well made they are, if you use them frequently they wear out.  And this is especially true of men's undershirts.  We sweat, we dribble, we abuse the High cycle of the clothes dryer.

All my adult life I've worn Jockey brand undershirts, I couldn't even tell you why.  You know how there were Crest families and Colgate families, Skippy families and Jif families?  In my family, the men wore Jockeys, never Fruit of the Loom or Hanes (and we used Crest and Skippy, though I later switched to Peter Pan).

To make a long story short, a few years ago I noticed that the Jockey undershirts I'd been purchasing (usually in 3-packs at department stores) were no longer available.  I mean, you could still buy Jockey undershirts, but they were different.  The silky Powerknit trademark weave was no more: the cotton was coarser and beefy (and not in a good way).  The cut was also poor: lower armholes, boxier shapes.  The neck tags were gone, replaced by stamps that wore out with repeated washings.  Worst of all was the difference in the neckband.  It no longer laid flat but tended to bunch up.  I wear undershirts under shirts, so a bit of band is visible.  If the neckband is lumpy it shows.

I want to add that Jockey hasn't manufactured undershirts in the USA for a long, long time.  But standards were maintained.  And anything that might have changed was subtle enough for me not to notice.  (And for those who think I should make my own undershirts, I have tried, but it's impossible to find the knit banding for the neck, or to source white cotton jersey that has the right feel and weight.  Most cotton jersey I see in fabric stores is too thin and too stretchy.)  I've also tried other brands, like Calvin Klein and Gap.  Same types of problems.

Finally, I started searching on eBay for deadstock -- vintage Jockey undershirts that had never been worn.  It wasn't easy and it took time, but I've had some success, and it didn't cost a fortune either.

The undershirt below dates back to the 1960s and it is amazing.  So much so, that it's almost a shame to wear it!

 


Look at the weave and the cut!



I recently discovered a site called Poshmark, where people buy and sell used/deadstock clothing.  At Poshmark someone was selling an unopened late-Nineties era Jockey 3-pack in my size for just $15.  It arrived today.



Now let me show you what crapification hath wrought.  This is what's for sale today:

Observe the neckband carefully (shirt has been laundered once). 



Here's the neckband fit: already stretched out and lumpy.


Now the old, pre-crapification version:



And the fit -- smooth and flat.


Naturally, you can't feel the shirt from these photos; trust me that the old version was smooth and silky, the new version coarse and thick.

So what's the cause of crapification?  I suspect the following:

1) In a search for higher profits, manufacturers have moved production to overseas factories (primarily in the Southern hemisphere) and lowered quality dramatically.  Cotton may be sourced from different places depending on where the shirt is manufactured, leading to quality control issues.

2) Related to #1, many American companies are now owned by hedge funds seeking only to produce high returns for investors in the short-term.  They are not interested in creating quality goods.

3) American consumers are generally unwilling to pay more than they have to for commodities like underwear.  I was able to find a new undershirt similar to my Nineties-era Jockeys at American Apparel.  Each shirt cost $22, which seemed like too much to pay.

4) Most men who wear undershirts don't care enough about them to notice the difference. 

Readers, is any of this familiar to you?

Have you experienced crapification in your life as a consumer?

Has a brand you've used loyally suddenly (or not so suddenly) gone way downhill?

Jump in!

NOTE: I am unable to view comments made through the Bloglovin interface. Please leave comment directly on MPB.

88 comments:

  1. So much, in all things, but my most recent annoyance is with a nursing bra.

    I had a favorite from a last pregnancy: fit well and smoothed everything down and was sleep and actually acted like a bra, just one with a bonus feature. Unfortunately, only one was still wearable. So, pregnancy almost over, I buy another 2. "Same" cut, same style, same price (80$ for a bra isn't cheap, yo!!)

    It's sleep. It acts like a bra. The fabric is the same. BUT. the clips (the fragile part!) are flimsier and I expect I'll have to replace them. And the edge of the piece of fabric that goes around the breast (that the cup clips onto when up) isn't hemmed.

    80$ for a bra and you stopped hemming the fabric?? C'mon. (The ones I had from 3 years ago were hemmed, for the record).

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    1. Sleek, not sleep! Wtf auto correct?

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  2. while i generally agree with everything you've pointed out re: Crapification (my own peeve is the quality of Levi's jeans as of late), one thing that i applaud and love is the stamped or silkscreened info inside the collar instead of those annoying tags! it was one thing when the tags were made of soft fabric, but those itchy plastic-y ones are the WORST. gimme tags printed directly on the collar any day!

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    1. I never found Jockey's tags itchy. My main issue with the stamped tags is if you're putting on the shirt in the dark, you can't tell the back from the front (or in the light, when the tag wears off).

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    2. Manufacturers stopped using tags NOT because they'd received complaints from consumers. They stopped using tags to save money. THEN their ad companies manufactured a myth about itchy tags, so that consumers would not complain about having size and content info printed onto the garment instead of onto a tag.

      Remember "restless leg syndrome," and all the medicaments that were shilled to counteract it? Not a thing, restless leg syndrome. No need to take a pill to save yourself from it.

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    3. My husband finds the stamp more comfortable. I totally agree to with the Levi's @FrankO. I used to love them. Now, they are terrible. Unless I buy the $200 version.

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    4. I have restless leg syndrome and believe you me, it's a thing. I don't think there is a pill to cure it though!

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    5. I'm with you. Had it twice this week and couldn't get to sleep each time.

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    6. All you need to do is eat a tablespoon of plain old yellow mustard, just before you go to bed -- or two of the fast-food mustard packets. Helps prevent all sorts of muscle cramps in feet and legs.

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    7. I have a BS in Biology with extra coursework in Physiology. When I first heard of that crazy mustard remedy for leg cramps I laughed. But one night after excruciating painful calf cramps, and a half hour of trying to stretch it out, I tried the mustard remedy, coarse ground thank you, and within minutes I had relief. God only knows how, but it works!

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    8. just tried that remedy and it does seem to work. My cause is a medicine that I take. Will be interested if it works on the days that I take that pill, but so far I have been having mild twitches all over and I took the mustard and I had the best nights of sleep in years! Thanks for posting this! Bless you!

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    9. Ii wouldn't dream of saying "depression isn't a thing" because I haven't personally suffered from it. I suffer everyday with RLS and have since my early teens. It is not leg cramps; it is a neurological disorder. My brain transmits messages to my legs to move; I cannot resist the impulse to move them. If I try to stay still, it feels like bugs crawling under my skin, no cramps. My medication quiets these impulses and makes sleep possible. Please don't make assumptions; it is offensive to those of us who deal with this every day.

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    10. Itchy tags AREN'T a myth. I cut off (or unseam) all tags from my clothes since my teen years - and I'm sixty now.

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  3. Female Jockey cotton undies and tank top wearer. My last purchase of tank tops-noticed after a few wearing that there are side seams in the tank tops. There never were side seams in the gear before. The Classic underwear has hopscotched countries as well. Regular prices have gone up with each more distant nation involved in production. I wait for Sears or Hudson's Bay to have a 25% off sale before I buy a three-pack of underwear or double pack of tank tops (hard to find white or natural shades in single packs). Ontario Canada!

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  4. Yes I totally agree. Right now I am having issues of sizing of tidie whities underpants for my husband. I bought 36-38 waist at Kohls,their brand. He complained they were tight,so I measured them--no wonder, they measured 30". Recently I bought some new ones; don't remember the brand, again size 36-38. I took out a pair and measured them---this time they measure 28". I wonder who likes to squeeze into a waist band 10" too small. Granted its elastic but still??? What drives me nuts with undershirts is how off-grain the body is--hard to get a nice fold!!! Renita
    Ps I enjoy all your posts!

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    1. A six inch less circumference in the elastic waistband is a standard rule of thumb. Just measured my old Kirkland tightie whities, and even with numerous wash and dries, 6" less!! But 10"? Maybe a little too tight!

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  5. Where to start?! The thing that comes to my mind is children's clothes. It is so difficult to find pretty, durable clothes for my 7-year old that are not so thin they are see through and don't make her look like a future hooker. I worry that the clothes I buy for her especially in the winter actually keep her warm especially in times like our recent snow storms. I sometimes think of making all of her clothes, but, I am a slow slower and she is a fast grower.

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  6. Obviously you are brand loyal to your favorite undies. My husband is just as particular. He recently had a come to Jesus moment and could not take the cheap crap any more. He discovered the higher end of the Gildan tees and they are really nice. He prefers the blends to the 100% cottons and I agree. They have more heft, are a touch softer and look great. You may want to check them out. They come in various price points. All I know is that he bought his at a higher end store and they were packaged separately, you know, beautifully folded on the shelf.

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  7. I feel the same. Similar instance for me with Hanes sweatpants. The ones I bought more than a decade ago (and are sadly falling apart now) were the perfect cut, soft, comfortable. They became my go-to lounge/pajama pants, but also looked cute enough with fun sneakers & top. They don't make them from the same fabric anymore, so they aren't as soft, warm or stretchy. And the fit is awful. Target just did the same thing to kids by replacing their beloved Circo brand and dropping Cherokee (both offered great fit, classic style & nice quality for a good price) and replacing it with their "hipper" Cat and Jack in-house brand. Fit is awful on everything and the fabrics are rough and thin and everything is cliche hipster look. 100% agree that higher profits and keeping the price perceived as low, even though the quality's gone downhill, are to blame. My husband also hates how undershirts have become, but we cross the border and buy them from Joe Fresh stores in Canada. Old school quality, still reasonable price. Might be worth a weekend trip for you!

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  8. I would guess that we all know the phenomenon even if we don't know the word. Not just clothing, but so many things, even food (flavorless fruit and veggies) etc. The purveyors of this stuff will respond to only thing. Vote with your wallet and tell them why!

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  9. Totally hear this! Recently rediscovered a few t-shirts I wore in college back in the '90s. They've not only held up, but I swear the cotton is better quality than t-shirts I've bought recently. They went back into rotation!

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  10. I wear Hanes sports bras instead of regular bras. The last time I bought them I bought my regular size - they were too tight. I called their hot line and complained. The gal kept asking me what size bra I usually wear. I kept telling her I only wear Hanes and I wear a large. We went through this three times. She sent me two new ones next size up which were actually a tiny bit smaller than my worn out ones. I'm now on the lookout for suitable fabric to make my own. I went through the same thing with Nike running shoes. They changed where the shoes were made and suddenly I was half a size larger so I understand your gripe.
    Theresa in Tucson

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  11. Out of interest, how would American Apparel's $22 compare to Jockey's $2.75 in the sixties? Personally I'm hoping the expectation of cheap prices, leading to poorer and poorer quality, will lead to a backlash. Perhaps we'll end up back at paying properly for decent goods? One can only hope :)

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    1. According to an inflation calculator I found online, $2.75 in 1965 would have a purchasing power of $21.28 today. So close!

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    2. Inflation is part of the picture, but incomes haven't kept up. Yes, companies are cheaping out on everything to please stockholders, but consumers can't see spending more money on things because wages have stagnated since the 1970s, unless you're part of the 1%.

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  12. Ah Peter - let me tell you the sad truth. Brooks Brothers has undergone crapification too. Yes, ever since they invited Zak Posen to help redesign the women's line - all of the slacks are now lacking a lining. I love a lined pant. They lie nicely. They don't show underwear seams. And, they last longer. It made me so angry that I got a couple of pants patterns and made my first pair. It wasn't so hard!

    HA!

    Now Brooks Brothers has lost a customer, cause I'm not going around wearing crappified pants.

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  13. I was thinking that exact same thing about my ponytail elastics! They just don't last anymore...

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  14. Victoria Secret underwear! They don't have me as a customer anymore.

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    1. In 1992 Victoria's had many many silk items...Real silk. Now everything is polyester. So sad...

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  15. Hanes and Fruit of the Loom have done the same. IN the 70's I could buy men's Tshirts, cut and sew them into my size and style. Four months ago I bought a Hanes Tshirt, size, enormous, to make into a tunic. Snip, sew, wash--suddenly my roomy tunic was tight over the bust, negating the entire reason for buying it. And the label on the front said it would stay the same size forever.The nice smooth knit had also become almost corrugated. Even had it stayed the same size, I don't think I could have worn it.

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  16. My jockey undies did the same. And we are talking only five years ago they were a decent weight and the elastic was attached well. So pissed.

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  17. With 20/20 hindsight I would have bought 1000 pairs of gold toe boys athletic socks to last a lifetime. For me! I discovered them at Target about 5 years ago when I shopping for my boys. The quality was shockingly high for kids anything and even better than any adult sock I've run across. Thick chewy heels, thinner supportive gusset, invisibly elastic (no broken stetchy threads appearing over time)and they never lost their shape. And what a bargain! I got about 20 pairs for me. But alas, I actually did athletic things in them and after 5 years of daily use, I got some thinning through the heel. I can't find them anywhere and the new "gold" toes are pure crapification. I have new hope of finding deadstock.

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    1. I used to buy the same for my son! And now... no more. I understand completely - the new socks get rough and thin out at the heel so quickly. I'd gladly pay a little more for better quality socks.

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    2. Is Post here if you ever find good socks like that again!

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  18. Where can I start? I bought a Maytag washer and dryer when I bought my first house. I still had them twenty years later. When the washer broke, I bought a new and improved (not!) HE washer and dryer to match. They lasted less than six years, and had numerous repairs in the meantime. I see this crapification in everything: I bought a shirt in a nice department store and the buttons began to fall off after the first wearing. I bought $18 a pair undies made from organic cotton. The elastic waistbands came loose from the fabric on every single pair. I fixed them myself. For an outrageous $18 a pair I shouldn't have had to! I find it sad to be living in an age where nearly everything is disposable junk, meant to be tossed out and replaced as soon as possible, so we can go buy more.

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  19. Well since I am only 20, I don't have that much experience. But I recently tried to get purchase basic cotton t shirts without any extra. They were basically see through. The old one I bought three! Jears ago. Definitely weren't see through and are still working. But it seems I have to start sewing basic stuff.

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  20. Eileen Fisher had been my go to brand for clothing when I was working -- great fabric, excellent styling and fit. But within the last few years, even with high prices, some fabrics has become thinner to the point I have to layer in order to stay decent. Moreover, the designs have been simplified drastically to minimize labor involved in pattern design and construction to the point that I am driven to return to sewing my own.

    But that is not the only brand I see getting crapified. Appliances, furniture, underwear often disappoint instead of delight. Our old appliances used to last 10-30 years without problem while our new ones often need costly repair after a couple of years. It saddens me so much that our landfills are getting filled so quickly with fairly new items because they are no longer serviceable. On the other hand, I have had good experiences with cars and electronics.

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  21. I recently went shopping for dress pants for a job interview. I hadn't bought any in a long time due to not working for 5 years and casual every-day-is-Friday before that when I was working. I was surprised and disappointed that they've done away with lining pants. Even the pricey Max Mara pants weren't lined. And this is in Europe, so it's not just a cheapening of US goods. Fast Fashion was invented here thanks to H&M and Zara.

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  22. Another experience... my (then) husband used to wear Jockey briefs for more than 20 years. Here in Germany they are more expensive than most other brands, but they also last significantly longer. So in the end they were not that expensive.

    Then... maybe three or four years ago he went on a business trip to the US and brought back a bunch of Jockeys, because they were significantly cheaper than in Germany. I think like 1/3 of the price.
    Only the quality was way worse. After three or four washes they had pilings all over were lump...

    BUT... I had purchased some in Germany at the same time which still had the same quality he was used to...

    Same brand name, but evidently not the same product...

    (For undershirts he wore the french brand Eminence. Because they were comfortable to wear and would last a long time.)

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  23. love the term 'crapification', I definitely notice a downward spiral.... I I tend to seek out old 80s clothing to refashion as the quality of fabric is so much better

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  24. What about jeans front pockets? Les fabric, worst fabric, almost no front facing. Horrible!

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  25. I see this so much! Trying to buy large tall t-shirts for my son that aren't twisted, thin messes has become an impossible battle. I used to get so much from Lands End, great quality - but over the last few years you see more and more comments from customers complaining about the fabric becoming thinner and thinner for the same style, that things are more see through, etc. It is very sad. Same thing in appliances... we have a washer/dryer set, Kenmore, that is 15 years old. The repairman told us straight out to keep them as long as possible because they were the last of the workhorses, the new stuff was much more likely to keep breaking down. SO sad. Many people would much rather pay a little more and have something last.

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  26. I recommend listening to the T-shirt series from Planet Money from 2013, they follow the progress of making a t-shirt from growing the cotton to the final t-shirt. They go to a factory in Colombia that sews the women's Jockey t-shirt and, spoiler alert, just as economic conditions are improving for the workers at that factory, Jockey decides to stop using them because it's too expensive. http://www.npr.org/series/248799434/planet-moneys-t-shirt-project

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  27. SeamsterEast on aolMarch 17, 2017 at 9:13 AM

    You can always make a product a little cheaper to sell for a little less money. The problem is, some companies (have you been in Bloomingdale's -- now owned by Macy*s which is on a downhill slide to bankruptcy -- lately?) take cheaper products and attach a higher price to it, hoping consumers believe price always indicates quality. Ralph Lauren's family fortune has dropped from $8B to $4B in just four years (life is terrible, right? But it --IS-- a $4B loss!) trying to compete with consumer desire for lower prices. (Note, RL never was all that high quality, though their advertising was.) Today, the choice is to either pay a premium price for high end merchandise in specialty shoppes, or pay a premium in time expended to make your own high end clothing. This has always been true, underwear to men's top coats. Today, it is difficult to find high quality clothing, but that will change again once the customer insists clothing last more than a style season. Today's men scoff at wearing Grandpa's clothing, but me I'd kill to get my hands on one of my grandfather's sport coats. (All long gone.)

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    1. SeamsterEast on aolMarch 17, 2017 at 9:37 AM

      Pima, the best cotton in the United States (and arguably the world), is grown in California, which had a several year long drought in its prime farm land area.

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    2. I grew upon in Cal in the middle of the main agricultural area and have never seen cotton there. So I suspect that it is grown in the southern part of Cal, which is more dessert like, and not great for most food production. Not sure how the recent torrential rains have affected that area, but the north has been thoroughly drenched.

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  28. My concern is the thinning, thinning, thinning of knit fabrics, whether purchased off the bolt [online] or sewn into basic tees/t-necks. I have a trove of basic turtlenecks and crew-neck knit tops from Lands End and LL Bean that I've had for more than 10 years. Last season I ripped the collars off, cut down the worn parts, and resewed them. These are the ones I still turn to in my closet on weekends. The fabric is still hefty, after hundreds of washings, the colors true, the grainlines straight. Most replacements I've ordered have had to be sent back for poor quality [except, I must say, the lovely ones from J Jill]. Thanks, Peter, for your observations. I've been wanting to complain for a long time! ....... And not to mention the piles of knit fabrics on my shelves that I just cannot find patterns for, as they are too flimsy to use for basic garments. I've found a good source for organic knits and am impressed with every cut I've sewn thus far. So, I cross my fingers for better options ahead.

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  29. In listening to the second season of the Start Up podcast, which was about the former head of American Apparel, there is a shift in the American t-shirt market towards a coarser fabric and a looser fit. This may have also carried over into undershirts for this new aesthetic reason, in addition to probably having the benefits of lower costs for manufacturers.

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  30. I'm glad to see so many people pointing out lining in pants. I went shopping for pants recently and couldn't find a single lined pair. I started to wonder if I had made lined pants up (I haven't shopped for pants in ten years). Also, I have an old GAP blazer from high school that is still going strong. Nothing else I have bought recently compares qualitywise.

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  31. You can really tell the difference when thrift store shopping. I picked up a uniqlo tee that is literally twice as thick as the new ones I picked up. Even used, it's lasted longer than my pilling to death "new" ones. One thing I've noticed, is the sneaking in of microfiber and the upping of spandex in my favorite brands. I assume this is to make things feel nicer in the outset, at the expense of longevity. My classic fit Lee jeans have gone from 5 to 25% spandex. The fabric seems just as thick, but I'm wary. I hate the way this has spread to the fabric sellers. It's ridiculously hard to find high quality cotton knits anymore.

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  32. Share holders and their hand-maidens, the accountants, have optimized profits and minimized costs in clothes, food, healthcare, everything - without leaving any benefit or "hidden value" for the consumer. It's a log flume of pay-for-the-bare-minimum, while they charge several layers higher (grocery stores are doing this, and not just the aspiring near-Whole Foods competitors - new displays fool no one!).

    Visit a higher end department store (someone mentioned Bloomingdales, which used to carry value-for-a-price merchandise), and the pickin's are slim. There are more "house brand" knock-offs present, and displayed "as if", but one can discern the essence of "cheaping out" in the details. Target is in trouble, and they did it to themselves (crappier merchandise, as someone pointed out above, and not even gussying up their stores to mask the crapification in progress!).

    The shift away from traditional retailers, and an upcoming return to long-lasting/repairable items is underway. Speed Queen washers for the home are expensive, but are being purchased because of their longevity, METAL PARTS (are you listening sewing machine manufacturers?), and repairability (the triumvirate which is the opposite of crapification) are in place. http://laundry.reviewed.com/content/speed-queen-awne92sp113tw-washing-machine-review

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    1. After our experience with the craptastic HE washer and dryer, we bought a Speed Queen set. Nothing flashy or fancy, just a basic washer and dryer. Knock on wood, they should last 20 years or more.

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  33. Are there any consumer goods left that haven't been crapified?

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    1. SeamsterEast of aolMarch 17, 2017 at 2:58 PM

      Yes, automobiles, microwaves, TV's, cellphones. kitchen knives, sunglasses, electronic watches, PC computers, office calculators, laundry stain removers, powdered coffee creamers, Zip-Lock bags, downhill skis, outboard motors, motorcycles, fishing rods, skateboards, hunting archery, road construction safety vests. All of which are better than they were 30 years ago. When consumers want reliability, they are willing to pay for it. Right now, most consumers of clothing value price over durability, or even quality of fit. That will change once again.

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    2. I agree that automobiles are better than they used to be. And also tires, if you stay away from the really cheap imported ones. Not so sure about office calculators, though. We used to buy ones that lasted years. Now we're lucky to get a year and half out of them.

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  34. Seems like every bloody thing is cheaper. I hate the newer refrigerators!! Fabric for sewing has disappeared in my area! My husband used to love Munsingwear underwear but they don't wash like they used to. And women's underwear is lousy. I am going to learn to make my own soon. I can't stand the lousy elastic they use, it starts to unravel after three washes. Businessmen, especially those who never go to the factory should spend time in prison, IMO.

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  35. Pulling the car over to examine that t's neckline: one difference is that the newer one is stitched down after being serged to the body.
    This is a very common technique in home sewing, and it always gives me that stretched out effect because - surprise!- I'm stretching it out.

    As for the "they don't make em like they used to..." due to a travel luggage loss, my spouse bought a couple of Zegna tshirts and briefs in 1998? 1997? in Milan. Worth every penny in pima and seaming and fit for my skinny man. They are just falling apart now, and I've been trying to acquire a few more.

    Using the same product number and description, my BIL brought home ONE from Florence last year. And it is a piece of crap. A very expensive (50EU), badly sewn, already falling apart, 20% poly and feels worse, "PIMA" (No it's not!) men's small that would fit an elephant. If an elephant wanted something that scratchy. Apparently they no longer make the model my husband bought, from the department store, so many years ago. But they'd like you to think they do. The salesperson insisted they hadn't changed their models.

    On the local front, Costco's men's tshirts are HUGE but they cut down well enough. We wear those. They wear pretty well. They are thicker but cushy can be a blessing.

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    1. I tried Costco's and sent them back. I think the new neckband is attached using some sort of coverstitch.

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    2. Yes, my understanding is that it's attached and coverstitched in one process - that is the improvement/cost savings. One employee can hold the neckband close to the neckline opening and the machine pulls it on in one step in microseconds. The stitches are computerized so that each size has the same number of stitches - thus another reason why we have to all fit into a few standard sizes. An industrial sewing machine dealer told me about watching one person, standing at this new machine,making thousands of sweatshirts a day (alone) at the dealers trade show that year- would have been the mid 1990's. There was a second person at the display area boxing and stacking finished sweatshirts as fast as he could to keep up. They covered a wall and to the ceiling over the trade show week. It was quite unsettling to the old timers in the industrial machine business.

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  36. well you've opened a can of worms here Peter! But well done for so doing and what is amazing is that everyone feels equally outraged about the quality of everything that is now, let's call a spade a spade, made in China. I agree completely with what everyone is saying regarding stretch material and underwear but would add into the mix wool. I have wool and cashmere jumpers made in Europe that are over 20 years old and still in excellent condition. The same brands (which now market themselves as "designed in Europe") produce woollen goods that are pilled within two or three washes. I now systematically ask where the garment was manufactured; if it was made in China, I won't buy it, simply based on experience. What is interesting is that, little by little, the same manufacuturing houses whose production had entirely shifted to Asia few years ago, are now offering one or two models which are made with European wool; I'm clearly not the only one who has withdrawn his custom because of the appalling quality. As regards stretch cotton, I bought Calvin Klein for year and now, as you point out, it's exactly the same thing - a pair of boxers is pilled after few washes and in holes within a year which wasn't the case twenty years ago. That said, I don't see the same solutions for underwear and t shirts, perhaps because they don't have the same superficial glamour as a jumper??? Let's face it, you can still wear shabby underwear whereas we would probably throw an outer garment in a similar state. There's a new label here in France called "le slip francais" which looks to combine style with quality but it's expensive and we'll have to see how well it wears. I'll be in the States in a couple of weeks and will probably buy some more Calvin Klein underwear but without much hope that it will last long and I'm open to suggestions if there is some new, elegant but quality equivalent!!!

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  37. I have found L.L Bean's clothing to be deteriorating as well. Items I purchased years ago are outlasting more recent items, and the problem with shrinkage has increased dramatically. If any of their knit items so much as see a dryer, they immediately become a size (or two) smaller. Drip drying racks have been the solution. I would like to make more of my clothes, but as others have said, finding quality fabric is a challenge.

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  38. As a Christmas splurge I bought a Sunspel tshirt- fabulous cotton. I partially agree with the "crapification" thesis, but on the other hand I know many people who want the same prices of 30 years ago and then complain about the quality of a 15 dollar garment (oh and they also want to own 10 times as many clothes as people used to own). $15 isn't much to cover labor, equipment depreciation, shipping, and raw materials. I do find though that "luxury brands" all sell out eventually. Brands that have gone downhill: Hanro, Smartwool, Kitchenaid, La Cruiset, Ariat, Naot. Brands I have bought from recently that still seem to make nice quality: Bates bedspreads, Falke socks, Darn Tough socks.

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    1. I agree with this - I know many more people who refuse to pay more in order to have a high quality item. I'm glad some people are hopeful that this trend will reverse but I'm dubious - I think there's too much inertia in the system which tends toward profit for CEOs at any cost, and most people are sucked in by fast fashion and think it's normal for a tshirt to last 6 months.

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  39. Both LL Bean and Land's End men's dress shirts are wearing less than a year and in some case months. The edges of collar, cuffs and placket get holes in them, and in one case, a tear along the sleeve crease after less than five months of wearing.

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  40. In addition to some of the root cause comments above, I'd like to add the following thoughts (and I do not argue those previous points, absolutely companies are making lower quality goods than they used to):

    Soil depletion, changing weather patterns, gene manipulation for pest & disease resistance have changed the qualities of the cotton plants themselves. Just like tomatoes don't taste like they used to fifty years ago, cotton plants do not produce the same fibers that they used to.

    The pervading consumerist & convenience culture creates a cycle of throw away goods, covering everything from clothing to housewares to to electronics to machinery and appliances. Products are literally built to become obsolete, thus requiring replacement. Additionally, if they are repairable, skilled technicians are inconvenient to contact/locate for a myriad of reasons, including culpability/responsibility for issues later.

    In specific regards to clothes, I wonder if the ingredients in inexpensive washing soap, the pervasiveness of fabric softeners, the aggressiveness of newer wash machines and the reliance on hot water wash (perceived to be cleaner) & high heat drying (so much faster!) all add to the faster deterioration of newer fabrics? How many people realize that when you wash in cold water, dry on cool and hang dry, your clothes last longer...

    Also, high recommendations for American Giant. Yes they're a little expensive, but you get the quality you pay for.

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    1. Binkydoll, you made an interesting comment about cotton plants not producing the fibers they used to. I have often wondered about that since, aside from ready made garments, I also find it difficult to buy high quality fabric to sew. So maybe good quality raw materials are not so easily available even for the garment manufacturers? On a related note, I buy makeup brushes and the absolutely best goat brushes I have purchased come from 1970's stock that have been hoarded. Interesting that there seems to be a thread in comments here that the quality of manmade goods like machinery and appliances have gone up while the quality of natural products like cotton have declined.

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    2. i have cottons and knits in my stash that i purchased many many years ago, when my children were young. there is no comparison in the quality of todays offerings. most cottons could have peas shot through them they are so thin and coarsely woven

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  41. Regarding undershirts... I never noticed the lumpy neck band problem (I'll have to look), but I definitely have noticed the crapification of the material used to make the shirts. I can't stand the feel of some of my recent undershirt purchases. Cheap, cheap, cheap!

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  42. I hear ya. I have observed the crapification of all products among all categories. I recently purchased a Maytag stove and had to have it repaired after only one year. The oven stopped working because the igniter had broken. The quality of clothes, appliances, everything has spiraled downward fast.

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  43. Ehh do I make my own panties out of my worn out tshirts you might ask?
    And I'm still happily using a vintage waring blender I bought in the 1960's at a household sale! Probably from the 50's. Rewired years ago and going strong.

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  44. Crapification! What an excellent word. I endorse evreything you and your commenters have said. It's a thing throughout the western world.
    About 2 years ago,I had to replace my 15 year old Fisher and Paykel washing machine, made in New Zealand. I thought I'd replace it with another F&P and have it for another 15 years . The sales assistant though, told me F&P no longer makes washing machines in NZ, but in Thailand (or somewhere in SE Asia, can't remember where), and they couldn't warrant they'd last 5 years. BUT I could purchase expensive insurance, which means if my crappy washing machine claps out within 5 years, I would get another crappy washing machine to replace it! No thanks to that scam.
    In the end I opened up my wallet and paid for a German made Bosch, which cost almost three times as much as an outsourced Bosch, but so far has been humming like a top (touching wood as I write this).
    Crapfication! A bane of the modern world - along with some other banes I won't go into here.

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  45. Completely agree with your comments, everything is becoming increasingly low quality so we have to replace the same item over and over again and fuel the economy. I am in the UK and used to love the quality of M&S long sleeved T shirts, the felt lovely and washed and washed. They are awful now, really thin and wash out of shape almost instantly. I am running out of my old favourites and just can't find a replacement at any of the brands and stores I have tried of the same or even anywhere near the same quality

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  46. The crapification of the world. The t-shirt as symbol of the reification of shareholder value. The only value that counts these days. We've been trained to have low expectations and to accept poor quality, poor wages, poor responses, and where does it end? You begin to understand why people want to live off the grid -- at least when things don't meet your standards, you know who to blame and how to fix it. I find in this wonderful community of makers an antidote to this inexorable slide to the lowest common denominator. We just need to keep making it known that "We are here! We are here! We are here!" Thank you, Peter, for unravelling this essential symbol of our civilization's situation.

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  47. I wonder how all this will end up. Honestly, we all need less stuff, but we need better stuff. This rampant disposable consumerism seems unsustainable long term. Will the silent frustration of many added to the more vocal objections of some of us triumph and lead to a reset and a demand for a turn back to quality? I wish I could think so, and there are pockets of hope. But I don't feel very optimistic about it on a large scale. Given the realities of the global marketplace we live in, the low expectations of many who don't know the difference between quality and not, and the difficulty of the rest of us driving lasting change, I don't see major changes in the near future. I think it is going to take something fairly major to make large scale changes anytime soon. In the meantime, we can vote with our wallets and reward the companies who are trying. If they make quality and no one buys it, then they will have to go back to making craptastic cheap and disposable junk.

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  48. Reading these comments I was reminded how much I like Maggie's Organics socks. I just ordered a 6-pak of black, the only color I wear, to go with my black slacks, the only color I wear. They have lots of yummy colors though. I hope their quality hasn't gone downhill.

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  49. There is the "fast fashion" thing and books have been written about that. But mostly people are too busy, too lazy, or too worried about making waves to speak up. We the consumers still have some power if we are truly determined. If a product that you used to like is no longer worth carrying home, then don't. Tell a store manager or at least someone in that department. Write,on paper!, to the home office. Or call the home office and don't give up until someone is willing to actually listen. Be polite but thorough and firm. It's the only way.

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  50. i once saw a women make handmade undershirts from merino wool jersey i thought that was just luxurious sounding! but yea undershirts don't have the same fit and drape as they use to and the fabric sucks only brand I currently like is DNKY they are very soft and durable and still has that silky feeling and the few spanx shirts I own

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  51. Come on, you guys! I can't be the only one who first read that as
    'The Crapification of Men's UndershOrts' and thought it meant something completely different! lol

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  52. Can anyone recommend any good clothing brands for men?

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  53. You call it 'crapification', industries call it 'profit maximizing' and 'planned obsolescence' I call it 'brutal materialism'.

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  54. Hi Peter. There is a recent video by a Parson's professor that touches on this topic, why does a shirt have to get to a rock bottom price (and quality) to the point that a sandwich costs more than a shirt and that the working conditions put people's lives at risk. Look it up on YouTube,
    Anti-Fashion: A Manifesto for the Next Decade | Li Edelkoort | #BoFVOICES (30 mins long, she makes very interesting points.)

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  55. Thank you for writing this post. My friend's and family have been giving me stink eye because I rant about this. I actually noticed this when I went to try to replace 20+ year old towels. I couldn't find a towel at any price point that didn't lose color due to acne medications. Meanwhile, my vintage american manufactured dark forest green towels never have developed fade spots no matter what and the decorative bands have never shrunk disproportionately to the rest of the towel. I find this lack of quality thing very frustrating.

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  56. My oldest shirt is a Metallica Tshirt from 1999. It´s still pretty wereable. I think made by GAP.
    The new ones last two years,and the cotton is crap.

    Love this blog.

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  57. Your term "crapification" should be added to the new update of the Oxford English Dictionary because it describes most of the consumer products available today. So many people are fed up with the poor quality sweat shop junk. Go to macy*s or Kohl's and check out the racks upon racks of clearance "crap"--even at 80% off original price plus coupon discount, shoppers don't want the junk! Our local department store The Bon Ton has jam packed racks of unwanted summer clothing from last year.

    Thanks for highlighting this issue which has aggravated and disappointed so many consumers, Peter.

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  58. Absolutely! It's a constant aggravation of mine that things just don't last. Products used to last much longer, especially clothes. For me it's jeans. You used to be able to buy a pair of women's jeans and they'd last for YEARS. Nowadays you're lucky if you can get them to last one. And that's with constant rotations between several pairs, when back in the day I needed maybe 2-3 pairs. Socks wear out in a matter of months, if not sooner. I've never had a large wardrobe, so when I did purchase something, it was with the desire to have it last for years, not months. I'd rather put my money into other things, instead of constantly budgeting for basics. Again, this is a large part of why I picked self-sewing back up.

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