In this guide, I'm going to share with you how to make clothes last longer. As a minimalist fashion enthusiast, buying only clothes I love means only getting clothes that are of the highest quality and likely to outlast me. No compromises.
While most of the clothes I get are made to be bombproof, like my pair of Outlier Strong Dungarees, you still want to take extra steps to have them lasting as long as possible.
Here are some of the reasons you want to make clothes last longer:
Making your clothes last longer means you'll spend less money replacing them. Simple as that. Most of the pieces I own, like the Outlier New Shorts, have lasted me years and years with no signs of slowing down. I don't see myself replacing them anytime soon despite them being my only pair of shorts.
Taking care of your clothes also means that they always stay in good condition, presentable for the world to see. While I am a big believer of “your clothes take care of you, not the other way around”, I believe a reasonable level of care will pay it forward.
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By taking care of the clothes you already have, you can reduce the urge to add more clothes to your wardrobe because you are no longer satisfied with the ones you have. Having less, means less clothes to worry about or take care of, means more time and energy focusing on the things that matter.
How to Make Your Clothes Last Longer—10 Rules I Live By
So how do you actually go about doing it? It's actually pretty simple. These are some of the rules that I religiously live by, so I can attest for them personally.
1. Buy Clothes That Last
Or simply put, buy high-quality pieces. In this era of fast fashion, we like to constantly look for the next trend. I would suggest that buying one $500 jacket as opposed to five $100 jackets (I spent $750 on the Outlier Shelter from the Storm and never looked back) would give you more satisfaction.
These higher-priced pieces usually equate to high quality which will last longer by default instead of you having to make your clothes last longer. If you go for something more classic in style, like the VETRA Workwear Jacket, it's likely that the style would outlast trends to stay on as a wardrobe staple.
2. Buy Clothes that Age Beautifully
Even if you can't figure out how to make your clothes last longer, this rule is a cheat code. If your clothes would probably wear out anyway, just get the ones that look better as they wear out. This is also why I test products over a long period of time to see how they stand up and how they look when they don't.
In general, long-time brands will often have this quality with their flagship products, like the GORUCK GR1 or the VETRA Workwear Jacket. You can also choose this based on material, like leather or denim.
3. Wash as Little as Possible
Or don't wash at all. I know this might sound icky to some, but you really don't need to wash your clothes as often as you think you do. Washing your clothes would cause friction, which would wear down the fibers of the fabric.
How often is as little as possible? The easiest rule that I personally go by is to only wash something if there is a visible stain or if it smells. Even then, attempting spot cleaning it first. This means only cleaning the part where the stain is. You also want to start from the most delicate way of washing, like handwashing, rather than just throwing it into the machine.
4. Avoid the Dry Cleaners
In line with “start from the most delicate way of washing”, dry cleaners would be on the opposite end. Dry cleaners use harsh chemicals that harm both the fabric and the environment. While the immediate effect is great, you'll find that frequent trips to the dry cleaners will cause suits (unless maybe the xSuit) to wear and fade out faster. A bonus is that you also save on unnecessary dry-cleaning fees.
I follow rule 2 when deciding when to go to the dry cleaners, and it's usually when I can't remove a stain with professional help.
5. Master the Washing Machine
If you decided that handwashing just ain't going to cut it and that you have to resort to the washing machine, you want to make sure you get it right. Read the washing instruction labels before throwing it in. If you need to, separate different kinds of fabrics into different washes.
It helps if you buy clothes with usually the same fabric. For example, I buy a lot of merino wool stuff, like this Woolx Endurance Tee or Wool&Prince Shirt, so I have gotten experience on what should and should not be done with such a fabric. I wrote an entire article just on merino wool if you really want to know why I chose it.
6. Use a Laundry Bag
As mentioned, what causes the wear in a washing machine is the friction so here's a piece of magic technology I never do without, the good ol' laundry bag for delicates. I put everything in one.
Even on travels, I always have one by my side. Apart from protecting your clothes, they also let you separate your clothes from others when sharing a laundry load. I also use it as a bag to separate my dirty laundry from the rest within my backpack.
7. Dry Clothes without the Dryer
Many washing instructions tell you that dryers can't be used and there is a good reason why. Most clothes aren't made to withstand the dryer. I don't own a dryer and never have, and probably never will. Not owning one will save you a pretty penny on your energy bill as well as avoid accidental shrinkage of the fabric due to overheating.
Try to dry your clothes on a clothesline out in the sun. For clothes that have a tendency to show stretch marks, lay it flat instead. You can use something like this OXO Drying Rack to do so.
8. Ensure a Good Environment for Clothes Storage
There are a few things that could happen to your clothes if you neglect them. If you leave them somewhere where there is an over-exposure of light, they could start to fade or yellow. If you keep them somewhere with a high moisture content, the possibility of molding becomes high.
You want to make sure they are in a dry and cool environment with sufficient breathing space. I usually hang wardrobe dehumidifiers like this, as well as throw them into each drawer to keep the air crisp and dry.
9. Master the Art of Hanging Clothes
First of all, you have to know what kinds of clothes should and should not be hanged. Hanging heavy clothes, especially cotton ones, would cause them to stretch under the weight. Certain materials will also cause stretches at the corners where it's supported by the hangers.
While some might suggest getting expensive, bulky wooden hangers, these aren't for me as they take up way too much space. I use these MAWA hangers and hang only my jackets. I also only hang the jackets that I use the most often, so they don't stay on the hanger for too long. My jackets are also often made of technical fabrics, so stretching isn't really a big problem.
10. Repair whenever Possible
No matter how many guides you read on how to make clothes last longer, clothes are, unfortunately, something that wears out over time. But, instead of letting it go, you should definitely find ways to revive it.
Living in Japan, there isn't a shortage of repair shops. You can repair just about anything here. I use a service called Big Mama which repairs just about any kind of issues. They even let you redye your clothes to restore the original color. I would recommend that you use a professional service, rather than trying to attempt a repair yourself. You don't want to do a botched job on something you want to continue to wear for years to come.
There you have it. Follow these rules, and your clothes will probably outlast you and your adventures? Got a special tip about how to make your clothes last longer? Let me know in the comments below.