Cost of quality then and now.

Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by Lord Flashheart, Feb 17, 2015.

  1. Lord Flashheart

    Lord Flashheart A-List Customer

    Messages:
    378
    Location:
    Victoria, Australia
    Hello all,

    I've just come off the phone to my family back in Scotland and I had an intersting experience.

    I've recently purchased an Aero Teamster and a pair of Redwing Iron Rangers. I mentioned this fact to my dad (aged 73) and to my grandad (Aged 97) independently, both just about had a fit when I told them how much I paid for each item. The jacket was just under a weeks wage and the boots were around a third of a weeks wage, i'm pretty much bang on the Australian average wage estimate. My defence was that both items were top quality and when you break it down to "costs per wear and years of ownership" both items will probably be the cheapest clothes I'll ever buy.

    My dad continued to vibrate at the costs where as my 97 year old grandad saw the point imediately, thinking back to what clothing costs were back in the 30's and 40's and how much of his wage was spent on similar items in Scotland at the time.

    I guess my question is what happened to my dad's generation (assuming my dad is a good example which i think he might not be) and how does my cost comparison for the jacket and boots compare to average wage versus cost of leather apparel in the UK during the 30's and 40's?

    regards

    Flashy
     
  2. Stanley Doble

    Stanley Doble Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,807
    Location:
    Cobourg
    Clothes did cost more as a percentage of peoples' wages in the past. Some people are not good at doing math in their heads.

    There are other factors. When your grandfather was young he probably thought the way you do, that good clothes and shoes cost a lot of money but he would get years of hard wear out of them.

    If your father came of age in the swinging sixties he may recall buying cheap flashy "mod" clothes and throwing them away after six months, when they were out of fashion.
     
  3. Mod clothes should have been thrown away immediately. :p
     
  4. Stearmen

    Stearmen I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    7,206
    In the 60s, if I threw out my clothes in six months, my mother would have killed me! You must have lived in the rich side of town.
     
  5. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    Grabbing a random Sears catalog off the shelf -- Fall and WInter 1938-39 -- we see men's horsehide leather jackets selling at between $6.98 and $9.75. A sheepskin lined horsehide storm coat is the most expensive item of this sort, selling for $14.85. Leather work boots and chore shoes start at $1.89 for the cheapest pair of "farm shoes" and go up to $7.45 for calf-length lace-up boots.

    Sears targeted its merchandise to the working and farm classes. A union factory worker might have an average income of around $1300 a year or $25 a week in 1938. A small farmer or a non-union factory worker would make considerably less -- usually well under $1000 a year. Not too many people in these classes were buying $15 leather coats at those prices, and a new pair of shoes or boots was an investment that required thought and planning. The old shoes and boots were kept functional as long as possible -- most towns had a shoe-repair shop, and there was a big market in home shoe-repair kits. There were also products like So-Lo, a plastic compound that you spread over a worn-out shoe sole like putty. Once it hardened, your shoes were good for a few more months.

    THe kind of people who bought work clothes in the Era bought them to work in. They were kept servicable for as long as possible -- pants and coats were patched as needed, shirts had their collars and cuffs turned, with little regard for passing fashion. They were only sent to the ragbag when they were completely worn out. A city gent with an office job and $3000 per would have no use for chore boots or a leather jacket, unless, perhaps he liked to go up to the Maine woods on his vacation.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2015
  6. buelligan

    buelligan One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    109
    Location:
    London, OH
    Ha Lizzy you have no idea how happy it makes me that you or anyone would have a "Random" Fall and Winter 1938-39 catalog on the shelf. I thought I was the only one with weird old catalogs and maps laying around.
     
  7. 2jakes

    2jakes I'll Lock Up

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    Location:
    Alamo Heights ☀️ Texas
  8. Fastuni

    Fastuni Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,259
    Location:
    Germany
    According to 1930's statistics on the consumption of German working class households:

    Between 13 and 20 % of annual income was spent on clothing.

    From the same income group a "worker" spent around 13%, a "salaried employee" 15% and a "civil servant" 20% of his annual income on clothes.

    In a family with children 50-60% was spent on menswear.
     
  9. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    I have most of the "big book" Sears editions from 1935 thru 1942, and several before and after, back to 1930 and ahead to 1965. There's no better documentation of the consumption habits of working-class and rural America during the Era.

    Was there a European equivalent of Sears?
     
  10. Which also explains why men's vintage clothes, whether they're work clothes or suits, are much harder to find. Women's clothes tended to get consigned to the closet as soon as they went out of style.
     
  11. Fastuni

    Fastuni Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,259
    Location:
    Germany
    In Germany there were several mail-order companies, but none could be described as having an almost singular position or offering everything, like Sears.

    They were much more specialised - for example the North Bavarian "Witt Weiden" Company for textiles (clothes, cloth and home textiles) for the working class. Also they had stronger regional concentration in their operations.

    A large British mail-order company for clothes and textiles was "Kays".
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2015
  12. 2jakes

    2jakes I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    9,680
    Location:
    Alamo Heights ☀️ Texas
    From England .

    [​IMG]

    In the early 1920s the catalogue advertised functional clothes including hard-wearing
    men's dungarees which were suitable for mechanics which "will stand washing many times."


    Sorry, not quite sure how to post the link...:eek:
     
  13. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    In our family, outdated adult clothes would often be cut down for the kids. A lot of my grandmother's cotton dresses were recycled that way.
     
  14. Fastuni

    Fastuni Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,259
    Location:
    Germany
  15. I used to listen to a particular radio personality who would often relate anecdotes about growing up in New York in the '40s and '50s and how as a kid he wore what he called "Dead Man's Pants" until he was in high school as they were sourced by his junk dealer father from the wardrobe of some recently deceased gentleman. :p
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2015
  16. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    And the line from the 1934 Depression wish-fulfillment song "When My Ship Comes In:" -- "And can you imagine the pleasure -- wearing shoes that no one ever wore before?"
     
  17. Dead Man's Pants lol lol
     
  18. Stanley Doble

    Stanley Doble Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,807
    Location:
    Cobourg
    When the shipyards go back on full time

    And sure if the news is true
    The shop bill's the first thing I'll pay
    A new pair of boots and a warm woolen suit
    and a tell’e for Maggie, horray.
    Me old faded shirt I will throw in the dirt
    In a silk one- won't I look in style
    And the very first chance
    I'll put Davy in pants
    when the ship yards go back on full time.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2015

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