What are we going to wear to the apocalypse?

September 11, 2008 at 3:05 pm 2 comments

This has been sitting in my drafts folder for months.

I’ve been reading loads about peak oil lately, with the Transition Handbook and various other avenues it’s prompted me to explore, and it’s great that people are writing about the stuff we need to actually do: much great stuff out there about relocalising food, growing our own veg, building houses from local, sustainable materials, walking instead of driving and bringing our lives back within walking distance so it doesn’t seem like such a wrench….

But, with the notable exception of Sharon Astyk, who says we should all be knitting socks, all peak oil writers seem to be neatly sidestepping the problem that once we all start farming and building houses and doing a lot more physical, outdoor work, we’re going to need suitable clothes. Blimmin’ men. 😉 Most people in the West today work indoors, usually in air-conditioned offices or shops, and we can get away with wearing flimsy acrylic jumpers or (in some mind-boggling cases) T-shirts in January. We aren’t really equipped, as a society, to get out there and dig. We don’t have warm enough trousers, jumpers and coats, we don’t have proper boots, and some day we won’t just be able to buy a new pair of socks every time ours get holes in, like we do now. We won’t be able to grow or import so much cheap, fossil-fuel-intensive cotton, and we’re probably going to be wearing out our clothes a lot faster.

Speaking purely from personal anecdotal experience, during the coldest parts of this year, I was wearing my two woollen jumpers and my one (beautiful, utterly decadent) cashmere jumper on a constant rotation. My dad had always sworn by natural fibres, but my parents’ central heating was so efficient I never really realised it until we moved here. Hmm. Rising fuel costs, anyone???

This should be on the agenda too! The tone of what most of what I’ve read implies that clothes are a symbol of our cheap, disposable culture, and should go the way of these pesky electronics and allow us to get back to the real stuff we need to worry about; but relocalising textiles and fabrics and creating durable, repairable items of clothing is, I grant you, not as important as growing vegetables, but easily of equal importance as building durable, repairable houses and furniture.

Objectively speaking, our unsustainable obsession with fashion extends beyond simply clothes to the Changing Rooms-esque regularity with which we are all supposed to replace our kitchens and bathrooms or the furnishings and decor of our rooms, and from both of these we can extract a sustainable alternative (I say ‘alternative’ as if that’s the weird option… you know what I mean…) based on the knowledge that having something to live in and something to wear are of more or less equal usefulness. And yet the gruff, rugged masculine option is the one that gets all the attention…

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Entry filed under: clothes, crafts, peak oil, textiles, yarn. Tags: , , , , .

Garden – before and after In which I realise heirloom vegetables are superior to F1s and experiment with vegetables

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. dakota  |  September 18, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    You know, I ended up wearing about two sweaters the whole winter long too. I wish they’d make nice, warm sweaters that still look nice without being too skimpy. I don’ t know if it’s the case over there, but here a sweater is more or less a slightly thicker shirt with sleeves… there isn’t a lot of attention paid to warmth if it’s stylish, and none to style if it’s warm. It’s frustrating. Even making my own is a bit of a challenge since I’m not a knitter, and haven’t crocheted in quite a while. Almost a little bit more of a problem though in my opinion is how to make fabric. I have not the slightest idea how to weave… and knit or crocheted pants might just be odd. 😛

    Reply
  • 2. Jon in France  |  September 21, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    I’m a big fan of multiple layers: tee-shirt, shrit, light wooly all topped of with a Barbour jacket.

    I just hope Barbour jackets are available after the collapse…I get through one only once in ten years, so I suppose hoarding could be a practical proposition!

    Reply

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The Heritage Crafts Network

Rob Hopkins, Transition Handbook

“Environmentalists have often been guilty of presenting people with a mental image of the world’s least desirable holiday destination – some seedy bed and breakfast near Torquay, with nylon sheets, cold tea and soggy toast – and expecting them to get excited about the prospect of NOT going there. The logic and the psychology are all wrong.”

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

"Food is that rare moral arena in which the ethical choice is generally the one more likely to make you groan with pleasure."

Carlo Petrini

"A gastronome who is not also an environmentalist is an idiot. An environmentalist who is not also a gastronome is, well, sad."

Sharon Astyk

"I am, of course, firmly opposed to consumerism and corporatism in all its forms, and I believe that we are deeply confused about material needs and wants. Now let me explain how books and yarn are totally different than the material things that other people want ;-)…."

Raj Patel, at Slow Food Nation

"Biofuels, which is the preposterous policy that we should grow food not to eat it but to set it on fire."

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