This past summer, an interesting article appeared in the International Herald Tribune about how employees at Eni, Italy’s largest power company, agreed to shed their ties and cut back on air conditioning in an effort to help fight global warming.
The company’s Rome and Milan offices began a tentative experiment in what it called, “lighter and cooler office attire.” It was by all accounts a success, though employees made it very clear that expected to return to proper clothing as the weather cooled into autumn.
Italians ditching their ties, are you kidding? Those often fantastic, large-knotted creations that men the world over vainly attempt to duplicate, gone for an entire summer? Well, if nothing else, you can bet the loss of a mere tie did not send office standards into a sartorial tailspin as it has in too many offices across America. Tie or no tie, Italians have standards.
This article, though remarkable from a cultural perspective, is actually an excellent argument for paying attention to what you wear, buying for quality, and focusing on real, timeless style. In fact, it is a great teaching moment: focusing on style actually helps the environment – as it should.
Put simply, when you buy quality clothing, you are making an investment that lasts. By quality, I don’t just mean well-made, I mean a purchase that is also well thought out. When you consciously consider what to buy and carefully edit your wardrobe, you are less likely to make an impulse purchase that will just wind up in a landfill by the end of the year.
Everyday clothing is now relatively cheap and abundant, but there is an enormous price to be paid for such mindless convenience. The environmental costs of sourcing, manufacturing, packaging, transporting, storing, selling, and eventually disposing of these cheap products are large and global.
As opposed to Americans, Europeans tend to be more selective in their clothing choices. Due to higher prices and limited storage space, each piece must be thought out and chosen for its quality, longevity, and versatility.
Does that pair of pants go with more than one outfit? Can you re-sole those shoes? Do you actually need that jacket or another shirt that’s virtually identical to your favorite one? These are all factors you should consider when making any purchase.
Make deliberate choices; don’t buy cheap shoes that you will just throw out when they wear out. The same holds true for tailored clothing. While more expensive than off-the-rack, a well made custom suit will last for years. A classic cut can transcend fashion and a good tailor can make adjustments as your dimensions change over time.
By being selective, you can build a wardrobe that both meets your needs and reduces pointless waste and duplication. Which brings me back to the Italians; I have no fear of track pants and tee shirts showing up in Roman offices or flip flops in Milan. If anyone can assemble a stylish and absolutely classy “casual” work wardrobe for any weather, it is an Italian.