Around 2,000 gallons of water are needed to give me a sore crotch. The planet really shouldn’t be wasting its resources on such a small matter. But it does. According to the UN, around 2,000 gallons of water were used to produce the pair of jeans that I wear once a month for the one annoying client that insists on meeting in person rather than on Zoom.
And throughout that meeting, I’m not thinking about the job proposal. I’m thinking about my jeans’s vicious ability to turn into a shredding machine and render me gender neutral. Our finite water reserves deserve better. So do my testicles. And yet, some poor sod slaved away in a textile factory because I once convinced myself that skinny jeans were the way to go in a sweaty climate with no room to manoeuvre.
The Little Red Dot isn’t a topographical reference, but a medical description of what lies beneath a man’s jeans in Singapore. This cannot go on. It’s increasingly unnecessary and unsustainable in a post-pandemic environment, both for the product and my chafing groin.
A quick Google search suggested that women owned around seven pairs of jeans and men kept around six pairs in the wardrobe. An older Cotton Incorporated survey from 2009 claimed that the average American owned 8.3 pairs of jeans.
But the average American doesn’t endure humid and tropical conditions. There were no benefits to tight jeans in Singapore before the pandemic, unless one had a soft spot for prostate exams.
But as we slowly emerge from the dystopian hellhole of COVID-19, blinking into a sunny, familiar world of swarms of shoppers queuing up for non-essential crap again, we need to clutter our wardrobes even less.
Keeping up with the latest fashion trends seems about as productive as keeping up with the Kardashians. You’ll spend far too much time making other people wealthy without pondering the repercussions.
In the dim and distant past when workplaces extended beyond an improvised desk in the room furthest away from screaming offspring, there was such a thing as office attire. Different clothes for different occasions were required. There was that shirt for the CEO, those polished shoes for new clients, and the tight polo and jeans combo for that PR manager who laughed at your Trump joke during a productivity meeting.
But in the age of working from home, a vest and a clean pair of boxer shorts feel positively formal. If it’s dress-down Friday, one or the other is optional. Simplicity is key. Even before the pandemic, Singapore’s fashion police hardly had to concern themselves with spring/summer and autumn/winter collections. Air-con and non-air-con were the extent of our sartorial choices—with a jacket thrown in for big balls with even bigger buffets (also gone).
Now, many of us can dress for working from home or, alternatively, we can dress for working from home with a brief interlude to the coffee shop (that is, swap the boxers for actual shorts). The ‘same sh*t, different day’ mantra now extends to fashion, one of the unexpected benefits of COVID-19.
Our wretched throwaway culture is doing more long-term damage than a pandemic ever could, with plenty of depressing statistics to choose from. According to the UN, the fashion industry produces 20 percent of global wastewater and 10 percent of global carbon emissions—more than all international flights and maritime shipping.
We also wear more clothes less often, thus ensuring that the equivalent of a rubbish truck filled with textiles is burned or buried every second. Competing online retailers have contributed to this unsustainable fashion phenomenon by slashing prices, which only forces me to remind my daughter that every click exploits a sweatshop worker, pollutes our water supply, produces too much carbon and essentially boils the planet.
She only wants a cute T-shirt for a play date.
But the fix is a simple one. Wear the same sh*t on a different day. Do it for long enough and old becomes new again. Tired becomes trendy.
A few years ago, a stranger at a book signing wanted to discuss my martial arts career, considering I had participated in the 1984 All-Valley Karate Championship according to my T-shirt. Clearly, he hadn’t seen my painful karate efforts inside a London church hall in the 1980s. I looked like a malnourished praying mantis held together by a white belt. He also hadn’t seen The Karate Kid.
But today, the kids can’t get enough of my 15-year- old sartorial tribute to pop culture perfection. I’m as cool as Cobra Kai. I’m reducing my carbon footprint and being ordered by teenagers to strike first, strike hard and show no mercy.
Apart from fresh underwear every Christmas and the odd addition to my retro T-shirt collection, my wardrobe will happily stagnate for the foreseeable future. What else do I actually need?
I already have the skinny jeans for rare face-to-face meetings, or if I fancy replicating the sensation of having my scrotum lowered into a vice. Of course, this is the last thing that the garment and textile industries need to hear as COVID-19 continues to disrupt the supply chain, putting the livelihoods of low-wage workers at risk across South Asia (including Singapore).
But those industries must reinvent themselves with sustainable lines and less waste. They are in a precarious position, certainly, but they are not blacksmiths staring at Henry Ford’s production line in terror. There’s an obvious difference.
Apart from the regulars at an Australian nudist beach that I stumbled upon with my in-laws whilst looking for a picnic spot, people will still wear clothes. With a bit of luck, they’ll just wear the same clothes more often. No one needs to dress up to work from home.
And no man with a conscience should waste another 2,000 gallons of water to squash his own crotch.