Readers, today I need to get something off my chest and I don't mean my undershirt.
Are you familiar with the term crapification? It refers to the gradual, inexorable reduction in quality of manufactured goods over the last few decades. Remember the toaster oven you owned for twenty-five years and replaced with one made by the same company (or so it seemed) that lasted six months? That's crapification.
Compare the Singer sewing machine your grandmother used with the one you use today. Which do you think will still be working in another twenty years?
I tend to keep things -- when I can -- a long, long time. My fridge dates back to 1990. I use a Eureka vacuum cleaner purchased in 1987. I have Corningware casserole dishes that go back to the Nixon administration. When it comes to clothes, however, no matter how well made they are, if you use them frequently they wear out. And this is especially true of men's undershirts. We sweat, we dribble, we abuse the High cycle of the clothes dryer.
All my adult life I've worn Jockey brand undershirts, I couldn't even tell you why. You know how there were Crest families and Colgate families, Skippy families and Jif families? In my family, the men wore Jockeys, never Fruit of the Loom or Hanes (and we used Crest and Skippy, though I later switched to Peter Pan).
To make a long story short, a few years ago I noticed that the Jockey undershirts I'd been purchasing (usually in 3-packs at department stores) were no longer available. I mean, you could still buy Jockey undershirts, but they were different. The silky Powerknit trademark weave was no more: the cotton was coarser and beefy (and not in a good way). The cut was also poor: lower armholes, boxier shapes. The neck tags were gone, replaced by stamps that wore out with repeated washings. Worst of all was the difference in the neckband. It no longer laid flat but tended to bunch up. I wear undershirts under shirts, so a bit of band is visible. If the neckband is lumpy it shows.
I want to add that Jockey hasn't manufactured undershirts in the USA for a long, long time. But standards were maintained. And anything that might have changed was subtle enough for me not to notice. (And for those who think I should make my own undershirts, I have tried, but it's impossible to find the knit banding for the neck, or to source white cotton jersey that has the right feel and weight. Most cotton jersey I see in fabric stores is too thin and too stretchy.) I've also tried other brands, like Calvin Klein and Gap. Same types of problems.
Finally, I started searching on eBay for deadstock -- vintage Jockey undershirts that had never been worn. It wasn't easy and it took time, but I've had some success, and it didn't cost a fortune either.
The undershirt below dates back to the 1960s and it is amazing. So much so, that it's almost a shame to wear it!
Look at the weave and the cut!
I recently discovered a site called Poshmark, where people buy and sell used/deadstock clothing. At Poshmark someone was selling an unopened late-Nineties era Jockey 3-pack in my size for just $15. It arrived today.
Now let me show you what crapification hath wrought. This is what's for sale today:
Observe the neckband carefully (shirt has been laundered once).
Here's the neckband fit: already stretched out and lumpy.
Now the old, pre-crapification version:
And the fit -- smooth and flat.
Naturally, you can't feel the shirt from these photos; trust me that the old version was smooth and silky, the new version coarse and thick.
So what's the cause of crapification? I suspect the following:
1) In a search for higher profits, manufacturers have moved production to overseas factories (primarily in the Southern hemisphere) and lowered quality dramatically. Cotton may be sourced from different places depending on where the shirt is manufactured, leading to quality control issues.
2) Related to #1, many American companies are now owned by hedge funds seeking only to produce high returns for investors in the short-term. They are not interested in creating quality goods.
3) American consumers are generally unwilling to pay more than they have to for commodities like underwear. I was able to find a new undershirt similar to my Nineties-era Jockeys at American Apparel. Each shirt cost $22, which seemed like too much to pay.
4) Most men who wear undershirts don't care enough about them to notice the difference.
Readers, is any of this familiar to you?
Have you experienced crapification in your life as a consumer?
Has a brand you've used loyally suddenly (or not so suddenly) gone way downhill?
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