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Issue 17 Out Now

The Truth About Clothing Quality and Price: Debunking the Myth

Photo by Sam Lion

In the fashion world, there has long been a belief that the price tag on clothing reflects its quality and durability. Consumers often assume that if they pay a higher price for a garment, it will last longer and be better overall quality. However, new research conducted by the School of Design at the University of Leeds challenges this perception, revealing that price does not accurately indicate how long clothes will last.

The ‘Worn Out’ Report: Unveiling the Truth

The groundbreaking ‘Worn Out’ report, commissioned by environmental charity Hubbub and clothing retailer Primark, is one of the most extensive studies on the relationship between price and clothing durability. The researchers conducted controlled lab tests on a range of new clothes from different high-street brands, including both low and high-priced garments, to determine the true correlation between price and durability.

The study defined durability as the ability of a garment to remain functional and wearable over time, without requiring excessive maintenance or repair. This definition encompassed factors such as shrinkage, fabric holes, fading, pilling, and the overall appearance of the garment.

A Comprehensive Analysis of Clothing Types and Price Ranges

To ensure a comprehensive analysis, the researchers assessed 65 garments across three types: denim jeans, hoodies, and T-shirts, spanning women’s and men’s ranges. These garments were sourced from a variety of retailers, ranging from low-priced options under 5 pounds to higher-end pieces priced around 150 pounds.

Each garment underwent a series of industry-recognized tests to evaluate its durability. For denim jeans, tests included assessing abrasion resistance, seam strength, tensile strength, fading, stability, and dry and wet rub. T-shirts and hoodies were tested for pilling, stability, spirality, burst strength, and color fastness.

Debunking the Durability Myth: Price Doesn’t Equal Quality

The results of the study shattered the long-held belief that higher-priced garments are inherently more durable. The findings revealed that both low and high-priced garments exhibited a wide range of durability, from excellent to very poor, across all clothing categories.

Surprisingly, women’s T-shirts priced under 10 pounds outperformed that retailing at around 40 pounds. Similarly, women’s hoodies priced between 11 to 20 pounds displayed better durability than those priced at just under 50 pounds and around 100 pounds. Even a pair of women’s jeans priced at around 15 pounds exhibited negligible differences in durability compared to a pair retailing at a significantly higher price.

The study found that a men’s T-shirt costing under 5 pounds ranked the second most durable out of all the items tested, outperforming one at ten times the price. The only consistent pattern of higher performance was observed in menswear hoodies, where higher-priced options showed slightly better durability than their lower-priced counterparts.

Challenging Consumer Perceptions: Price vs. Longevity

The ‘Worn Out’ report challenged the notion that expensive clothes last longer and shed light on consumer perceptions regarding clothing durability. A survey conducted alongside the research revealed that 67 percent of UK adults believe expensive clothes are more durable than affordable items. This perception influences how consumers care for their clothes, with 64 percent of respondents more likely to hang up expensive garments, 62 percent taking the time to remove spills and stains, and 54 percent willing to repair more expensive items.

Understanding the Complexity of Durability

Dr. Mark Sumner, a lecturer at the University of Leeds, emphasized the complexity of measuring durability in clothing. Factors such as material quality, manufacturing methods, and garment care practices all contribute to the overall longevity of a garment. While the ‘Worn Out’ research provided valuable insights into measuring durability, it is important to consider the multifaceted nature of this concept.

Dr. Sumner explained, “Durability is affected by the type of materials and fabrics in the garment, how the clothes


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