As a child, I was raised on the familiar expression ‘money doesn’t grow on trees’. My mother took pride in being the best bargain hunter in town and never paid full price for anything. This meant we spent lots of time at bargain bins and thrift stores, and brand name clothing was definitively off our shopping lists. It’s not that we were always poor, we were just always frugal and proud of it.
I was in my twenties when I finally felt the insides of a spanking new pair of name-brand running shoes. It was one of my first splurges from my first real paycheck, and it was glorious. Those sneakers traveled with me across the world several times over. They took me on over one hundred international flights. They protected my feet on treadmills and up mountain tops. They waded with me through streams and saw me through the course of multiple failed relationships (the sneakers survived, the boyfriends didn’t). Years later, when they finally started to give up on me at a poorly maintained tennis court, I searched for that exact same pair and knew that I would be willing to pay a premium for it. I had finally learned that being frugal wasn’t necessarily about paying less in that moment, it was sometimes about paying more but knowing that I would be gaining more value from it.
It turns out there’s a term for this metric. It’s called ‘Cost Per Wear’ and it helps us determine the lifetime value of our clothing through one simple calculation:
Cost of Item ➗ The Number of Times the Item Is Worn
Calculating a garment’s cost per wear isn’t just better for one’s wallet, it’s better for the planet. The less we purchase, the more resources we save. It’s estimated that every year over ten million tonnes of clothing get disposed of in North America alone!
Today, I can’t help but cringe at all the times I bought a trendy $15 top only to wear it once. Yes, that's a $15 cost per wear! ($15 ÷ 1)
TRENDY FAST FASHION TOP FOR $15
NUMBER OF TIMES WORN: 1
COST PER WEAR: $15
Compare that with my favorite sneakers. They cost me around $200, but were worn at least three times a week, every single week of the year for four years (3x/week x 52 weeks x 4 years = 624 times worn). That’s a $0.32 cost per wear! ($200 ÷ 624).
QUALITY SNEAKERS FOR $200
NUMBER OF TIMES WORN: 624 at least!
COST PER WEAR: $0.32
At face value, the shoes may have seemed like a splurge and the top may have seemed like a steal. But in reality, the opposite was true. The top was worth one wear and the shoes were worth a lifetime (or at least four years).
Is there a target ‘cost per wear’? This is something I have yet to determine. My guess is that the value remains dependent on the kind of item we seek and our individual lifestyle choices. Still, in its own personal way, I believe this is shopping’s most important metric. If only to cause us to pause and reflect every time we reach for a cute new item. If only to ask - how long will this last us? What is the true value of our clothing?
Here’s a rundown of some of our team’s most memorable purchases and their cost per wear:
Lena’s Favourite Salty Item: ULA V-Neck Tee
How Long Have You Had It?: Over One Year
How Many Times Have You Worn It?: Almost Every Week (and counting)
Cost Per Wear: $1.12
Arielle's Favourite Salty Item:Botanical Waffle $84
How Long Have You Had It?: 19 months
How Many Times Have You Worn It?: at least 1x per week
Cost Per Wear: $1.16
Arielle's Favourite non salty Item: Saltwater sandals $80
How Long Have You Had It?: 2 years
How Many Times Have You Worn It?: at least 5x a week in Spring and Summer
Cost Per Wear: $0.33
Jessica’s salty Item: Black Fjord Top $84
How Long Have You Had It?: 5 years
How Many Times Have You Worn It?: at least 1x a week year round
Cost Per Wear: $0.32
Jessica’s Favourite non salty Item: Patagonia Puffer Jacket $349
How Long Have You Had It?: 4 years
How Many Times Have You Worn It?: at least 3x a week in Fall, Winter, + Spring
Cost Per Wear: $0.80
Jarrah’s Favourite salty Item: Crew Touque $38
How Long Have You Had It?: 3 Months
How Many Times Have You Worn It?: 2x Week
Cost Per Wear: $1.58
Jarrah’s Favourite non salty Item: Levis denim jacket $150
How Long Have You Had It? 7 years
How Many Times Have You Worn It? At least 1x fortnight
Cost Per Wear: $.82