dailyreckoning.com / By Jeffrey Tucker / November 16, 2012
I was out shopping for a new winter coat, hopping from store to store looking for a good deal. To my astonishment, it was almost impossible not to find a good deal. Coats of a quality that once cost hundreds of dollars were everywhere, with prices ranging from $65-150. I’m sure I could have found some at three and four times as much, but I would have had to make a special trip to a specialty shop like Burberry and pay a high price for status shopping.
In times when most everything has gone up in price and down in quality, clothing seems like an outlier.
It made me curious about what’s happened in the world of clothing over the last 25 years or so. In this time, we’ve seen several major trends happen. Anytime between the Great Depression and the end of the Reagan years, the clothing you bought mostly came from the local department store. Or you could order through a gigantic catalog delivered to your home. That was about it.
Today, discount and secondhand stores are everywhere. You can get designer labels at prices that are surprisingly low. Or you can head to the local big box and pick up just about any sports clothes for a song. Or you can decide to shop online, where you can get anything from sports clothes for next to nothing to high-end suits and shirts for $100 or so. If you know what you are doing, you can dress like Savile Row on a pauper’s budget.
This is a dramatic change. The digital age has opened up options for people who once had very few. In addition, billions of people are in the market as producers who were once not part of it. China was closed in the old days. So were Eastern Europe, India, and Russia. Today, they are all part of the mix. This led to screams of outrage on the part of American textile manufacturers. The end of the world was coming, they said. Except that it didn’t come. All that happened was that clothing became cheaper for American consumers.
Check out this 25-year chart of apparel prices versus the consumer price index generally: