Monday, November 4, 2013

Stuff Worth Owning: LL Bean Wicked Good Flannel

I would include a photo of my own Wicked Good Flannel shirt, but for some reason my computer's card reader doesn't cooperate.  So here's a shot from LL Bean themselves:
A new one of these shirts is a cool $50.  That's a decent chunk of change for a shirt, especially when you're a tried-and-true thrift store shopper.  I can find new shirts - not just new-to-me shirts, new shirts with the store tags still in them, at our thrift stores.  I don't even take the employee discount, a new shirt for thrift store pricing is just a good bargain no matter how you slice it.  And they're not just any ol' shirt either: I can find St. John's Bay, Arrow, Ralph Lauren.  Brands you've heard of.  Finding a new shirt from these brands for under $12.50 is a jump-at-it-right-now opportunity.  In a paradigm like that, you can imagine and you'd be right that I would be hard pressed to pay more than $12.50 for any shirt, ever.

But for these LL Bean Wicked Flannels, I will pay full cover price.  Allow me to explain:  Those other brands are great, and I can usually get a good five years out of them.  In that time, I've been wearing them to work - I'm a handyman and spend a fair amount of my time under things, over things, getting dirty, hot and sweaty.  I don't work hard at keeping my clothes clean.  I get to work around 8:00a and am often pretty dirty by 9:00.  A shirt going five years in service like that is a pretty hard-wearing shirt.  That's one of the reasons I keep buying those recognizable names: fancy or not, they generally take the abuse better than cheaper "bargain" brands.

I've been wearing these LL Bean Wicked Flannel shirts since 1993.  That's 20 years.  They finally look rough enough that it's time to get rid of them.  Pills at the collar from my beard that's been on my face for the last 20 years, a very small glue stain somewhere on the green one, general small scars here and there.  They just don't look great anymore.

My point, however, is this: compared to any other shirt I've ever owned, they look far and away better than any other 20-year-old shirt I have, because I don't have any.  These shirts have survived through two full rotations of my entire closet and run down everything else that came along.  I'm lucky if pants survive three years, a five year old shirt is probably a keepsake, and a 20 year old shirt just doesn't compute.  It's a statistical anomaly, an outlier.

A $50 shirt spread over 20 years is a $2.50 per year shirt.  That's right there with my thrift store shirts.  When a new shirt can perform at the same price point as a thrift store shirt, a new thrift store shirt with a thrift store price, perform for four times as long, that's a damned good shirt.  You can even say it's a Wicked Good shirt.  But even a Wicked Good shirt has to wear out eventually, especially when it's worn by someone like me, someone whose entire body is a bumper, whose entire face is 120-grit, whose pets are rototillers with tails.  Clothes can't last forever.  And as long as they've lasted and looked good that whole time, these Wicked Good shirts seem to have had their day.  It's been a long time coming, but they finally don't quite look Wicked Good anymore.

So I'm going to get rid of my excellent, soft, comfortable, warm and ultimately very durable and extremely economical Wicked Good flannel shirts.  They have finally gotten to the point that they aren't quite nice enough for work.

But I'm not getting rid of them until I have a couple of new ones to replace them.  Not having a few of these in the closet, well...that would be Wicked Bad.

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