Monday, February 4, 2013

Survival #2: Guest Post: That New Carhartt Smell

Please help me welcome guest blogger Scott W. Philbrick:

I’ve recently decided that I’m going to tighten the proverbial belt when it comes to finances. I’ve been very critical of my federal government for not spending carefully and conservatively when times are tough, so I figure I can at least try to live up to my own standard. In finding myself in dire financial straits, one thing I decided last fall was to not replace my winter coat. A coat is a garment, designed to keep one warm and protect us from the elements. It is not (or should not be) a reflection of one’s status. Function must trump form. But clothing breaks down—its insulatory value diminishes, the fabric thins and wears, and the extremities—the cuffs and collar and edges, become pilled, frayed, and knotted. Will people judge me for wearing tattered, worn out clothes? In the line at the food store? At church? At Target? Will people be that shallow? Probably not.

If you’re not used to being broke and suddenly find yourself broke, some of the behavioral changes you find yourself going through can be uncomfortable. If you’ve been broke in the past but moved beyond it, and then find yourself broke again, these changes can seem like old familiar territory. For me, wearing this now seven year old coat, with its worn fabric and knotty, pilling frays, is a return to comfortable territory. There may be something nice about a brand new coat, but there’s something even nicer about comfort and “wear.”

I find it liberating… to not be saying, “I gotta go shop for a new coat.” It’s reassuring to know that I’m not “wasting” money by ditching it prematurely, and that I’m getting fullest value for the dollars spent. I’m being a good steward, and it frees me to think more deeply on things. It’s like driving down an unfamiliar highway, wondering if you’re on the right highway, and suddenly see a highway sign. You then enjoy the ride a little more. It’s a reassurance of sorts, and it gives me another kind of comfort-- the comfort of knowing I’m doing something “right.” It brings me back to childhood, when I was taught that you just don’t waste things. It takes me back to my days of working on ranch out west, where squeezing every ounce of value out of things is a responsible way of life…ranch life.

The Native American patterned blanket lining is pilling. It smells like me; it does not have “that new Carhartt smell.” The corners of the pocket flaps are frayed, as are the cuffs, and I find myself quickly snapping the knotted threads of deterioration to break them free. Perhaps it is obsessive-compulsive behavior, or it could just be to rationally eliminate the possibility of the threads snagging, accelerating the garment’s demise—I’m not sure. But I find myself walking with a little more freedom and personality in this coat… as if I’m walking with an old friend, not new boss or supervisor. It feels more like me, for I too have frays and knots and areas of discolored deterioration.

Groundhog Day is just around the corner. The days are now getting longer and the sun is getting a bit higher in the sky each day. Despite the fact that we’re in the middle of several days and nights with sub-zero temperatures, I haven’t frozen. This coat doesn’t have the loft or warmth it had five or six years ago, but it feels good to know that I’m getting every mile out of it that I can. Spring will come soon, and I’ll hang the coat up on the hook on the basement stairs one final time as it’s displaced by my three season jacket and array of hooded sweatshirts. So halfway through the winter, am I now regretting having chosen to not replace this deteriorating garment? I’m a frayed knot…

1 comment:

  1. Karen Makocy PhilbrickFebruary 4, 2013 at 7:25 AM

    I remember how much fun it was to go to Blue Seal & pick out that coat for your birthday, knowing it was something you really wanted. Hard to believe it's that many years ago ... and so glad it still gives you pleasure.