Friday 31 January 2014

Money In My Jeans Pocket

The connection between money and fashion has always been fraught with controversy, especially when it comes to ethical behaviour. The chase for the dollar bill has led to the creation of an industry that's one of the most polluting in the business sector. But the connection between the two, as a Washington Post article makes clear, is much deeper and significantly more tightly woven than you might think.

When the US came up with a unified monetary system back in the early 1800s, the paper that the good old dollar bill was printed on was created from an unusual source: waste fabric from the denim industry. Crane & Co., who then and now were responsible for supplying the paper for currency production, sourced their fibre from discarded denim from the cotton industry. They would bleach, dye and reweave the fibre scraps, creating the distinctive hard-wearing paper that would go on to have Washington and Franklin's face printed over it. It was an eminently frugal and sustainable business model.

You notice I use the past tense. Since the 90's, fashion has dictated that our jeans should be more stretchy and figure-hugging. Additions to the fabric, like spandex, have meant that the scraps sent to Crane & Co. have been adulterated and therefore useless. Crane have been forced to source the cotton for their paper directly, meaning that the sustainable loop has been broken. After all, it's not as if you can recycle dollar bills back into jeans.

This sad yet fascinating little tale tells us a lot about how a seemingly harmless fashion dictate: that is, the shape and fit of a pair of jeans, can have enormous and potentially damaging results further down the line that we can't possibly have imagined. The moral of this story? Skinny jeans are killing the planet.

No, wait, let me think about that.

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