The historic purpose of clothing, as Henry Thoreau pointed out, was to keep us warm and, in time, for reasons of modesty. Today its dominant purpose seems to be fashion and the conspicuous display of wealth and status. People can, of course, spend thousands and thousands of dollars on clothing, if they wish. But simple livers tend to ‘dress down,’ wearing functional, often second-hand clothing. Such clothing can be generally obtained at a minimal expense. Furthermore, purchases can be avoided or reduced significantly by mending clothing, or even making one’s own.
Dressing down, it should be noted, does not necessarily imply giving up ‘style’ or puritanically denying self-expression through what one wears. But it does seem to imply rejecting high fashion (and all its stands for) in favour of some ‘alternative’ aesthetic. In this way, dressing down can be understood to be an outward statement of simplicity; an effort, however small, to express aesthetically one’s opposition to consumer culture. Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent each and every year in the fashion industry. Just imagine if even half of that money was redirected toward green energy or humanitarian initiatives. We would lose so little and gain so much. Again, how we spend our money is how we vote on what exists in the world.
For more on Thoreau’s views on clothing, click here.
 See Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss, Affluenza: When Too Much is Never Enough (2005) 166.
 See, e.g., Kate Soper, ‘Alternative Hedonism, Cultural Theory and the Role of Aesthetic Revisioning’ (2008) 22(5) Cultural Studies 567.
 See OECD, ‘A New World Map in Textiles and Clothing’ (2002) available at <http://www.oecd.org> at 15 October 2010 (reporting that in 2002 the global textile and clothing industries amounted to $350 billion).