“The most responsible way for a consumer and a good citizen to buy clothes is to buy used.”

— Patagonia clothing founder Yvon Chouinard, from Let My People Go Surfing

Photo by Simon McConico

When I set off to create Teecycle.org two years ago, I did so because I liked the time-worn character of thrift store T-shirts, and I thought it was just smart to reuse what we already have. I started selling used shirts for $7 a piece, and donated a dollar from each to restore urban rivers.

I have since grown to see the parallels between responsible clothing and healthy food. Just like food, clothes are a basic necessity that over the years started getting cranked out as a cheap, impersonal commodity. Anyone could buy a generic mass-market shirt just as easy as ordering up a stack of quarter-pounders.

But now, movements such as Slow Food have forged strong identities and reached the mainstream. I believe that clothes are headed down that same path, and it will start with T-shirts.

The T-shirt is visible and versatile and is simultaneously moving the clothing industry forward on two fronts: social responsibility and individual expression.

People are beginning to care about where their clothes come from, just like they care about the origin of their food. Is it coming from a factory floor or a family? The same principles apply to what you wear.

There are protests over sweatshop labor. Patagonia is one example of a clothing company that lives its environmental philosophy. American Apparel has made organic T-shirts sexy. We advocate for people to reduce, reuse and teecycle.

So, that’s why Teecycle’s slogan is “Change your shirt, Change the world.” Let’s hear it for Slow Clothes.

When he’s not searching for used T-shirts, Tim Cigelske writes a blog called The Beer Runner about craft beer and active lifestyles for DRAFT magazine. At his day job, Tim is the Communication Specialist for Marquette University in Milwaukee. He and his wife, Jess, are expecting a daughter this spring.