The true cost of a t-shirt

The true cost of a t-shirt

The true cost of a t-shirt

Why Different Kind's pricing reflects the true cost of making a good garment.

Here’s a t-shirt. Made by Birdsong. Stocked by us. We love its joyful embroidered colours, the fact that embroidery spells out optimist. After all, if you believe in change and that the world can be made better, then you need at least a small seasoning of optimism.

The design is the first thing most people notice about this t-shirt. The second is the price. It’s £36 and, for a t-shirt, that might seem a lot.

The t-shirt is an absolute basic, an item nearly everybody owns and it’s always been cheap. In 1970, a t-shirt sold by the American retailer Sears cost around £8.50 (adjusted for inflation and converted to sterling). By 2010, the a t-shirt sold by Hanes, another US clothing giant, could be bought for around £1.36, rising slightly to £1.50 in 2013.

Speaking to Forbes in 2013, a representative from the company explained: “The pricing from 1990 to 2010 reflects the deflationary trends of T-shirts based on stable cotton costs and declining labor costs as companies moved supply chains to lower-cost geographies. The increase in prices from 2010 reflect the end of deflation from supply chain labor savings and significant cotton inflation.”

Strip the business jargon away, and here’s what that means. Manufacturers moved their factories to countries where workers could be paid very little. By 2010, garment workers could not be paid any less and the price of cotton started to rise, leading to a small increase in cost for the eventual buyer.

Let’s go back to Birdsong. The factory in Tamil Nadu, India where the base tees are manufactured is certified by the Fair Wear Foundation, meaning workers receive a living wage. In London, they work with women who have faced barriers to finding employment - seamstresses, artists, printmakers. And they are all paid a London Living Wage.

All along the supply chain, Birdsong have thought about the people involved. The eventual price of £36 reflects the true value of the t-shirt - of the skills and labour conditions of the people who made it, and of the garment’s lasting quality.

Optimism isn’t just the word embroidered on this t-shirt, it’s woven all the way through it.

And when you think about it like that, £36 doesn’t seem so bad. For a t-shirt.

Be an optimist, buy Birdsong's t-shirt