Age and Value : generational habits

 Published january 2018

The collected data of Portal pointed towards an interesting difference in the way various age categories treat and experience their garments. This lead to the following questions. Firstly; “How do various generations take care of their clothes”? Is this determined by habits in terms of washing and keeping the item clean or by decisions towards when and how often to wear it? And secondly; “How does this ‘care-taking’ relate to their behaviour as a consumer towards clothes?”. The data presented four different age categories which I decided to compare in terms of similarities and differences using the percentages and comments that really stood out.



Unsurprisingly, almost every answer contained the word “washing”, but when taking a closer look at all the responses, some of them were either very specific or stayed quite general. In all cases they revealed a typical way of thinking or looking at a garment, revealing a set of norms or values with a specific age group.  


AGE 0 - 20 ; This age category was distinctive in the fact that they mentioned a time reference when responding on how they “took care” of their garment. For instance, almost every sentence would begin with “I wash it” to be followed by “once a week”/“twice a week”/“once a month”.


AGE 21 - 34 ; Answers in this category really balanced each other out by either an “I don’t” or “I’m very careful.” People were either care-less or really careful with their garments and remarkably, those who were careful were not always in possession of the most expensive garment as you’ve might expect. So, you could conclude that the way they took care of their garment didn’t per definition depend on the monetary value of the item.


AGE 35 - 54 ; People within this group were really precise in mentioning the specific tools or programs they use to clean the garment like “washing machine” or “dry-clean”. In contrary to this specificity a lot of people in this age  category answered this question by saying that they don’t take care of their items at all.


AGE 55 - 75 ; This category precisely describes how they wash the item, what method or washing programme they use, and what products they use to do so. You could see that they took care of their garment from the way they formed their answers as a form of instruction, similar to how a clothing label instructs its wearer on how to take care of an item. From the description they made, the reader can almost guess what kind of fabric the garment is made of, without having any visuals or other information about the actual garment.



Presumably the regularity with which a garment is worn says something about that person liking and enjoying the garment. But because I doubted if that effectively translated into someone valuing the garment, I wanted to see if there was a connection between items that are worn frequently and items that are taken specific care of. With this comparison, I hoped to determine if the various age categories actually have different values towards garments.


AGE 0 - 20 ; Daily 37% / Weekly 59% / Monthly 4% / Yearly 0%

The vast majority of this group uses their proposed garment at least a few times a week. That means the product is either practical, fulfilled its purpose or can’t be missed for a longer period of time for another reason. Looking back at the analysis of ‘care-taking’ and the emphasis of this group on the time frame in which they take care of the garment, you can assume that the taking-care-part goes hand in hand with practicality. In other words: because the item is used fairly often ,the time frame, in regards to taking-care of the product, is of specific importance.

AGE 21 - 34 ; Daily 35% / Weekly 48% / Monthly 16% / Yearly 1%

Within this group garments were used fairly often, on a daily or weekly basis. You could possibly conclude that the people who said they don't take care of their items, don't bother because they wear the item so often, and the people that proclaimed that they are really careful with their garments do so for the same reason: because they wear the items so often, and want to keep wearing them. Thus wearing an item regularly or not doesn’t really say something about the way this generation takes care of their clothes?


AGE 35-54 ; Daily 31% / Weekly 54% / Monthly 8% / Yearly 8%

In the chart, we can see that this group also peaked in the daily and weekly category, so they wear their item frequently. Interesting was that in this group the majority of the people said that they do not take care of their garments. Besides that, a lot of the participants commented that their garment was seasonal, and thus the season was the main reason for wearing it as often as they described they did.


AGE 55-75 ; Daily 30% / Weekly 35% / Monthly 35% / Yearly 0%

In contrast to the other age categories, this one holds a very fixed and equally divided percentage over the various time indications. Because they were so specific in describing their ‘care-taking’ regime, you could presume that whenever needed; daily, weekly or monthly, the garment will be up to standard and ready for use.


When reviewing the data, an easy conclusion could be that age does indeed determine the way someone takes care of their garments. The difference in care-taking could have something to do with living or growing up in a specific time resulting in a different mind-set and thus perspective on object/clothes. The middle two age categories (21-34 and 35-54) are way less apologetic about their ‘non-caring’ than the youngest category. These two categories seem to utilize their garments to the max, and maybe even replace their items quicker with new ones than an older generation would do. In the article “aging and identity: A Post Modern Dialogue” writer Krekula1 (2007) specifically mentions the pride women feel when dressing according to rules. Krekula suggests that older generations have been conditioned to care for their presence in a much stricter way which could explain why they are stricter in taking care of their clothes. We could even imagine that a garment reminds you of the past, when you were young and that sticking to this garment for a longer period of time makes one feel less old. Taking good care of your clothes, to wear them for a longer period of time, is thus a way to stay fixed in age and time, and a way of holding on to your younger identity. The gathered information during PORTAL underpins and confirms this assumption. According to Julia Twigg2 (2007) “Holding on to youthful styles, can help to present the self in a less clearly age defined manner.” When looking at the infographics (fig. 1 & 2 can be found in pdf document) you could conclude that not just generation, but also age determines how individuals value their garments. By holding on to a garment’s presence as long as possible, it is possible to convey some sort of timelessness, and maybe even to get a grip on the fast turnover of trends, styles and the (over) consumption of clothes.   





  1 In J. Powell and T. Gilbert (eds) Aging and Identity: A Postmodern Dialogue, New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2009

 2 School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NY, UK.