I put on a new top today that had been hanging around in my cupboard ever since it was bought for me. It could have been for Christmas, or my birthday or even Father’s Day, I can’t remember yet it has been hanging there for well over a year. I have been keeping it for best but who knows when best is going to come or indeed if today is not the best I will have for some time ago.
Anyway, I’m wearing it, it is both warm yet light and feels very comfortable, except for one thing. Just near the waistband were some stiff papery labels giving washing instructions etc. (as if anyone reads them). Sewn on to one of these labels was a spare button.
I cut the labels out. Normally I would take off the button and keep it safe in a little pot in the off chance that I would need it. Yet today I threw it away. I can’t remember the last time I had to go back to my little pot to retrieve a button. I guess it is a reflection of today’s throwaway society, should a button fall off, then I will probably buy a new top.
I did repair the pocket on a Barbour-like jacket not so long ago but that was a different story.
Back to the button and I doubt I am in the minority here. I imagine that most people never get round to using the spare buttons and it got me thinking about this anachronistic practice that harks back to more pecuniary times. There must have been a time filled with button sewers, along with jumper unravelers and sock darners, but not now.
I wondered about the economics of it all and how it has managed to survive the endless drive for efficiency in clothing manufacturing, like a vestigial appendix, useless but somehow still there. An artifact that garment evolution has given up on. The button must cost something. Sewing it on the labels must cost something. Even if it is marginal we live in an era of marginal gains.
Perhaps the manufacturers have calculated the cost of providing a spare button in the event that someone actually uses it is more than the cost of putting it there in the first palace, or more likely it is just a hangover that we have come to expect, a bit like a buttonhole in a jacket.