An international fashion research project exploring the 'craft of use'

Patina of Use

With our garments, as with our bodies, the passing of time leaves its mark. Our relationship with these imprints is complex in both domains. With clothes, we sometimes discard pieces because they are ageing, dated, jaded or worn; at other times we buy vintage or pre-distressed pieces, coveting that which looks old. Yet these both overlook the power and pleasure of marking the passing of time as it is recorded in our clothes; the forging of memories, building of knowledge, evolution of appearance.

Marks of a tree planter

"On this shirt, you can see the pattern on the back, is from tree planting… It’s is a Canadian subculture of university students that work in the summer in the north, where they harvest forest and they hire people to go and replant the trees. I've done it for six years and it has an interesting clothing… not style… like you are working so you wear work clothes, but it’s like everything is re-appropriated. Everybody wears white dress shirts, they are light and they keep the bugs off and you keep the collar up.

This shirt started out as a [regular everyday] shirt that I liked, that I just wore regularly. And then it got a stain on it, so then I turned it into a work shirt for tree planting and then I wore it and it developed this pattern, because you have these straps on your back and its really heavy work and you’re out there for ten hours a day. In the rain, in the mud.

But then these rips happened, and that kind of rendered it useless [for tree planting], because bugs can get in. And that is one of the reasons why you wear shirts, is to keep out mosquitoes and stuff – so then it’s reversed it's role and now I wear it again. Dirty and gross, but the rips, are a kind of a signifier that I tree plant… and that I've also done this really hard work that I am proud of...  

So this is kind of a third life, I guess. It was a shirt that I had, and then became a work shirt, and know I wear it again as a statement, I guess… Though I wear it not a lot because [even though] it has been washed tons of times it is just stained… it just looks like I am dirty, so I sort of struggle with it."

Vancouver - January 2013
Photograph by Jeremy Calhoun