It’s summer. I plan on doing some hanging out. And I’d like a pair of perfect shorts to do that in. Too much to ask?
I have a great pair of cut-offs that I made two summers ago, but having formerly been jeans, they have things like buttons and a zipper that impinge mildly on achieving maximum comfort. If I sit too long in them, the crotch sort of digs in. If I want to curl up on the couch and read a book, I have to remember what Brooklyn park bench/curb/stoop I last sat on with them on.
What I need are hangout shorts. I want elastic waists and pockets. I want something cool and comfy to wear while I work from home or putter around my parents’ backyard, or head to the beach.
Before I dive in, I want to acknowledge that it’s been a long time since I wrote anything for this series. Mostly, as someone who doesn’t do much shopping in the first place, I sometimes felt a little removed from the subject at hand. I wanted to write about things to make and appreciate and generally revel in, not just consume. But this week the news cycle (at least the one circulating around my personal orbit) carried two different fast fashion stories that have been niggling away at me. There’s still a need—maybe more than ever?—to prop up the folks in the industry who are doing things right. Or better. Or at least not terribly. Plus, I really need some comfy shorts.
The leading story this week was about an influencer trip put on by ultra fast-fashion powerhouse, Shein. The goal for the trip, as far as anyone can tell, was a contrived exposé of the brands’ factories designed to discount reporting that’s demonstrated how egregiously Shein, and the influencers hawking their goods, contribute to the fast fashion problem. The other story gained less traction. It was really just a kind of run-of-the-mill shopping post from a mainstream publication and probably one of countless others like it published this week alone. Still, reading it was a massive bummer and I haven’t been able to let it go. Maybe it’s because the story was about shorts, which, as mentioned, I’m wanting, or maybe it’s because the writer of the piece is also a thirty-something writer living in New York, but the ode to brand-new linen/rayon blend shorts from Old Navy that cost fourteen American dollars, well, it just really got my goat. I first saw the piece shared on Twitter where a flood of responses lauded the find. Readers chimed in about how they too had bought multiple pairs of these shorts. They told anecdotes about how they currently had their suitcase headed to Europe filled with them and how they immediately hit purchase and planned to head back for more.
Finding a jackpot clothing item is a triumph. Feeling good in the clothes we wear is important! Fashion is fun and thrilling and buying three or even one pair of $100 shorts is not feasible for many of us. But brand-new fourteen dollar linen blend shorts exist because large fast-fashion companies exploit workers and the environment and in the year 2023 it just feels so disappointing to see grown adults with resources enough to fly to Europe, gobbling up fast fashion without apology. Woof.
The clothing industry is often intentionally and maybe intractably exploitative, but there’s an alternative to glad-handing the fast fashion brands that do not care about us or the people who work for them. In that spirit, I gathered a list of hangout shorts from folks who do things differently—things like making clothes to order, paying living wages, using thoughtful materials and processes and getting serious about waste. All of these shorts cost significantly more than $14, but as always it’s worth repeating that there are many opportunities to find secondhand versions for considerably less than new. May we all get to lounge in comfort this summer.
If you’re curious to learn more about my selections, head to my newsletter for the full TEA NOTES version of this piece.
This week, the TEA NOTES version is free for everyone, but eventually I’m going to start offering these longer pieces to paid subscribers. I’ll still publish some full length pieces here, and particulars might shift as I test the waters and get the hang of things, but I’m hopeful this is a change that will ultimately allow me to spend more time with all of you!
PS. If you’re someone with a current subscription to my blog that you’d like to transfer to the new substack model, send a note to erin (at) readingmytealeaves.com and I’ll help get that sorted! Huge thanks to everyone ever who has supported and championed this corner of the internet!