When you buy less of something, you expect to pay less. That’s just common sense.
No one told clothing suppliers about this rule, apparently. Price points for shorts are almost always close or equal to the
“The manufacturer only has to use, like, half as much fabric,” we figure. “How do they get away with charging for a bunch of material that isn’t there?”
Well, it turns out that we were oversimplifying things. A lot. Christine Flammia, a writer for Esquire, asked an actual menswear designer to explain this counterintuitive phenomenon. She learned that shorts are much more complicated—and more costly for manufacturers—than we might think.
There are lots of pretty solid reasons that shorts cost as much as pants. Here are just a few of them:
1. It’s just as hard to construct a pair of shorts as it is to make a pair of pants.
Think about the costs that go into your favorite pair of chinos. There’s the material, sure—fabric, zippers, buttons, pockets, et cetera. But then there’s the labor.
Someone had to sit down and sew those legs together, and that someone has to get paid. Hopefully, they’re getting paid a living wage, which will stack the costs up quickly.
And, according to Eunice Lee, a menswear designer who spoke to Flammia for the Esquire piece, all the real hard work is on the parts that shorts and pants share.
“Think about the actual construction of a garment,” Lee said. “All of it happens at the top. In terms of the cut and sew of any garment, all the complicated stuff happens at the top. The price is about the labor and the cost of that labor—that labor is the same, regardless of a short or long leg.”
2. Shorts don’t actually require that much less fabric than pants do.
It’s true that
In short (so to speak), most of the fabric in a pair of pants goes into the top of the garment. The same is true for a pair of shorts.
“The amount of fabric you use for shorts isn’t actually all that different from pants to shorts,” Lee said. In her example, she estimated that a pair of pants might require 1.6 yards of fabric. A comparable pair of shorts could use as much as 1.3 yards. That’s not enough of a difference to justify a dramatic pricing difference.
3. You’re paying for the brand.
Consumer psychologists have been studying our tendency to pay more for luxury items for a long time. Their consensus? We are not rational creatures when faced with the choice between a Fred Perry polo and something off the rack at a discount store.
We seem to be hard-wired to see the benefits of products that carry a recognizable brand name. “Since we perceive non-luxury goods as inferior, we are quick to point out the negatives of those products,” wrote Vanessa Page in an article on Investopedia.
Furthermore, “low self-esteem is a big factor in whether a person will buy luxury goods that he may not be able to afford,” Page noted, citing a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
Now, there might be very good reasons to buy a brand-name pair of shorts. Companies have to protect their reputations, so brand-name products
In an article for The Atlantic, fashion
We’re not sure how we feel about Bain’s advice to spend at least $150 on every article of clothing that you buy, but it does underscore the fact that you’re paying for much more than a length of fabric when you buy a pair of shorts. Some of those costs are intangible. And intangible costs don’t obey the logic of our assumptions.
“When you buy less of something, you expect to pay less,” we wrote at the top of this piece. That no longer seems like a safe assumption.