The Great Shirt Debate

3 Nov

During America’s Industrial Revolution, various industries became proficient in producing whatever it was they were trying to produce. In fact, they became good enough at producing that they were at the point where they could produce more than the market could consume. Of course, the ability to produce more was a waste if consumers could not purchase at the same rate of growth. This condition was no way to maximize profits. If there was something the industrialists loved more than anything, then it was maximizing profits.

Into this situation walked someone who had a grand idea about how to increase production and convince consumers to increase their purchasing. The idea was called product diversification. When I talk about the Industrial Revolution in class, I use flour mills as examples. I am not sure where they fit into the Industrial Revolution, but it is easy.Flour

In the old days, people went to the store and bought bags of flour. When they got home, the flour would be used to make cakes, cookies, biscuits, pies and all sorts of delicious things. Knowing that their product was used for various things, the leaders of the flour industry diversified. When consumers went to the store, they saw bags of flour. However, they also saw bags of cake mix, cookie mix, biscuit mix, pie mix and all sort of delicious things.

I can see the consumer walking down the aisle. I need flour. Wait, I want to make cookies. I had better get some cookie mix. Hold on, there is the cake mix, I had better get that, too. Oh yeah, I need to make that pie. Instead of purchasing one bag, the consumer purchases several bags. Therein lies the trick of product diversification.

All of this came to mind while my wife and I were shopping for clothes. I needed some new stuff, and today was a good day to get it done. We walked into a store, and I found a shirt that I liked. The resulting conversation went something like this.

“I like this shirt.”

“That’s a summer shirt.”


“You can’t buy a summer shirt.”

“Why not?”

“It’s not summer.”

“What does that have to do with it?”

“You can’t buy it because you can’t wear it.”

“Why not?”

“It’s not summer.”

“We will have another summer. It’s not like we have seen the last one. Besides, why can’t I wear the shirt anytime I want?”

I stopped because I could tell that she was getting upset, but I still did not understand why I could not buy a shirt and wear it whenever I wanted. Then, it hit me.

Product diversification.

Decades ago, someone in Paris or New York came up with a brilliant idea to increase sales. I cannot remember the last time I listened to what someone in Paris or New York had to say, but that is not the point. The point is that the idea has sunk in. It went something like this.

What if we convince people that they need to wear different shirts for every season. Then, our sales will increase every three months. At some point, this will become the style, and people will be afraid to break it because of peer pressure. If they wear the wrong thing, then other people will think they are not out of fashion.

Now, we have summer shirts, winter shirts, spring shirts and fall shirts. Product diversification was an art form. Then, it became fashionable.


12 Responses to “The Great Shirt Debate”

  1. Marilyn Armstrong November 3, 2014 at 03:21 #

    For what it’s worth, both of us wear whatever we want whenever we feel like it. Maybe it’s a generational thing.

    • Rick November 3, 2014 at 03:40 #

      That could be true. I must admit that I am not very fashion sensitive. If I like something I wear it. If I don’t like something I don’t wear it.

      • Marilyn Armstrong November 3, 2014 at 04:21 #

        I’ve never been fashionable and Garry goes entirely on what his mirror tells him. I’m not sure if we are typical, but I think in our generation, we were less slaves to fashion than younger folks seem to be. Maybe it’s because the advertising business was less effective in brainwashing when we were coming of age.

  2. satanicpanic November 3, 2014 at 05:13 #

    I don’t get why they had a summer shirt out if they don’t want people to buy it. I wonder if you could have gotten away with “Oh I know, I was going to hold onto it until next summer”. BTW, I picked up The Glorious Cause, so I’ll be reading that on my trip.

    • Rick November 3, 2014 at 13:33 #

      Let me know what you think about the book.

  3. Andrew Petcher November 3, 2014 at 06:55 #

    I suggest going shopping alone and then you can but whatever you like!

    • Rick November 3, 2014 at 13:34 #

      That’s one option. However, that means I would never go shopping.

  4. sittingpugs November 4, 2014 at 04:02 #

    Assuming the shirt’s material is suitable to be worn all year (eg, not too thick/warm for summer or too light/thin for winter), I wear winter shirts during summer and summer shirts during winter.

    The flour mix example you gave reminded me of something a friend and I heatedly discuss all the time — paying for convenience over necessity/quality.

    • Rick November 4, 2014 at 04:39 #

      I guess the fabric is what determines which shirt goes with which season.

      • sittingpugs November 4, 2014 at 05:04 #

        Ah! I’d equated “that’s a summer shirt” with its color or patterns rather than material making it unfashionable to wear in any other season than the designated hit-the-shelves-date.


  1. The Barn in the Distance | SBI: A Thinning Crowd - September 21, 2015

    […] Anyway, we tend to argue about important things. Of course, there is this movie. Then, there was the time we debated the proper way of folding towels. Also, some of you may remember reading about the argument of long-sleeved shirts. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: