To the set the scene, the year was 2009, I was 20 years old and preparing to go on my first back packing trip through parts of Asia.
My current underwear drawer was a real mishmash of stuff. I had just grown out of that age where Mum had stopped buying my underwear for me. I know bit of a late bloomer, but better late than never I suppose. Uniqlo made these boxer shorts that I particularly liked, they felt comfortable and you could choose all sorts of patterns to suit your taste.
At the time I only had 2 pairs amongst a mishmash of other pants I didn’t like wearing. So I bought four more pairs for the trip.
Its now 2015, I still have the four pairs I bought, but two of them are pushing the boundary’s of performing the duties that underwear should. They are ripped and falling apart.
Cycling doesn’t do me any favours in this regard, since most of the damage has happen at the rear. I was thinking it might be possible to claim them on my travel insurance.
Haha, you might be wondering why I’ve just written two paragraphs getting sentimental about my pants. But as I said before I am setting the scene.
This morning Mayu and I went to a local market. With Gerald, our host the night before.
It’s probably the biggest market we’ve seen on this trip. Something we’ve been exposed to on the road through our journey, are the countless amount of t-shirts I recognise from back home.
My first thoughts, were they’ve been donated. Makes sense since so much clothing has been sent away from my own house back in London. I’m not sure why it took me so long to figure this out, but all of the clothing that gets ‘donated’ is sold by the charities collecting them, to merchants in Africa, that further sell in markets like the one we visited.
This made me feel a little cheated, my naive thinking told me that those clothes will go to people that need them, not sold to those that need them. And it’s a serious volume of clothing, with no holes, rips or stains.
So why where they donated in the first place? As you might have guessed from the pants story, I try to get the most out my clothes before I stop wearing them. Even once they go beyond wearable, they are still perfectly good as rags for all sorts of uses. Who needs a mop when you have an old shirt?
Aid is a difficult topic, what is good aid, what is bad aid?
As much as I can read about the second hand clothing industry, it doesn’t promote the local clothing industry. Since we saw a lot of cotton being produced in Zambia, it would make sense that clothing would be produced in the same place, with the excess exported.
However since there is such an influx of second hand, unwanted clothing coming into east Africa, it doesn’t make financial sense to produce clothing for a local market.Instead the cotton gets sent to Asia to make clothing for the west, to be worn for a while and then sent back to where it originally came from. Seriously the world is becoming very confusing.
Giving away clothing is a nice thing to do. But give it as a gift and give it to the receiver, not to a company that uses your good gesture to make a profit. The alternative is to keep your clothes and avoid buying new ones.