The problem with capitalism, in one easy lesson

“Capitalism affords economic freedom, consumer choice, and economic growth”, apparently.

Let me prove that this is wrong.

For several months now I’ve been trying to buy a white shirt, to replace one that I bought in 2009 and which has now seen much better days.

It has to fit the following criteria:

  • White
  • Long-sleeved
  • Longer than waist length, and with a curved hem
  • Buttons all down the front
  • Cotton or linen
  • Thinnish (this is to wear over a vest top or something in the summer, largely)
  • With a collar

In other words, a very simple plain white thin long shirt.

“Easy!” I hear you cry. “I could get you a handful from one trip to the shops.”

Oh yeah? Just try it. At least in Sweden, what is on offer are shirts with the following features:

  • Patterned/coloured
  • Short sleeves
  • Short and/or with a straight hem
  • Only three or four buttons
  • Nasty artificial fabrics
  • Material so thick you could use it as a duvet
  • No collar, a plunge neckline, or a bow (a bow! Who am I, Thatcher?)

And to respond to your other suggestions,

  1. No, I’ve not looked at men’s shirts as my days of wearing blokes’ clothing because I can afford nothing else are over. I want something that complements my shape, not something that drowns it in a tent.
  2. Buy clothes off the Internet? Not likely. I’m not a particularly standard size, and given the price charged by the Swedish Post Office for the inevitable returns, it would be cheaper to clothe myself in material made from diamonds.

So my point is this – if I can’t even buy a really simple basic garment like this, despite several months of looking, then what of consumer choice? This consumer wants something slightly different to the latest fashions. It’s not like I’m asking for an adult sized pink bustier with My Little Pony on it.


Why are we continuing with the capitalist system, using up the world’s resources, forcing people to work – and in some cases die – in sweat shops, filling our roads with lorries and our seas with oil and plastic… if we aren’t actually fulfilling the promise of capitalism?

2 thoughts on “The problem with capitalism, in one easy lesson

  1. I would have thought that the item of clothing you describe is a wardrobe staple; curved hem aside, not too much to ask for, and what some might consider classic. Italy produces some of the loveliest plain white shirts for women, but these are often labelled haute couture simply because they are well-tailored, and carry a price tag to match. I considered myself fortunate indeed to buy a white shirt in Australia similar to your description to replace the one I have been wearing (sans collar) since 1999. I tried on about 8 or 9 different shirts and looked at and rejected outright many more before finding one that met almost all my criteria (sleeves approximately a quarter of an inch too short for my liking, but not actually too short). What a mission!
    The problem with this so-called non-fashion item is that it does not wear out quickly enough, and therefore flies in the face of the insatiable consumerism and throw-away mentality which producers of clothing cultivate in their market. We cannot get rid of capitalism because there are too many capitalists, and they are, actually, the ones who hold the strings.


  2. Exactly, Allison – and because it *is* a wardrobe staple, I’d be happy to pay quite a lot for it, but regardless of which shop I look in such a thing just doesn’t seem to exist. It annoys me that fashion advice says “Base your wardrobe on a few really good quality items” but you can’t actually buy the damned things!

    I’m tempted to think it’s the fault of Swedish shops, but I remember having exactly the same problem in 1988 trying to buy a plain short black skirt in Oxford Street!


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