Goodbye, Old Pants

By , June 10, 2011

I love the Thomas Carlyle quotation: “Trust not the heart of that man for whom old clothes are not venerable.” I have lived these words all my life, growing up in hand me downs from my older brother and second hand clothes from my father’s congregations. When I find an item of clothing that works for me, I hang onto it until the bitter end.

I once bought a pair of pants at a consignment shop in Juneau. They were everything I need in pants: comfortable, durable fabric that wicks and dries quickly, lots of pockets, and hardy zippers. They also had zip-off lower legs, and a good color that would hide dirt and blend into the forest. I paid less than $5 for them, even though they were several waist sizes too large for me, and had holes worn in the back of each leg, near the hem. I think someone used them as ski pants, and wore them out. As far as I was concerned, they still had a lot of life left in them.

favorite old pants

My faithful old pants, ready at last for the knacker's yard (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

I wore them several days of almost every week that followed for the next 3-4 years. They were cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and they shed moisture, keeping me safe from hypothermia. I used them hard around the homestead, but also wore them to town fairly often.

Recently, I had to admit that they were truly worn out. The thin-worn fabric began to tear along seams. The time came to stop wearing them, but that didn’t mean I was through with them.

Wednesday, after they had been washed one last time, I sat down and disassembled the pants. I took off all the sets of hook and loop (a.k.a. Velcro) the heavy duty zippers, and the shock cords and barrel clips used to tighten the leg openings when used as zip-off shorts. Finally, I clipped out an extra pocket that had been on one leg. I used it to hold my cell phone, but it could hold an item quite a bit longer, perhaps an older GPS unit or folding saw, and it closed with a hook and loop flap. I intend to sew up a seam around it, and use it as a cover for something.

recycled pants components

My favorite old pants reduced to reusable components (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

We debated saving some of the fabric as well, but pulling out the zippers made it clear that the thread and material were too fragile to be sewn into anything new. Once I had all the reusable components removed, it was time to put what remained in the garbage, at last.

I’m going to miss those pants, but I guess a part of them will still be with me.

4 Responses to “Goodbye, Old Pants”

  1. Can you burn something like that? I haven’t got a wood stove or a fireplace, but if I did, I’d be sorely tempted to try it. lol

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Hi Kristen,

    Since the fabric’s synthetic, we won’t burn it. It melts all over, and the smoke is toxic. We usually burn old cotton rags and other natural fabrics, except wool. Since wool is essentially hair, so it stinks when burned! A certain aesthetic level must be preserved!

  3. Ohh, I thought they were cotton. It does make sense not to burn synthetic fabric.

  4. Mark Zeiger says:

    If they had been cotton, I would have sectioned it up for the rag bag, and recycled it even more. But then, if they had been cotton, they wouldn’t have been nearly as valuable to me in the first place.

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