The Shopopolypse can't come soon enough.
August 4, 2011 3:36 PM   Subscribe

We keep hearing about the price of cotton going up... but WHEN?

Why are cotton clothes still so damn cheap? With as much irrigation and pesticides as regular cotton needs, as well as the horrendous droughts of recent years, why doesn't, say, a Hanes t-shirt cost $65 or thereabouts? Even organic cotton is unreasonably inexpensive.
What's it going to take for people to stop cramming more cheap cotton crap into their drive-in closets?
posted by BostonTerrier to Shopping (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A $24bn subsidy for cotton in the USA may have something to do with keeping costs low...
posted by smitt at 3:38 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Kind of a rant, but you're not seeing this (yet) as a consumer partly because most of the cotton you buy was harvested, processed, and bought last year, before the prices went up. American cotton is also subsidized quite heavily, which insulates us from price fluctuations somewhat (though a lot of that goes to exports, and most of our cotton consumer goods are imported).
posted by peachfuzz at 3:42 PM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

It might be the same reason our food costs haven't increased as commodity food prices rise. The cost of the final, finished good we buy in Western cultures includes the cost of labor, processing, shipping, etc. So the cost of the raw ingredient is just one of many factors in the price of the final good.
posted by chairface at 4:34 PM on August 4, 2011

I bought a roll of cotton jersey six months ago and the wholesale company representative went on about cotton prices rising and said I bought it just before they bumped up prices. It's happening.
posted by griselda at 4:49 PM on August 4, 2011

Plus also manufacturers try to absorb the cost as long as they can to avoid losing market share.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:57 PM on August 4, 2011

Best answer: Cotton prices don't exist in a vacuum. If cotton price rises much, fabric and clothing manufacturers quickly move to cotton/synthetic blends, incorporate recycled cotton fiber in new fabric, or use thinner weaves/knits to maximize garment yield. And you'd be surprised to know how much cotton is in the manufacturing pipeline, in raw fiber warehouses, or sitting in fields in India, or as weaving/knitting thread in supplier warehouses, or as finished cloth, or even as finished goods in supplier and retailer supply chains (but if you guessed 3+ years of agricultural harvest production, you wouldn't be far off, worldwide).
posted by paulsc at 5:07 PM on August 4, 2011

most bargain basement cotton clothing is also manufactured by people who don't get paid much at all.
posted by titanium_geek at 5:22 PM on August 4, 2011

Response by poster: So, it's a combination of enormous growers' subsidies and a long, lint-filled pipe line.
Thanks for your reasonable answers to my snarly question, MeFites.
I'm done shopping until 2014.
posted by BostonTerrier at 6:27 PM on August 4, 2011

paulsc: or use thinner weaves/knits to maximize garment yield

I'm convinced that this has totally been happening. I have t-shirts from around 2002 to 2004 from places like Old Navy, Target, Champs, etc... that I can't figure out how to replace because they apparently don't make t-shirts (cotton or cotton/synthetic blend) out of material that thick any more.
posted by mhum at 7:56 AM on August 5, 2011

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