Family Picture, East Tennessee, circa 1938.
I heard this phrase from my dad so many times growing up that when I heard it I would just roll my eyes and think, yeah dad, whatever. While there are questions about the origin of the saying, it gained popularity in the 30’s and 40’s during the austere times of the Great Depression and resource shortages of World War II. My family of Scotch-Irish farmers was part of the first wave of families to settle in what is now the state of Tennessee. Frugality was a necessary part of everyday life. My grandparents were young adults during the Depression and that time period left a profound mark on them as it did everyone that lived through it. Those lessons of perseverance and thrift were passed down, with varying degrees of success, to their children.
Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s these lessons and this saying seemed antiquated to me. We had plenty, our consumer culture was thriving, cheap products were abundant and the prosperity seemed endless. Looking with hindsight at that prosperity it has became evident that the cost of those cheap goods was actually much greater than we ever imagined.
As an obsessed climber in my post-college 20’s I was forced to embrace the, “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without” mentality, even if at the time I didn’t think of it as that. I worked minimally as a substitute teacher to support my lifestyle and never had much money for new clothes or gear. Looking back on photos from that time period my wardrobe is pretty much the same: a pair of Mammut Champ softshell pants that were three sizes too large in the waist because I found them on sale, a Patagonia Mixed Master jacket that I had until it was so old that the whole thing disintegrated in the wash, and a Patagonia Das Parka that saved my life the first time I wore it. Part of my goal in starting NW Alpine was to create apparel like this that will last through a decade, or hopefully more, of adventures.
Perhaps most importantly we want to create the kind of apparel that, when pulled on brings the wearer back to those adventures and reminds them of the difficulty, pain, terror and sometimes joy, of those experiences.