I’ve always heard that if you have two pairs of jeans (or any kind of clothes), that you’ll get longer life out of them by alternating them on a daily basis instead of wearing one pair until they wear out and then wearing the second pair. Many people make this claim when they’re justifying holding onto four of the exact same black shirt, or whatever multiple of a piece of clothing that is taking up space in their closet. Unfortunately, after many days researching this very topic, I have yet to find a single piece of scientific evidence to support the extended-life claim.
Each piece of clothing you own has a limited life cycle. Natural fabrics are made of predominantly short fibers (sheep fur, rabbit fur, flax shafts, cotton) that eventually break down and unwind over time (for example, pills on a sweater). Man-made fibers are longer and more durable (rayon is a single, long, silk-thread-like product), but they can and will eventually show damage. Wearing, washing, and drying fabrics damage fibers, plain and simple. (Even storing fabrics can damage fibers if under poor conditions.)
Think of it like a math equation:
Life Cycle = X wearings + Y washings + Z dryings
The Life Cycle is a set number that doesn’t change if the days come in succession or not. A cotton t-shirt is going to reach its Life Cycle after something like 200 wearings, washings, and dryings. It doesn’t matter if those 200 wearings, washings, and dryings happen over 200 days in a row or 200 days spread out over two years; you’re only going to be able to wear your t-shirt on 200 occasions before it reaches the end of its Life Cycle.
Hanging clothes on a drying line instead of putting them in the dryer can extend the length of your clothes because the fibers in your fabrics won’t get beat up going round and round in the metal drum (high heat also does damage to fibers). Hand-washing is also better on fabrics than machine washing, but not significantly (the enzymes in detergents still take a toll on fibers). And, you can get a little more life out of your clothes by wearing them more than once (I’m thinking jeans, not underwear) between launderings. But, bacteria, dirt, and mites damage clothes, too, so washing your clothes extends their life cycle (in comparison to not washing them ever).
Ultimately, a piece of clothing has a set life cycle and alternating or rotating its wear doesn’t change that fact. Knowing this, do you feel more comfortable letting go of duplicate items of the exact same piece of clothing in your closet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
P.S. As far as I can tell, the above information is also true for all shoe materials except for leather. For some biological reason, animal skins have a shrinkage period that can improve the life cycle of your leather shoes if given a day to dry out and rest. So, you might get a few more days or weeks of wear out of a pair of leather shoes if you wear them every other day instead of every day. Again, this only seems to be true for shoes made of real leather.