My Boyfriend’s Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
I’m hoping this will qualify as an “easy” question.
Why does my boyfriend’s high quality light brown suit jacket look like pixelated newsprint close up? From far away, it’s a nice, neutral color…but then you get close and suddenly you notice that every fiber is a different color. Light blue! Pink! What the heck? Why can’t it just be brown? Should I be mortified to be seen standing next to him when he’s wearing it? Or am I incredibly uncultured for not getting that this is a mark of quality, like he claims?
I admit that since I’m not getting a whole lot of sleep these days, I’m not exactly ready for a Jeopardy! appearance or anything, but still. Your boyfriend and his jacket genuinely stumped me, because like you, I have NEVER heard of this multicolored “mark-of-quality” business either. But as I keep reminding myself: there’s a world of information out there beyond Wikipedia. Perhaps this fabric thing is a part of that world.
So I read your question aloud to my husband, who is a bit of a clothing snob. (And by “bit” I mean “TOTAL MASSIVE SNOB.”) He, in turn, gave me a look that I can only describe as, “Bwaahuhschwaaat?”
Here’s the thing: it’s the FIBERS that make a fabric high quality (i.e. wool vs. silk vs. cotton vs. polyester), along with the dyes. (And it’s the CONSTRUCTION that makes a garment high-quality.) While using a lot of differently-dyed fibers in the fabric may make for a more visually interesting piece, it’s not like the fabric was hand-woven, with each thread carefully and individually selected to create a stunning mosaic of…brown fabric.
No, the multi-colored fibers were most likely loaded into a huge industrial loom in a huge factory somewhere, woven by machine into yard after yard of fabric, then sent out across the world where it was eventually chosen by a fabric buyer for whatever label designed the jacket. (And at this point the fabric may very well have been shipped overseas to a sweatshop, depending on what the “Made In…” label says.)
This is NOT to say that the jacket ISN’T high quality. I’m sure the dyes and the fibers and construction of the jacket are indeed, just super awesome and great. But the multi-colored aspect of the fabric is very much more than likely a DESIGN CHOICE by the jacket’s maker, and not a “mark of quality” in and of itself. Sure, it means that the fibers were dyed BEFORE the fabric was woven (instead of, say, tossed into a big vat of dye afterwards), but this would be true of ANY fabric used for a suit jacket — even a “cheap” suit jacket. And brown fabric made up of truly all-brown fibers can be just as good as an optical-illusion-like fabric.
Personally, though, I think his jacket sounds cool. Certainly nothing to be mortified over. So…I award one “I’m Right” point to each of you, thus the score remains tied.
Published November 21, 2008.
Last updated April 13, 2010.