I rarely shop, yet somehow have accumulated a lot of clothes. I suppose it is because I throw very little out, despite wrestling with animal innards and being anchored deep in mud half the time. Clothes wash and wear quite well so I’ve been shocked on occasion when a young ‘un on some mangrove trip announce they are prepared to dispose their field clothes when mired in mud!
Though not bound by a dress code in campus, I’m in long pants and a shirt for lectures. Even as an undergraduate that was my standard attire. As a resident of KE7 then, I’d wield an iron weekly to ensure a decent turn out in campus. I wonder what brought that on. Probably my stint in the National Cadet Corps (Air). In my time, we went through the ancient starched No. 4 uniform, mirrored boot perfection drill.
My compromise in campus was no starch!
Since I rebel at impracticalities, long sleeves and ties are out. I own perhaps four ties and that includes the one from my convocation in 1990!
So while I replenished a shirt and long pants every couple of years with a single whirlwind shopping expedition, I have avoided accumulating clothes, the same way I have tried to avoid accumulating stuff. Yet like ball point pens, they have piled up somehow!
Having just embarked on some spring-cleaning, I realise my clothes are in four collections:
 The Last In – First Out Collection – these are the current clothes in the cupboard of which the most recent entry gets reused the most. This results in the development of a layer of frequently used clothes right at the top, until a specific search upturns everything. Just like the way we oxygenate the lower layers of the mangrove mud when we plough through thigh-deep mud.
never Soon To Be Ironed Collection – these are fairly recently washed clothes. Folded neatly, they form a pile covered by a thick towel. They used to be a launch pad for Mr Bats, Tiger and Xylo to get to the cupboard top when they were much lighter. The pressure of the weight of the pile over time acts as a substitute for ironing. During many a last minute dash out of the house, a grab at the pile has revealed items which would pass muster in public. Either that or no one cares enough to say anything. Perhaps in my circle, if you don’t smell, that’s considered decent enough.
Cat Bedding Deep Archive Collection – tucked away in the inner recesses of the cupboard are the extremes – the very old and the practically unused (some still have labels). These double as bedding for the cats who disappear into cupboards during colder months or when we have lots of visitors. You can almost never find the cats, let alone these clothes.
I just went through the deep archive and amidst much cat fur, I found some gems – a couple of bermudas from mid-decade which still fit, my official Götheborg work t-shirts from 2006, my pink spotted bermudas and polo shirt from 2001 and the yellow Looney Tunes Taz Tribal collared-shirt from Parkson Ria Ipoh in 1992.
In May 2001, I recovered the large, fossilised giant clam shells from the S1 corridor and put those into the Raffles Museum’s Public Gallery. I had to wash off a decade of algal-accumulation with bleach and that spotted the clothes pink. I wore the Tax Tribal shirt to the television news studio in 2001 for the interview about the deferment of reclamation at Chek Jawa.
How to throw away such stuff?
 The Archived Ark Collection – the fourth pile is not at home but in a box somewhere in the Raffles Museum à la Raiders of the Lost Ark. It consists of clothes for a diversity of events, from Body Snatcher work (e.g. dugong carcass recovery) to hosting a symposium, to field work in Malaysia. And yes, it’s complete with underwear, socks and enough clean clothes to change into after. This collection is pretty much moot now that I have embedded myself into the more structured life of full-time teaching. I hope to excavate this pile one day.
Well, after an audit, I have set aside four bags full of clothes which I know I’ll never use. Some were torn. But I don’t have the space to keep them until the day some whale carcass shows up. I’ll just have to go in with the clothes I’m wearing. Maybe then I shall be forced to do some shopping.