31 people in Melbourne, Australia agreed to wear the same pair of jeans for three months without washing them.
They were helping doctoral student Tullia Jack research alternative laundering practices to make clothing more sustainable (i.e. by not washing them so often).
One on one interviews took place regularly to explore the participants’ overall physical and emotional experience, their alternative laundry practices, and how they made sense of washing less to save resources.
During the one on one interviews, Jack and participants smelled each others’ jeans. Some scents discussed when smelling the participants’ jeans were forest floor, egg shells, caramel, grass, sour milk, mushrooms, bread and desert flowers.
In one interview the respondent said that smelling was good when it was ‘rock and roll’, then later referred to a friend’s partner as ‘stinky’. The most common experience was the smell getting worse until a certain point, then leveling off, and responding to environmental factors such as temperature.
Many of the participants spoke about spilling food on the jeans, including avocado, ice-cream, souvlaki, jam, chocolate, flour, tuna, beer, gum and peppermint tea. Stains were mainly on the thighs and knees, some wiping marks formed on the back pocket area. Some participants left the stains to wear off while others actively spot-cleaned the jeans.
The natural fading and creasing of the jeans was described as visually pleasing. Participants even reported a satisfaction in the creases at the knees and wallet marks in the pockets.
The expectation proved much more disgusting than the actuality with all apart from one participant finding the experience easy. One even felt he was not contributing sufficiently to the study and went for a jog in the jeans to try and make them dirtier!
Not washing was perceived to be ‘gross’. However, the experience of not-washing never became overwhelmingly gross,suggesting a perception barrier in progressing to using less resources (by washing less).
A full copy of the 120-word thesis can be found here.
Siobhan O’Shea is a freelance writer. She writes about pretty much everything but especially likes to bring readers’ attention to new tech, marketing, human behavior, and other oddities.