[ Question ]

How has the cost of clothing insulation changed since 1970 in the USA?

by DanielFilan1 min read12th Jan 202010 comments


EconomicsHistoryWorld Modeling

I sometimes hear the claim that innovation in the physical world has stagnated since around 1970. More specifically, chapter 1 of The Rise and Fall of American Growth by Robert J Gordon claims that there has been basically no innovation in clothing other than changes in fashion. This is somewhat contrary to my intuition (although I definitely believe that innovation in the 50 years before 1970 was greater that in the 50 years after), and price of insulation seems like a relatively objective metric for this.

My favourite type of response would be time series data of clo per inflation-adjusted dollar, but I'd also appreciate people's subjective experience of this.

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  • Per Wikipedia, Polar Fleece was invented in 1979.
  • The Hacker's Paradise puts the patent for the first moisture wicking fabrics at 1996. [article]
  • Forbes has an article from 2014 reporting the recent invention of "smart textiles" that "do many things that traditional fabrics cannot, including communicate, transform, conduct energy and even grow."
  • This 2017 article from University of Minnesota describes some of the latest in color-changing fabrics technology.
  • Science Daily has an article from 2019Feb about the invention of a fabric that dynamically regulates temperature.

On Facebook, Stefan Schubert linked to this CPI chart showing that the price of clothing has declined relative to the prices of other things over the past 20 years.