The use of today's minimum wage to estimate the cost is a bit hokey, but 480 hours of labour for one shirt is interesting: about 10-15% of one person's productive output for the year (and ignoring unrefined goods input and capital costs, taxes not really existing back then).

"The $3500 Shirt - A History Lesson in Economics"

One of the great advantages of being a historian is that you don't get your knickers in as much of a twist over how bad things are today. If you think this year is bad, try 1347, when the Black Death covered most of Europe, one-third of the world had died, and (to add insult to injury) there was also (in Europe) the little matter of the Hundred Years' War and the Babylonian Captivity of the Church (where the pope had moved to Avignon, France, and basically the Church was being transformed into a subsidiary of the French regime). Things are looking up already, aren't they?

So, 7 hours for sewing, 72 for weaving, 400 for spinning, or 479 hours total to make one shirt. At minimum wage - $7.25 an hour - that shirt would cost $3,472.75.

Stefan Jovanovich writes: 

Ms. Fisher's narrative is horribly Eurocentric. A third of Europe died from the plague– if one accepts the usual figure which has the problem of being almost entirely an educated guess; but there was no comparable mass epidemic in Asia and the Americas. For the Chinese of the Song dynasty it was all good news. Of course things are better today, but people have the odd habit of measuring their lives against what their sense of envy tells them about what other people of their time have. So, the Song developed paper currency and QE and things got worse.


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