"Built to Last" was a popular slogan used by the Ford Motor Corporation beginning in 1998. You have to admit that it is catchy. "Built to Last" has a nice ring to it.

But alas, it seems fewer and fewer products are built to last these days. My observation has been that more and more products are built to "get by" or temporarily fill the need.

I was visiting with a farmer friend a few mornings back when he observed that steel fence posts (T-posts) just aren't what they used to be.

"Give 'em 5-10 years, and they will rust and break off in the ground," he said. "They just don't last like they used to."

He was correct. Those steel posts made 50 years ago are still as solid as a rock. I pulled one out of the ground a while back. It had a good feel to it -- solid and strong. I relocated it in another fence. It will be good for another 50 years.

Many years ago, I discovered a shoe store in East Nashville called Abe's Shoe Repair. It was run by a little Jewish man named … well, Abe. Mr. Abe had the inside track on a plentiful supply of high-quality, pre-worn shoes. I don't know where they originated. It didn't matter to me.

He first introduced me to Johnston-Murphy's top line of shoes called Crown Aristocrats. Back then, those shoes retailed for between $200 and $300. They still do today. Of course, at Abe's I only paid pennies on the dollar.

I have owned many pairs of Crown Aristocrats. Constructed with real shoe leather, they are built to last. Over the years, I have re-soled some pairs three or four times. Quality will always bear out the test of time.

Today, shoes are made to meet the eye test but not the time test. I am amazed at how cheaply shoes are put together. Dress shoes are made of such cheap leather that they won't even hold a shine. And sports (track) shoes are made of such flimsy material that they never last long.

But it seems today's young consumers aren't concerned. When a pair wears out, just buy another pair.

Early in my career when I worked for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, one of my responsibilities was grading feeder pigs for various livestock markets. At the Pulaski Feeder Pig Market, the man responsible for "sizing" (sorting) pigs was called Old Folks.

Old Folks was a tall, black man who probably looked 20 years younger than his actual age. He was strong and agile and moved like a cat. His conversation style was always pleasant and animated. Sometimes, he waxed philosophical.

"They just don't make stuff like they used to," he said one morning. "Why, when I was a young man, you could buy a pair overhauls (overalls) for a dolla. And the denim in 'em was so heavy you could stand 'em in the corner. And denim shirts … they jest cost 50 cents, and they would wear like iron."

You might say that they were built to last.

I could identify with Old Folks. When I was a boy, the start of a new school year meant at least one new pair of blue jeans from Sears, Roebuck, and Company for my brothers and me. The denim in those new jeans was so stiff htat it would rub your hide raw behind your knees on the first day of school. It made you reach for the Cloverine Salve when you got home.

Of course, we all know the story on jeans today. Many pairs are built to look like they have been worn … certainly not built to last. I think they are called retros.

Whether it's metal fence posts, shoes, jeans, socks, underwear, or a whole host of other produces, you have to be a discriminating buyer these days to make sure you get what you pay for.

Here's a great quote from John Ruskin (1819-1900) … "There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man's lawful prey."

Can quality produces still be had in today's super competitive, sales-driven environment? Of course, but you better be prepared to set your satchel down.

Copyright 2019 by Jack McCall