You can find them hanging in almost all wardrobes – the hangers. Although hangers have been with us for quite some time now, it took some time before it was noticed, at least as a designed object.

Two worn hangers hang outdoors.

Before there were hangers, people hung garments on knobs and hooks, put them over rods or stored them in chests, cabinets, and drawers. These were the most used methods people used during most of the 19th century. But as fashion evolved, so did the way clothes are stored. Whoever invented the hanger prevails on shared opinions, but it is clear that it was invented during the mid-1800s when it began to become more common and various patents on hangers began to be taken.

Today, hangers are an obvious part of closets at homes, as well as the fashion industry. It is estimated that around 85 billion hangers are thrown away around the world each year. This has led to voices being raised that the plastic hangers should be recognized as an environmental problem just as plastic straws and bags.

In this week’s Style, we call Sjoerd Fauser who is the CEO of the Dutch hanger company, Arch & Hook. The company says it wants to shift the world to sustainable hangers, especially the fashion industry. When garments are transported from factories, it is often done on cheap plastic hangers which are discarded once the garments are in the store. The company has developed a new type of transport hanger made from recycled plastic, which has been collected in some of the world’s most polluted rivers.

We also look more closely at the hangers as a symbol. When supermodel Gigi Hadid appeared in a hoodie with a small hanger print on the front, the Norwegian fashion creator Holzweiler, who designed the garment, received international attention. They had chosen the hanger symbol from a tattoo, and such a tattoo has become, in another part of the world, a symbol of the political struggle for the right to free abortion.

Hangers are also an object that has been represented in a variety of clothing brands, hotels, and different kinds of companies. There’s a huge number of unique hangers with all kinds of prints.

Listen to the interview here.