I often come back to the cliché of “buy less, buy better.” To analyze the maxim is to take a fascinating look into the psyche of those most interested in men’s clothing. While it is undoubtedly the campaign slogan of the iGent movement, people don’t seem to really understand it. Instead they use the phrase to look down upon those who purchase “pronto moda” in dizzying frequency and quantities – a catchy saying that is intended to be subversive but is instead arrogant.
What people who espouse “buy better, buy less” actually seem to be doing is just buying more and nicer stuff. While the advice was meant to spur someone to purchase one nice, well-tailored navy blazer that you can wear to bits, it has instead led to buying custom blazers in different weights and of a slightly different configuration – “Because I will only ever need to buy ONE (slightly less than) navy blue (one button, peak lapel, with ticket pocket, and Hermès scarf lining) blazer.”
The “buy better, buy less” mantra was not intended to be applied to niche objects or abstract ideas. It was meant to inform one’s spending on a pair of jeans that will last 5 years or a full-canvassed sport coat that you could wear to your grave. Unfortunately the idea has been bastardized, the victim of a fast fashion society in which, while often villainized, we are clearly still deeply entrenched.
If you look at many of the old money aristocracies that inspire so much of our day-to-day clothing fantasies (and the “buy better” movement), you’ll see a particularly cheap and stuffy set. They never uttered the words “buy better, buy less” not only because they were already getting the best by default, but because acquisition was not in their DNA. They lived off of titles, lands and possessions bestowed hundreds of years earlier, so why would they need anything new? This was so apparent that wealthy English would often ask, “New suit?” as an insult. To be constantly acquiring and constantly changing was a new money idea perpetrated by a class that had no idea how to handle itself.
While I don’t want to say that everyone should act like British aristocracy (they are a dying breed for a reason), I do think it’s important that we get back to the root of why we spend so much time thinking about clothes – we enjoy them.
I’ve recently caught myself contemplating a bevy of new purchases in the coming months. With autumn looming, it’s easy for my thoughts to drift toward knitwear, outerwear and new tailored projects. What I seem to forget, however, is that I made it through last fall and winter without any trouble. In fact I had a bunch of cold(er) weather knitwear, outwear and tailored garments I didn’t even get around to wearing. Why on Earth should I be contemplating new items?
For the rest of this year I will be focusing on narrowing my wardrobe and wearing the absolute shit out of my favorite items. I hope to become much closer to my cobbler than some online sales associate in England; I will forge a stronger bond with my alterationist rather than think about pouring through fabric books.
Perhaps this is some sort of existentialist crisis. (A clotheshorse that doesn’t want to buy new clothes?!) Perhaps it is a realization that I’m spending too much money and time on frivolous endeavors. Maybe I am (shockingly) over-romanticizing the idea of clothing. Whatever it is, I hope to get a lot more appreciation out of what I own in the coming months. In short, I hope to better understand what it means to have a personal wardrobe. And hopefully, after it’s all said and done, I’ll know what I really “need” vs. what are merely passing fancies.
Join me, won’t you?
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