Jesse just wrote a great response to some of the negative replies Put This On has been receiving over that Gay Talese quote. I wanted to clarify why I posted it, however, lest people like A Fistful of Style think I’m a “fucking asshole” and that I’m sickening Put This On with “rich-guy-itis,” as he put it.
I posted the quote in order to highlight two things. The first is that there’s an unfortunate trend towards regarding clothes more and more cheaply, in a way that I don’t think is happening to other kinds of products. In economics, we use the term commodities to refer to products that compete only on price because the products themselves are indistinguishable from each other. White t-shirts are a good example of this – most people only use price as a determination of which white t-shirts to buy. As an aggregate, Americans tend to have a very “commodities view” of clothing, partly because they don’t know how clothing should fit or what constitutes good construction or materials. Cheap $20 khakis are seen as mostly the same thing as a pair of Bill’s Khakis. I don’t think this kind of view happens in other areas, like technology, where cheap cell phones can be passed off as being more or less the same thing as an iPhone (perhaps because the differences are more self-evident to the uneducated buyer).
So the first reason why I posted the quote was because I wanted to highlight that quality clothes are worth considering in the same regard as other expensive purchases. We shouldn’t have a commoditized view of clothing. Good garments will not only fit better and last longer, but most importantly, they’ll look better, not worse, with age (as John Rushton well demonstrated).
The second reason was to highlight opportunity costs. I didn’t post the quote because I think one should to spend $2,000 on shoes and $5,000 on suits. I’ll never even get close to that kind of purchase myself. I’m a graduate student and I teach undergraduates that regularly get jobs with two or three times my current earnings (and we’re not talking about the ones with engineering jobs). I posted the quote to highlight that you can cut out other expenditures and save up for quality clothing. In San Francisco, my peers regularly spend $100 on a night out (the general cost for dinner, drinks, entertainment, and transportation here). I used to spend the same, but now opt for Trader Joe’s wine and organizing modest potlucks with friends. As a result, I’m able to buy $300-500 shoes after saving for a couple of months. Talese’s quote, to me, speaks this kind of spirit.
Before starting to write here, I was a huge fan of this site. I certainly hope that readers think I’m contributing, not detracting, from Put This On. I think the things I write about, such as Sam Hober’s ties, are things that reflect the two points above: quality things that most people can save up for. I also regularly write about sales (ex Gant, Orvis, and Levis), eBay deals, and have a new series called “For $50 You Can Buy.” In no way do I believe that you have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on clothes in order to look good. I do believe, however, that quality clothes are worth paying for, and that you should buy things that you will enjoy for years and years to come, not just for the few weeks after your purchase. I hope that my posts both give you a better sense of what you truly want to buy and tell you where some of the deals are. I also hope that my posts are just enjoyable for people who are enthusiastic about menswear and men’s style. Menswear for me is a serious interest, not just a shopping habit, so I don’t want this to just be about consumerism. Thus, for the times I do write about unaffordable things, I hope that you take them as an enthusiast’s interest in craftsmanship and men’s style, and know that I’ll still be posting about affordable deals for everyone who isn’t making a bajillion dillion dollars, which most certainly includes myself.