One of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the last few years can be summed up in a quote which half of the world attribute to Aldo Gucci and the other half attribute to Benjamin Franklin. Let’s all agree that someone, somewhere, at some point in time, said the following smart thing:
“Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten”.
It’s a comment that’s crept up on me more and more over the years, to become one of the most important criteria I focus on when buying any item, particularly in menswear.
Quality isn’t about a logo and it’s not always about the highest price. It’s certainly not about a celebrity endorsement. It’s about an individual or business taking the time, materials and care necessary to make something to the very best it can be. It’s about celebrating craft and beauty, because the maker (and hopefully the eventual owner) holds the belief that, in a good life, these two things are worthwhile pursuits in their own right. It’s what I’m always trying to identify in choosing everyone I cover here.
Whilst the initial pain of investing in quality can sting, once that memory subsides (usually fairly quickly), you’re left with the product you chose. And if you’ve taken the time to choose carefully, what remains is something beautiful that will be with you for a long time to come.
Pay attention to longevity and materials:
Taking my new Cleverley’s as an example, as much as the initial investment was noticed, I know that, properly looked after, I’ll still be wearing those shoes 40 or more years from now. They’ll carry with them countless memories of times and places long gone, and they’ll become a part of my own history. So for those reasons, I’m comfortable parting with the few thousand pounds they cost to have made and I’ll be comfortable doing it again and again when the time comes.
Whenever you’re confronted with options of a purchase, pay attention to the quality of the makers and the efforts they go to in ensuring the product will last a lifetime. Ask yourself “will this item be with me in 5/10/20 or 50 years from now?” Then allow that to factor in to your decision making and stretch as far as you can to get the product which will be with you for the longest. It’s worth looking at it from the point of view that if you buy quality, you only buy once, which almost always works out to be the more affordable option in the long run. You just have to have the foresight to appreciate that proposition and, sometimes, the discipline to wait a little longer to acquire what you feel is the best for you.
Quality usually hides in the details, such as the quality of the welt of a handmade shoe, or the focus on fit and hand-stitching of a jacket. A simple but perfect silk button-hole. This is also true of ready made items, such as a Cedes Milano Cigar Cutter or a Francesco Maglia Umbrella which can be passed on to your grandchildren…. even though smoking and rain will probably both be banned by then.
Materials used also play an important role in a products life cycle. Calf skin (as opposed to the hide from mature cows) is far softer and won’t crack if properly cared for and conditioned. It also takes and holds a polish far better than older hides. A maglia umbrella uses quality metals and wood, which are precisely cut and assembled, to ensure they won’t break down over the course of a lifetime and any parts which can suffer from wear are able to be re-conditioned.
Just never forget that quality isn’t about the logo or anyone else knowing how much something cost. Whatever the item is, it may look nearly indistinguishable to an outsider. But the thing is that you know and that’s all that matters.
A focus on quality eventually finds its way into everything you do and becomes a significant part of who you are.