Sunday, September 16, 2007

Buying the Best (or at Least the Better)

When I first moved away from home I survived on a small income; I lived in student housing, ate where I worked, and was unaware (sometimes knee-jerk dismissive) that the items in Maslow's hierarchy of needs could differ noticeably in quality. Isn't food just food, a car just a car? Aren't all clothes essentially the same? Does spending more for something mean you're getting something BETTER, as opposed to just putting yourself in a hoity-toity category of elites?

I have more money now, and some things that people put in a cost-hierarchy -- expensive restaurants, food, wines, and cars -- are still beyond my understanding. But friend Vanilla will sometimes hand me a piece of high-quality wool and I'll hold it and, this feels incredible! Years of buying cheap clothing in chain stores -- and having to donate it or throw it out after five or six washings -- has taught me something about...well, the life-span cheap clothing. Friend Pete bought me a shot of Grey Goose vodka a few months ago and I was forced to admit that expensive alcohol really IS better. Now I spend a lot of time in liquor stores holding my stomach and crying.

Last week I bought an expensive pen. The initial idea was that paying good money for a pen would force me to USE it, but now I find myself holding the pen and thinking, "wow, this feels really's like the Grey Goose of pens!" And when my last pair of cheap boots wore out after nine months, I found myself paying a bundle for a new moderately "good pair," and when I slip them on I know they're going to last. Or they'd better.

I have a reactionary response to what I consider "gentrification," that is, the ostentatious display of "wealth" with no regard for taste, appropriateness, or functionality. But here I am with my pen and my boots and my $50 hair-care products, not to mention all the money I've spent on CoverFX foundation (right down to the $40 "goat-hair brush"), and I wonder: why the change? Am I spending more money on these things simply because I CAN (or because I want to imagine myself as the sort of person who can) or because I'm appreciating "quality" more than I used to (or because I want to be a person who appreciates "quality?") There's a big distinction between those categories.

In short, I don't know. But if the biggest problem in my life is that I can now afford a beautiful pen, I suppose I'm doing pretty good for myself.


VanillaJ said...

I was wondering the exact same thing on the weekend. Ages ago I owned a single Esprit white cotton T-shirt and thought, "wow, this is luxury". It fit right, the cut was elegant, and the cotton held up to many, many washes without loosing shape. But recently I went into an Esprit store looking for another plain cotton T-shirt, and I was thoroughly unimpressed with every thing I saw there. Just shit. Same with the "Jacob" store! At one time, these stores were seemingly expensive, high end retailers when I was a young(er) woman. Now I'm grappling with the notion that they never where that shit-hot to begin with, or, perhaps they've re-evaluated their business model and are catering to a less discerning target market. I dunno!

Anyway, I was in Toronto on the weekend and I walked past this "Specchio" (sp?) shoe store in Yorkville. I accidently fell in love with the most beautiful boots I saw in the window. The brand was "Ixos", and I can find any information on the internet, but they are no doubt Italian & expensive ($400+). Now, all I do is dream about owing these boots, which I don't NEED, only WANT. A little bit of money is poison, man, and all I can do is burn with the possibility of possessing them. Wah! Fruit of Knowledge, and all that shit!

Muffy St. Bernard said...

I just assumed you had ALWAYS been aware of thread-count!

I think these places have never been very sh*t hot, since they are ultimately catering to trends, and trends move on faster than their clothes disintegrate. Why pay more for a well-manufactured pair of sweatpants with "Juicy" on the butt, when next year nobody will be wearing them (except when they're doing their laundry)?

Fruit of knowledge, root of all evil...