Anyone today who has made a conscious choice to order custom clothing is doing so for the self-indulgence of the ritual: the inefficiency of paging through fabric books, the odd choreography of measurements and fittings, the fetishistic control over details, colors, trimmings and the strangely masochistic wait for the damn thing to be finally finished and then delivered. Indeed, the inevitable length of time between order and delivery of custom clothing is perhaps the greatest argument against its convenience in a time-constrained world.
On the one hand, brands have existed for centuries as a kind of maker’s guarantee. Medieval English merchants would attach their names to bales of cloth, using their reputation to vouch for the consistency and honesty of the product. On the other hand, since the arrival of mass production, branding has been used to distinguish a manufacturer’s goods, elevate them, and insist on their exceptionality. Nowhere is this tension clearer than in the Domino’s Pizza branded Rolex Air King.
Recently my family paid me the honour of visiting my relatively new flat. After showing them round and receiving the obligatory nods of approval, my sister suddenly, and loudly, gasped. “You STILL have this thing?!” She was pointing to a navy shawl collar cardigan draped over a chaise longue (you read that right) that I’ve had since my first year of University.
To quote the great Takeshi Kaga, “If memory serves me right, Christmas is just around the corner.” And with it, a tightening of the tension between cocooned self-indulgence and the ethereally transcendent.
My wife and I began to plan our move from Brooklyn to a little flat in Cambridge, UK in June of 2020. She’d gotten into a PhD in February, but then COVID made the idea of moving across the Atlantic seem like an insane proposition. By the summer, with the infection numbers, down, we decided to go through with it, which meant we only had about two months to find a new place, clear out our old one, sort our Visa paperwork, and get a pet passport for our dog.
Inside us, our better angels, those attempting to persuade us to better ourselves by looking outward, improving our surroundings, or even getting a real damn hobby, constantly struggle against the voice telling us that each new article of clothing we do not yet have is an essential piece of the puzzle that would complete a picture of the real us.