Economists sometimes define hobbies as inefficient work. In other words, if you could pay someone to do your gardening and thereby gain time or money, that’s an efficiency. And if, in spite of the efficiency, you’d rather do it yourself, that’s a hobby. Aside from the fun or relaxation of doing something practical, there’s also the chance for insight.
Middle age is about becoming uneasily comfortable with who we are and with who we are not – that we change simply by staying the same. That is, our tastes, our very beliefs that we once thought – and which may have been – so original, so refined, so progressive, so eclectic – have now become, with our own middle age, middlebrow, stodgy, even offensive.
150 years ago, Alexandre Dumas introduced two minor characters to dinner at the Count of Monte Cristo’s, dressing them perfectly for the occasion in brand-new clothes from the finest real-life tailors and outfitters, and then immediately set their fellow dinner guests to criticizing them.
Tell anyone from New York or Moscow that it was cold in Britain this year and you might get a pitying chuckle. But in a land without snow tyres or decent central heating, it was. At least, this is how I choose to explain my recent fascination with seriously heavy fabrics.
It was time. Like some death cart from Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year, which my morbid ass had reread at the beginning of confinement, I made the rounds, from room to room, over and over, slowly, wrenchingly, prising out each single condemned charge one by one from its temporary resting place in closets, under beds, at the back of drawers.
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.