From Jimmy Choo’s to man drawers Will Croker discusses a very British tradition
My late Dad had a drawer when I was a young boy. It was a mystical thing with a certain smell when you opened it that was unmistakable. In it were packets of unopened shirts. I mean literally a dozen or more sealed packets with such exotic names as St Michael and Van Heusen.
Every Christmas and Birthday he seemed to get bought another one and every year it went into the drawer seemingly never to be seen again. When I asked the old man why this was, he said ‘I am saving them for best’. Apparently, what seemed to happen was that he had a lot of shirts already, and as one ran out of usefulness he would replace it from ‘The Drawer’.
Now this always struck me as a strange phenomenon, what is the point in having something if you are not going to use it? Apparently there was something quite satisfying about breaking out one of the newbie’s to wear to a wedding or christening. What was even stranger was that this didn’t seem to be confined to my Father. You could always spot new shirt wearers, they were the ones with the rectangular creases on their chests, hopping around trying to get the stray pin that they had missed and that was now embedding itself into their Adams Apple.
Interestingly enough, when he passed away a couple of years ago, the ‘The Drawer’ still had six or seven shirts and a Lyle and Scott jumper with the tissue paper still in it. I always thought ‘I bet he was glad he kept those’.
This type of brand of hording isn’t confined to men. Women do this with all manner of things, from shoes to beauty products and cosmetics. A friend was recently telling me about one girl pal, who had put away her favourite lotion for an evening, when she wanted to really pamper herself, only to retrieve the product and realise it was five months out of date. Now if anything is going to turn a mild mannered girl, into a strutting velociraptor, then surely a ruined pamper evening is it!
The notion of saving things for best is a throwback to the times when things were in short supply. When, if somebody wanted something new then they had to save up for it rather than whack it on the plastic. The depression of the 20’s and the rationing of the late 40’s and 50’s meant, that within living memory, these traits were passed on and I guess is why we still uphold some of this behaviour.
So why is this? Well, our society has become more ‘throw away’ than ever before, we have greater purchasing power than at any time previously with the credit system as it is and disposable incomes have increased significantly from when many of our parents or grandparents were young.
Think about your grandparent’s house. Did they ever have matching carpet throughout? No. Why? Because they would replace a carpet in a room when it was worn out and not before. It was this approach that perfectly illustrates what spawned the saving process. Now it is like a default setting to go in and replace carpets throughout irrespective of their condition.
Now, I am a firm believer in enjoying each day that comes, not trying to live too far in the future. What is the point of receiving a gift or buying something and not enjoying it to its fullest? Should tomorrow be the last day I spend on earth, will I be happy that I have a pair of expensive brogues that I have worn once, or would I wish I had worn them more and got greater pleasure from them?
Even in my role as an estate agent I see this all the time. People are currently putting off moving until they feel they are getting an appropriate price for their home, or the uncertainty is lifted. With Brexit seemingly hitting the ‘pause button’ of life, there is a certain air of concern that there may be a minor correction in prices.
However, a look at the facts will show that borrowing money via mortgages is at an all-time low, that interest rates are likely to drop again today and that there is a chronic shortage of available housing. Surely from a practical point of view, if you move and you have to borrow slightly less, then that is a good thing. And surely house prices falling unilaterally ensures, that any step up the housing ladder, results in the gap shortening between what you are selling and what you are buying.
From a lifestyle point of view, does it really matter if you are selling and buying at 5% under what you would have ideally been trading at, if it means you are happy with where you are living? It must be more important to raise your family in the best possible environment, rather than hang on for the extra few pennies, that apparent post EU exit might bring. I know that I would rather enjoy my time with my young family today, rather than hanker for a time in the future when everything is ideally aligned but with no guarantee my circumstances will match.
So in short, wear those Jimmy Choos that have only seen the light of day at a Bar mitzvah last May, more often. Put that shirt on which cost your wife a week’s housekeeping. Enjoy the facial products while they are still in date and while your face is still young enough to reap some benefit from them. And if you want to move into a new family home then do it, embrace the increase in lifestyle quality, before your kids are paying tuition fees and you are considering gardening as a dynamic lifestyle choice. After all, when all is said and done, nobody wants to think if only I had……