Perhaps because I scribe for a living, and know that a piece of writing always benefits from cutting,* I’ve always been a ruthless editor of my own wardrobe. There’s always something that can be discarded for being redundant, having fulfilled its use, or not being quite right. The simple test is to look at an item in your closet and gauge your gut reaction to it: If you’re not immediately filled with fondness, get rid of it. Clothes are the perfect means to practice the striving for a state of perfection, even if that state is never reached.
As a result, I’ve never understood the web’s notorious clotheshorses and their compulsive acquiring. Money is not the issue, as some spend lavishly while others are inveterate thrifters. At some point both must reach a stage of surfeit, when it’s impossible for every item in their wardrobe to be fondly cherished. It’s the difference between having a dog and having a kennel. At some point it’s just variety for its own sake, and at that point are your clothes really an extension of you?
And just because an item is already broken in doesn’t mean it will automatically feel second nature to wear it. Whether it’s an old rep tie or a vintage Harris Tweed, an item new to you is still new, and will take time until you’re wholly unaware of wearing it. But before then the item will not feel like a part of you, but a kind of awkward sartorial prosthesis.
Sure, wearing something new can often put a spring in your step, but only one new item should be worn per outfit. Don’t inaugurate a new jacket, tie and shoes all at the same time.
Consider this passage from Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel “The Talented Mr. Ripley”:
Evenings looking at his clothes — his clothes and Dickie’s — and feeling Dickie’s rings between his palms, and running his fingers over the antelope suitcase he had bought at Gucci’s. He had polished the suitcase with a special English leather dressing, not that it needed polishing because he took such good are of it, but for its protection. He loved possessions, not masses of them, but a select few that he did not part with. They gave a man self-respect. Not ostentation but quality, and the love that cherished the quality. Possessions reminded him that he existed, and made him enjoy his existence. It was simple as that. And wasn’t that worth something? He existed.
I find this an inspiring argument for fewer, but better. — CC
* This blog post was edited down from an original draft of 4,200 words.