Saturday, August 15, 2009

Function Over Form

That's got to be one of my fundamentals. I was reminded of this today gazing upon a $300 purse.
Said purse was brandished by a girl at work, a girl who's pretty, stylish...and obviously independently wealthy. I mean, this is Price Chopper we're talking about. The phrases part time cashier at Price Chopper and $300 purse may go in the same sentence, but they chafe together uncomfortably.
Or so I think. But then again, I'm of the male persuasion. What do I know?
Anyway, she brandished this purse together with its receipt. I looked at it. It was...a purse. Red leather, a huge metallic logo affixed to one side, broadcasting the Cool Brand Name to all and sundry. (I wish I could remember that brand name. It wasn't Gucci, but it sounded kind of like Gucci. Or maybe there's a point behind my not remembering the brand name. Maybe. Hmmm.)
"It's gorgeous!" she gushed.
"It's a purse!" I gushed back.
She looked at me. I've seen that look before. I see it every day, in fact. It's a weird fusion of pity, contempt and incomprehension. Which, come to think of it, is exactly what I was feeling looking at that purse.

There was a time, ah, there was a time when I was all about the brand name. My first year of high school, every teen was wearing either Roots or Northern Reflections gear. Both stores are not cheap, incidentally, and we were not exactly rich. But I wouldn't shut up about how badly I needed something from either store. I pleaded. I begged. I wheedled.
My wish was granted: a burgundy sweater with the largest Roots logo imaginable awaited me under the Christmas tree that year. Unfortunately, wearing that sweater didn't make me fit in at all. If anything, the teasing and ostracization redoubled.

I did notice something, though, and I can trace the moment I started to enter adulthood to the moment I noticed: that Roots sweater was probably the most comfortable thing I owned.
Shortly thereafter I got a Northern Reflections sweater. A blue one. I intentionally chose one on which the logo was comparatively tiny, almost unnoticeable. I revelled in the comfort and obvious quality, but I no longer felt the need to tell the world about it at top volume.

And so I have some small measure of understanding in these matters: you buy cheap, you get cheap, right?

But...a purse?

What is the purpose of a purse? To store things in, correct? There's no comfort involved here that I can see: you don't wear a purse, you carry it. I can grant you that a $300 purse is probably a good deal more durable than one at a tenth the price...but I've yet to meet the woman who buys one purse and sticks with it for life. My own wife is on a perpetual search for The Perfect Purse. She hasn't found it yet (she's come close)...and I can pretty much assure you that when she does, it'll cost us more than $300...because she'll buy eight or nine of them.

I've never understood fashion. Or rather, I've never understood why fashion continually changes. When I buy clothing, I ask myself three questions. The first is can I afford this? I'm not near as frugal as my best friend Jason, who will not allow himself to spend more than $10 on any item of clothing (memo to anyone trying to accomplish that: it helps to live in southern California.)

The second question: is this comfortable? The most comfortable shirts in my closet are from Wal-Mart: they cost $9 each. So expensive doesn't always mean comfortable, and if you're poor (a "temporarily embarrassed tycoon") you can still find comfortable clothing if you're willing to dig a little. Places like Value Village are an absolute goldmine.
Regardless: what's comfortable never changes.

The third: do I like the look of this? Notice that isn't will I look good in this--as far as I'm concerned, they're the same question, but I recognize others may not see it that way. I recognize that, but I don't care.

I'm partial to greys and blues, with occasional forays into the brown palette. Grey has been my favourite colour almost as long as I can remember. I'm seriously tempted to say the answer to do I like the look of this? never changes, either.

So: two things never change--what's comfortable and what I like. What I can afford may fluctuate, I'll grant you...and yes, as shown above, the expensive clothing can be extremely comfortable...but so can the cheaper stuff. So much so that I often find myself wondering if the Tommy Hilfigers of the world--or whatever brands are au courant now--charge so much simply because they can.

Fashion. It's just silly.


Rachel said...

I am one of those people who would drop that much on a purse if I had the cash to allow for it AND pay the mortgage etc. Now that you've mentioned it's a cashier, I imagine she isn't out of her 20s in which case, it isn't the same $300 purse I would buy.

There is a lot of hoopla about some Hollister clothing line. So far, all I see is it's about high school kids who wear the t shirt with the logo on it and nothing else. When I see the contents of the actual store, it could be Gap or Old Navy but I am sure it's double the price of Gap and that means triple the price of Old Navy. When it comes to companies making purses like Coach or the like, I can completely see that amount of money for a bag. Coach started off making riding gear and stuff like that... horse harness people. You know the quality is perfect and the style will last. That is an investment. Flash in the pan names (flashy logos etc) is likely made in the same place the purses in Walmart are made and will NOT last - in function or style. Knowing this comes with... age maybe? Who knows.

After all that babbling, I guess I am saying I can fully understand that much for the RIGHT purse.

As for the look she gave you... forget it. As soon as she is a little older, she'll realize that there are things that men just don't understand about women and we can't help you. Not that we don't want to, we just can't explain it ourselves so how can we explain it to you. The opposite is true too. Just one of those things.

Rocketstar said...

I'm with you here, a $300 purse, insane. It's a bag. I so dislike spending money on clothes as well.

You go into the Gap and see T shirts for $30, $30 for a T Shirt? THese t shirts are all made by the same child labor and most of the time the same fabrics. I go to Target or JC Penney's, lower prices same quality.