Yesterday during my daily news bender in which I channel Cookie Monster and gobble up as much media as possible, I came across this gem of an excerpt:
Even if you have no intention of parting with too much of your paycheck, try on an expensive suit, especially if you have never done so. This will provide you with a frame of reference as to what a suit should do for you, what it can look like on you and what you ought to feel like in it. It’s why a struggling law student test-drives a Porsche. It’s the reason we have museums. You can’t devise standards unless you know the range of possibilities.
-Hal Rubenstein, NYT, March 28, 1993
It was nestled snugly near the bottom of a random NYT article from 1993 about how to buy a suit. Why I was reading an early nineties article on style we may never know. (I started on io9 reading about comic books and Star Trek, emigrated to Huffpo for news on Newt’s latest escapade and found myself in the NYT’s basement–the Internets is a magical place)
Anyway, the article was a prissy diatribe about fabric weaves and firing your tailor, something you’d read in Esquire magazine or some other fop rag, but that excerpt stuck with me. It’s good advice and I think it rings a clear, silver bell of truth that for most of us probably gets obscured by the ins and outs of every day life. I think the point of it is to take chances by trying new things. No one ever changed the world, discovered something new or imparted a rich legacy by staying inside the lines, eating lunch at their desk, staying home on vacation, going from work and back home every day to watch network sitcoms or settling for only the price and cut of suit they could afford.
Life is about options! We’re only here for 70-80 years if we’re lucky and despite what the practitioners of (insert hoodoo of choice) may tell you, we’re not guaranteed anything beyond that. You’ve probably heard the phrase “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” This life is in your grasp. Today is in your grasp. Scarlet O’Hara famously said, “Tomorrow is another day,” but Scarlet was a silly woman. Today is the day. Try on that Valentino suit, experience how it feels. You’ll buy something much cheaper but now you’ll have that mental standard. You’ll know how a suit is supposed to look and feel. If it’s a car, why not test drive that BMW or Lexus? Vacation? Lunch? Just try something new. We make standards for our lives based on our experiences so for such a finite existence why not have the highest standards and richest experience possible?
But is the practice of test-driving the things we cannot have a recipe for setting ourselves up for disappointment?
Thanks Sophia. I don’t think that trying out luxurious things necessarily leads to disappointment. We’ve all stayed in a ritzy hotel or eaten at a fine restaurant (remember Pacci?) and I think most of us are able to go-on without having our attitudes devolve into depression over how crummy or shabby our norm is in comparison. Of course everyone is different so I can’t speak for everyone, but I think overall experiencing fine things is one of the joys in life. It would be an awfully beige existence for anyone who was too afraid of letdown to try anything new.
Scarlett O’Hara a silly woman? I suggest you reread GWTW. She’s a viper and a survivor. She only said that as a mechanism for getting through the struggles she was facing. And, she definitely knew how to wear luxury and strive every day for a better life…