On our 25th wedding anniversary, my wife and I crossed the Atlantic for an unforgettable first trip to Ireland. We wanted a few keepsakes to bring back with us, so we shopped carefully as we went about our travels. She found a gold necklace with a St. Brigid’s cross (her namesake), and a few ceramic Christmas ornaments. I opted for a few logo items from the Guinness Brewery, and a coffee table book on the village of Kildare. We also purchased music from a lovely harpist, playing outdoors just steps from the Cliffs of Moher. Last week, I came across one more Ireland item I forgotten about: the sweater you see below. It’s colorful and it’s Celtic… and I think I’ve worn it once.
Don’t know about you, but the new year is always my opportunity for “spring cleaning”. Maybe it’s because I’m already in the mode as I take down and box up the Christmas decorations. Or maybe it’s because my office files burst with paper after a year of accumulation. Whatever the reason, by mid-January I manage to a) empty my office of anything irrelevant to the coming year, and b) conduct something akin to an inventory reduction sale on my clothes. The office files are easy, but the wardrobe; that takes a little more judgment.
When it comes to decisions about clothes, it’s safe to say guys have it easier. We’re more utilitarian – by definition “designed to be useful or practical rather than attractive”. Yep, that’s us guys – if the shoe fits, so to speak. Of course, women flip the definition around and put the premium on “attractive”. For them it’s more about fetching than fitting. In fact, I’d venture to say a woman’s closet is 75% “attractive” and 25% “utilitarian”, while a man’s is the reverse. And trust me; “utilitarian” is easier to shift to the giveaway pile.
My annual wardrobe shrink is always nostalgic. Some items – particularly suits and sweaters – survive several years before reluctantly leaving the nest. Others – admitted impulse buys – fly the coop having been worn just a handful of times. I’ll never forget one year, when I brought eight suits to Goodwill. Why so many? I moved from California to Colorado and changed jobs in the process. My CA job required the suits; my new CO job did not. Even so, I had to swallow hard on that donation. Those suits had plenty of mileage left in them.
Here’s a mistake I make all too often with my wardrobe. I’ll buy a shirt or a pair of pants at a store. Weeks later, I realize I really like what I purchased, so I go online and buy another half-dozen; same style in various colors. That’s the mistake. Not only am I a poor color-chooser through the Web, but I don’t wear that shirt or those pants as often as I think I will. In other words, I over-shop (and I’m a guy!) Then comes wardrobe shrink time, and my giveaway pile includes that shirt or those pants. Not good.
The more common mistake – at least for us guys – is to buy something last-minute for a single occasion. Sure we may need it, but do we take a moment to project whether we’ll ever wear that item again? If not, that shirt or tie or sweater is reduced to a keepsake, sitting quietly on the closet shelf just yearning for another wear. That’s my Ireland sweater. Kinda sad, isn’t it?
Admittedly, I have other keepsake clothing. I buy shirts from favorite destinations (hello Guinness), and can’t bear to part with them. I buy shirts with my college’s logo on them, and can’t bear to picture someone else wearing them. I still have an Aloha shirt from our honeymoon in Hawaii (probably the last time I wore it too). No matter – there’s plenty of room in the closet when 25% just went to Goodwill. The purge is not completely pure. My Ireland sweater will live to see another year.
Some content sourced from the Wall Street Journal article, “The Case for Buying Less Clothing”.