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The Ethos of Consumerism and Luxury Consumption - Page 6

post #76 of 131
If you're spending money responsibly, even if it's a great deal, I don't see where there's a reason to feel guilty. Are you oppressing the downtrodden with your consumerism? Give me a break. If you feel guilty that's your prerogative, but don't project your feelings or reasoning onto others.
post #77 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by bourbonbasted View Post

Last night I was at a family dinner party and got into an interesting conversation with one of my father's friends. A successful man that has been a family friend for a long time, he and I have talked at length a number of times. However, somehow, we stumbled upon the arena of clothes, lifestyle and luxury consumption.

As one might expect (being a regular poster on SF) I was quick to applaud a life of measured luxury where aesthetic and appreciation of craft outweighed utilitarianism or playing to the lowest common denominator. I discussed bespoke commissions, time spent doing in-depth research and the pursuit of a standard of quality to which I hold my clothing and style of dress.

After learning of my time and money spent on clothing and style, he was quite perplexed, almost to the point of annoyance. He made several points about how to invest one's money and time. He discussed the benefit of a humble existence with small luxuries serving as highlights. He warned of becoming accustomed to excess and luxury, as it would inevitably lead to gluttony (both in my closet as well as other facets of my life). While he acknowledged and encouraged my hobby of learning and investing in men's style, he was quick to warn of how easily it could lead to pompousness.

Obviously his opinions led to a rather spirited conversation. The only point we were able to agree upon, after a few drinks and quite some back and forth, was that there is no clear definition of excess. There is no way to definitively say where quality or utility ends and frivolous opulence begins.

While I have my own ideas of how much is too much, a very subjective measure that changes greatly from item to item and situation to situation, the whole idea of luxury consumption leading to gluttony was very intriguing. Lately, many here have commented that there is a growing trend towards buying more and more "luxury" items, regardless of whether the items are needed or not. I'm curious to know, from a community where there will always be an inherent lean towards the excessive and outlandish, how much is too much? In the quest for style, do you have a philosophy on what constitutes acceptable measures vs. outrageous levels of consumption?

Obviously I realize this is a very abstract question. There is no way to objectively state that one item should only require this much time and money versus another. I also realize that most of us here get enjoyment out of the process of buying or making clothes. However, I am hoping to spark some conversation on how much is too much. And, even better, at what point, if there is one, we get lost in ourselves and our hobby and completely abandon rationality to the point that we could be called wasteful, meretricious or gluttonous.

Did you murder him with an axe later?  Is his body currently dissolving in a bathtub in Hell's Kitchen?  LOL American Psycho was a great movie.

 

Seriously though, this is a good topic.  I am beginning to struggle with this myself.  I'm afraid of becoming a clotheswhore.  I mean really, it never ends if you don't control yourself.  I found myself wanting to buy 5 pairs of jeans the other day, upping my total number of jeans to 7!  That's pretty ridiculous if you think about it.  Noone needs 7 pairs of jeans.  Also, shoes.  I currently own a pair of running shoes and 2 pairs of casual sneakers.  I am probably going to buy another pair.  That's unecessary, but I'm prob still going to do it.  I even want more sneakers, but it would be ridiculous to own 4 pairs of casual sneakers so I'm not going to do it.  You also have to keep in mind that becoming obsessed with fashion and being a clotheswhore makes you less of a man.  And watches, I currently don't own a watch but am looking for one.  I don't really even need a watch because I can use my iPhone to tell time.  But I found myself wanting 3 different watches, one with a cloth band, one with a leather band, and one with a steel band.  And that's excessive because I'm not even a businessman who needs to dress up!  I'm an engineer!  So yeah, you gotta learn to stop yourself.  It's easy to become greedy and vain.

post #78 of 131

This is a great thread.

 

I have asked myself the same question a long time ago and the answer was obvious:  As long as you're responsible with your finances, spend your money the way you like it, but know when to stop.

 

For example, I prefer to spend money on hand-crafted items, especially if they're made locally.  Usually I end up with expensive things not because I want luxury, but because quality stuff costs more. However, chasing labels, collecting things just for the sake of collecting and investing into depreciating assets -- e.g. buying brand new luxury cars -- is not for me.

post #79 of 131
Lol at the "surprise" and "outrage". I really hope you're just having a laugh, because if you really have no idea how you're being judgmental and offensive, then I'm not wasting any more time highlighting quotes for you. I already did one.
post #80 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by bourbonbasted View Post

Obviously I realize this is a very abstract question. There is no way to objectively state that one item should only require this much time and money versus another. I also realize that most of us here get enjoyment out of the process of buying or making clothes. However, I am hoping to spark some conversation on how much is too much. And, even better, at what point, if there is one, we get lost in ourselves and our hobby and completely abandon rationality to the point that we could be called wasteful, meretricious or gluttonous.

 

I apologise in advance for not reading the thread. Having witnessed this sort of discussion elsewhere, I've found it usually ends up with personal recriminations and someone's feelings getting hurt.

 

So I will merely offer my own thoughts, by way of adding to the discussion rather than necessarily arguing for my opinion's validity, or its wider applicability. Take from it what you will; ignore it if you don't like what it says. I won't feel slighted either way.

 

I think that very few people are deliberately sybaritic. There is a small minority, but most people don't take that attitude. Why this is so, I am not sure. Probably mostly to do with the fact that most people lack sufficient degrees of freedom in their existence to get away with such essentially selfish activity. I personally use "selfish" merely describe the act (as in referring solely to the self, not to others), not to assign it with negative characteristics, but society more generally does associate consumption/selfishness with all the negative words you mentioned, associations probably mostly due to religious/moral overhangs. Unless they're exceptionally well off and exceptionally uninterested in other people's opinion of them, most people do not fall into this decadent category. Wealth alone is far from a sufficient criterion to be free of social guilt (and some very rich people are plagued by feelings of inadequacy and fear about the future, both of which conspire against a genuinely sybaritic existence).

 

Leaving the genuinely decadent to one side, as there's really very little to say about them in conjunction with your topic (they're outside from its frame of reference as they don't seek an ethical justification for their consumption), we're left with two main categories of people that spend a lot on luxury/consumption. There are the spendthrifts (those who simply cannot budget in any meaningful way) and the perceived valuers (those who buy expensive things in order to chase quality, durability, lifestyle, an image of "having good taste", or some other cachet). Spendthrifts are easy to explain, and its usually a theme around self-esteem and/or locus of control. Oversimplifying, expenditure makes the world make sense.

 

Value chasers apply various rationalisations to their expenditures. We see a lot of this on the forum: "investing" in a good suit, buying "from talented artisans, supporting the craft", "needed a good suit for my high-powered job", etc, etc, etc. Mostly, the rationalisations are just that. Now, they may still have a kernel of truth: good suits can last longer, handmade goods are expensive, professional jobs have certain presentational expectations. But this group still largely pitch the cost too high for the objective effect they're buying. In my opinion, most people who buy expensive for perceived extrinsic value are deluding themselves. It's still largely about buying something for the effect it has on the purchaser's psyche, and therefore not all that different in essence from the spendthrifts. The rationalisers are simply adept enough with the real world to provide a socially-acceptable lubricant either to assuage their latent guilt or to convince others they're not wasting their money (or both).

 

Which camp do I fall into? Well, I don't have any rational explanation for why I spend money on clothes; I like seeing how those items look on me and the impact that has on my net happiness. This is essentially irrational, closer to a learned behaviour than anything else (i.e. I've developed a sense for what I like to see in the mirror, so consume to match that self-image). It would be a lie to say I buy bespoke jackets to support a tailoring industry, for example. I don't. I just prefer how they look & feel on me. However, I certainly don't think there's a moral justification for not consuming; I don't feel guilty about it. Ideally, I would like to see myself make judgements about expenditure solely on whether the cost justifies the increase in my personal happiness. However, naturally, I have to balance that against my wider financial goals, so while I can be indulgent with individual items, I have to restrict my overall spending.

post #81 of 131
A great many achievements would not have been fulfilled had it not been for the relationship of artisan and client.
post #82 of 131
Spot on, Holdfast.
post #83 of 131
should i buy some new carmina shoes? or save money? The winter is coming...
post #84 of 131
Things were easier when i didn't know the difference from one item to another, when i didn't know i was secretly being ridiculed by the 1% elitist sartorialists and fashion snobs.

As far as a detriment, i have reached a place where i am not able to lower my quality standards now. As a plus, my artistic eye and hands allow me to enjoy the subtitles and techniques involved in such crafts. I have reached a comfortable point, as i have build a competent yet humble wardrobe.

As such, i have reduced greatly the items that i buy now. The only fancy that i have to learn to ramp down is shoes, i am constantly contemplating the prospect of another pair. I have less shoes that most SFers, albeit more than most men i know... confused.gif
Edited by JubeiSpiegel - 1/14/13 at 6:59pm
post #85 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by Holdfast View Post

I think that very few people are deliberately sybaritic.

Well, I don't know. A true sybarite would never buy a Birkin bag. Birkin bags are not about personal luxury. They're about impressing other people. I won't say that being sybaritic is mutual exclusive with conspicuous consumption, but it certainly isn't synonymous. I also think sybarites may be more common than you suspect. True personal luxury is often not as ostentatious as many think. For example, a lot of people, even on SF, would have little problem spending a great deal of money on, say, a cashmere sweater, for no other reason than that they enjoy wearing it. Their pleasure would not be in any way enhanced if the sweater had "Gucci" plastered across it in large letters.

I cannot argue with your points about the "value chasers" except to note that there is another, probably overlapping, category. Perhaps this might be called the "collector." The "collector" of course, does not want to buy one of everything. Rather, he wants to own "exemplars." In the extreme form, the collector wants to own the best of everything, or at least what they perceive to be the best of everything . . . there have been a couple of SF posters like that. But most SF posters have this to some degree. They might get some shirts from say, Budd, not because they really are that much better, objectively, or because people can tell where they got their shirts, but because, well, they want to have some shirts from Budd. To me this is most obvious with shoes. The only reason, really, to get shoes from Lobb St. James is because you want to own a pair of shoes from Lobb St. James.
Quote:
I don't feel guilty about it. Ideally, I would like to see myself make judgements about expenditure solely on whether the cost justifies the increase in my personal happiness. However, naturally, I have to balance that against my w[ider financial goals, so while I can be indulgent with individual items, I have to restrict my overall spending.

If you are not already familiar with the concept, I urge you to look into the "hedonic treadmill." You will thank me forever.
Edited by Bounder - 1/14/13 at 7:51pm
post #86 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bounder View Post

The "collector" of course, does not want to buy one of everything. Rather, he wants to one "exemplars." In the extreme form, the collector wants to own the best of everything, or at least what they perceive to be the best of everything . . . there have been a couple of SF posters like that. But most SF posters have this to some degree. They might get some shirts from say, Budd, not because they really are that much better, objectively, or because people can tell where they got their shirts, but because, well, they want to have some shirts from Budd. To me this is most obvious with shoes. The only reason, really, to get shoes from Lobb St. James is because you want to own a pair of shoes from Lobb St. James.
i think i can relate to this nod[1].gif
post #87 of 131

lighten up, it's just a hobby.

post #88 of 131
lurker[1].gif

I like threaks like this.
post #89 of 131
Quote:
I am in the 1% in income and networth. I could afford to spend a lot of money on clothes, shoes, watches, etc. But I don't.

I take it the lesson the three spirits taught you didn't stick.

Put the money into the economy, if you think it's in need, and if wealth beyond imagining be yours!
post #90 of 131
Originally Posted by Apollotrader View Post

lighten up, it's just a hobby.

 

True, of course, but it's my hobby to enjoy thinking about the implications/ethics of questions like that posed by the OP, so forgive my continuing to discuss it. I'm afraid I do enjoy a meandering flight of fancy. :)

 

Originally Posted by Bounder View Post

I don't feel guilty about it. Ideally, I would like to see myself make judgements about expenditure solely on whether the cost justifies the increase in my personal happiness. However, naturally, I have to balance that against my w[ider financial goals, so while I can be indulgent with individual items, I have to restrict my overall spending.

If you are not already familiar with the concept, I urge you to look into the "hedonic treadmill." You will thank me forever.

 

I like your category of "the collectors". I'd personally view them as a somewhat neurotic subset of the value chasers rather than a separate group, but now we're definitely in the realm of dancing angels!

 

(and perhaps more pertinent, do angels wear opera slippers or ballet shoes when they visit the pinhead,..?)

 

Regarding the hedonic treadmill, and admittedly, this is now almost certainly off-topic...

 

I know the concept, but think it has weaknesses as well as strengths. I certainly believe most people have an individual baseline of mood around which they bounce around over the course of their lives. I do think there's very significant variation between individuals as to what level that baseline is (some people are naturally gloomy, others naturally quite chipper; the Eeyores vs Tiggers of the world, to quote some pop psychologist whose name I can't recall). I also would agree that there's a law of diminishing returns to most pleasures (and to a noticeably lesser extent, pains) in terms of their cumulative and residual effect on one's sense of wellbeing.

 

However, I don't accept that the baseline cannot be altered over time. I think it is possible for a Tigger to change his stripes, if you'll pardon the very mixed metaphor. Generally, such fundamental personality change takes time and a great deal of hard work & cognitive restructuring but I do think it can be done. Perhaps this conviction in the possibility of personal change is a required self-delusion in order to feel my job (which overlaps with some of this work) has some existential validity. ;)

 

Even if the treadmill does hold stronger sway, I don't think that invalidates the personal reward of acquiring nice things. The treadmill merely suggests that in the longer term, in the absence of continued directional stimulation, mood reverts to your personal mean... but the other side would be that if you give it enough ongoing pushes, you can maintain a directional momentum. It's simply that there's an power relationship rather than a linear one (the mathematicians will correct me if I'm wrong with the terminology of my analogy, I hope!). Whether it's possible to keep pushing depends on your overall resources, however.

 

In a f(l)ailing attempt to return this to the topic of clothes, this problem echoes a quote from that most famous patron of John Philiips Savile Row, Hans Gruber, "And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer" or perhaps the Plutarch original is more apposite: " "Is it not a matter for tears [said Alexander] that when the number of worlds is infinite, I have not conquered one?" But Crates, who had only a wallet and threadbare cloak, passed all his life jesting and laughing as if at a festival."

 

Apologies for the tangent...!

 

EDIT: reading all that back, it sounds both remarkably whimsical and remarkably poncey. Ah well, such is my mood this afternoon, and I say that's no bad thing. :p

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