The fact that it was handmade leaves you feeling happier. Probably for no objectively valid reason, but feelings needn't always be objectively valid, after all.
Thanks 12345Michael54321! I really appreciate your answer and I find it philosophically compelling. I can totally get behind the notion that things that make us feel happy need not be rational; I guess this is what distinguishes "feelings" from, say, "thoughts", and the joy of living is not so much about the logical justifications supporting the thoughts we have, but the irrational or mystical feelings we experience.
As it applies to menswear, I'm comfortable with accepting that I can get romantic about clothes: the other day I wanted to buy an expensive but thoroughly used vintage cardigan on Ebay made in the 1930s only because I found it cool that that particular cardigan had been around since before my parents were born, which really means nothing in terms of quality; the satisfaction I'd get from having that cardigan is based on romance, not logic.
That said, I, like most any consumer, don't want to be fleeced and I want to know when I'm making a romantic decision or a logical decision or a mix thereof. I also don't want to be manipulated by marketers whose job it is to exploit my romantic feelings so they can take my money.
An example might be if I were to buy something labeled "organic" without knowing exactly what that means and why it should matter, save that I know the culture ascribes some vaguely moral/spiritual qualities to it and so, by buying it, I'm engaging in conspicuous consumption, buying it purely because of what other people think about it and with a view to showing it off to them without any deeper reflection on value. Now, I'm totally fine with choosing organic with purely moral/spiritual/conspicuous reasons in mind, so long as I've made that choice knowingly (mind you, if people around me will think better of me simply because I eat organic and not because of any objective consideration for the environmental or dietary good it may do, there's an objective value in that alone because my status has risen). There might be objective reasons as to why organic might matter, and you can choose to eschew or endorse them, but it strikes me as best to know these reasons first before making the "it just makes me feel good" or "other people will think better of me" 'decision. No one wants to act out of ignorance.
Which comes back to "handmade." To me, the only objective quality I can think of that might be associated with it is scarcity. Factories and machines exist for minimizing production costs and achieving mass consumption and mass production. It's fair to assume that, all things being equal, something involving more handwork will be more unique than something involving more machine-work. And scarcity alone might very well be a valid reason to enjoy something, as it makes you feel distinguished, apart from the crowd and privy to a more rarefied experience; you can live and die feeling a bit happier about yourself because you saw or experienced things that most other people in the world did not.
Liken this to home cooking vs. frozen/prepared/restaurant food. (Home cooking may be better, but that's far from a given.) Receiving a handwritten note from one's love vs. receiving an email. Having a human line judge in tennis vs. relying on an electronic line judge. Etc.
You've come up with good examples here, but I think even the juxtapositions proposed can be distinguished.
For example, while home cooking vs. restaurant food, without any other details might not indicate anything with respect to quality, there are some pretty safe assumptions one can make about the experience that carry real meaning (i.e. going out vs. staying in are vastly different experiences that might elevate the culinary experience; after all, plating, seating, ambience and pacing affect one's enjoyment of a meal).
A handwritten note from a lover is not a consumer experience involving money changing hands and it's also imbued with the hand of someone you know personally and dearly. It also presents a starkly different visual experience than an email (whereas the "handmade" element of an item does not necessarily, nor even usually, reveal a different aesthetic or interactive experience).
I'm not being a tennis guy, but I'd guess a human line judge adds a level of excitement and unpredictabiltiy to the event, but if I had to pay significantly more for a tennis event only because there was a human line judge, I might scoff because the value differential is minute.
Ok, I've been long-winded. You just unleashed a torrent of thoughts I wanted to organize on digital paper. Your assessment was pretty spot-on and far less verbose.
To summarize what I've taken so far from this thread on "handmade" is that it really doesn't mean anything in terms of value... but, then again, I have to admit that I love those damn irregular, handmade stitches on my Kiton shirt's buttonhole. It's just a feeling. And that's fine.