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The myth of declining quality

Boggis

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TBH, if you make low six figures, and you're building a bespoke wardrobe, you are also making bad choices.
That depends on your outgoings surely? Big difference in how far that money goes depending on how many dependents you have & the cost of housing in your area.
 

mossrockss

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This is true. A bespoke shoemaker once said the same thing to me. If you received a pair of junk shoes in the 1980s, what were you going to do? Complain to your friends and that's about it.

Of course, I can't take a meaningful sample of 1970s and '80s tailoring, as I wasn't buying things back then. The things I've seen people wear from those periods are also clothes they cherish. Pehraps this filters out the bad stuff. I can only say that the stuff I've seen from those periods are much better than what similar firms today are producing.

Another story: I once interviewed someone who worked at Brooks Brothers as a high level executive. He helped set up and run the company's quality control department when they were owned by Marks and Spencer. This was during the '90s.

Essentially, the company had a number of testing labs throughout the world -- different places and all independent from each other. Before Brooks Brothers put anything on the sales floor, they ran a wide range of quality control tests. Some of those tests included tests on the fabric -- how many rubs can a fabric take before it wears out, for example. Nothing would hit the sales floor before it passed these tests.

By the time he left the company in the late 2000s, this executive noticed they couldn't get the same quality out of the fabrics. Meaning, the fabrics in the '90s withstood more wear and tear. These are scientific measures from labs using carefully calibrated machines. Brooks Brothers couldn't figure it out -- were the mills shorting them? So they went back and double-checked all the specs. Despite trying again and again to reproduce that old quality cloth, they just couldn't. Ultimately, this exec suspected that the fibers themselves were different. He thinks it's a result of global warming and overproduction. As a result of drought cycles and over breeding, he thinks the quality of wool fibers now just isn't as high quality as they were in the '90s.

I've heard some shoemakers say the same thing about the quality of leather. Leather nowadays supposedly can't take as high of a stitch count because it's more prone to tearing.
Sorry to reply twice, but this also reminds me of the well known and observed decline in nutrients in vegetables like spinach. https://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2017/09/13/food-nutrients-carbon-dioxide-000511/
 

mak1277

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I wonder if this kind of convo happens on other forums dedicated to different hobbies. I'm sure everyone thinks their hobby is the most important and that a decline in quality means that the masses should help pick things up.

Do people on car forums think that young people make more money than ever before, and thus should be driving nicer cars? Do people on food forums think that we should all be spending more money on food? Do fountain pen people think that everyone should use $150 fountain pens instead of cheapo ballpoints? (I'm on fountain pen forums and can tell you the answer is yes.) Do people on audio equipment forums look down at my crappy setup and think that I should be laying out thousands for when I listen to Lil Jon scream "FROM THE WINDOWS TO THE WALL!"

If I spent money on all this niche hobbyist stuff, I wouldn't have time or money for my actual hobby (clothes). I'm sure others feel the same way about their niche interests.
What, you mean you don't have the top end [photography/fly fishing/hunting/audio/coffee/writing/computer] gear? You're doing it wrong, dude. How could you possibly live a life where every single thing you own isn't the choice of the connoisseur?

(is there a sarcasm font?)
 

mossrockss

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I think along with a possible decline in quality, there's also just a decline in retailing. In most cities outside of New York City, you would struggle to find a good store nowadays that sells high-quality suits and shoes. Oftentimes, people who are enthusiasts about this stuff have to shop online. But that means they don't get the kind of service that comes with brick-and-mortar retailing, such as an experienced person telling you whether something fits. Also, I have to think the quality of sales associates has declined, as I can't imagine it being any worse than it is today. Most sales associates at your average mid-tier suit place just aren't very good at telling you whether something fits.

So then, if you want this stuff as RTW, you mostly have to shop online. But this takes more work in figuring stuff out. Good stuff has become less accessible in this regard.

I don't know much about anything outside of clothing. But I know a little about fountain pens. I think it's the same with pens. Pre-war, fountain pens were the norm. Then they were replaced with ballpoints.

If you're not into pens and writing, then ballpoints excel every way. They're more convenient, cheaper, and less messy. They simply function.

But if you're really into pens and writing, then fountain pens are better because you get line variation, a more interesting writing experience, and the fiddling that comes with refilling inks. For people who are into pens, this is a feature and not a bug -- it's fun to have to fix nibs, refill inks, figure out pen-and-paper combinations, etc.

As ballpoints have overtaken fountain pens, there are fewer stores for fountain pens. So you have to hunt online to buy pens. This adds inconvenience, as you can't always try out a pen before buying (as you would be able to in a store).

My impression is that tailored clothing is the same. Most people don't want to deal with the hassle (hand pressing, brushing, maintenance, etc). They prefer the wash-and-wearability of t-shirts and jeans. Enthusiasts like learning about all these details, so these "hassles" are features and not bugs.

Not sure about the @BPL Esq's point above about spending power. I think people are able to purchase more things nowadays. As a percentage of their annual income, Americans spend less on clothing today than they did fifty years ago. Yet, closets are bursting. It's just that mass manufacturing has allowed people to spend money in the ways they want, and most people don't want to buy the stuff discussed on this board, just as most people don't want to buy fountain pens. It may be rational for their preferences, just as I don't want to spend money on high-end sound systems, cars, exercise equipment, or any of the billion things that don't interest me.
I know I'm 7 pages behind on this thread but your comment on fountain pens just confirms to me how ahead of the curve my older brother has been his whole life on all these "fine accessories" LOL. in *high school* (late 90s/early 2000s) i was making fun of him for wearing merino sweaters over button up shirts, and he loved fountain pens and Swiss mechanical watches. he's only 3 years older than me.
 

mossrockss

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On top of that, most of our popular forms of entertainment are now sedentary. When I was a kid we only had 4 TV channels, so I spent my leisure time either kicking a football in the street or trying not to fall out of trees in the woods. Netflix, PlayStation and increasingly fearful parenting put a stop to that kind of thing.
My 2.5-year-old is currently playing barefoot in a mud puddle in our back yard. Even I grew up doing dangerous, stupid things (I was born in the late 80s), and I'm determined not to let my kids be sheltered!
 

mossrockss

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I have a few items I bought in the late 1970s and can still wear (I keep them to impress mysef that my 66 year-old body can still fit into what I wore at age 20!). Two of the shirts were made in South Africa, and both can still withstand machine-washing, but the impressive part is that none of the threads on the buttons or the shirt cuffs have come loose - on most shirts today after the first buttoning there's a loose thread starting to hang out, and after a year or so at least one button is barely hanging on (even on my Dolce and Gabbana shirts!) The other shirt is hand-painted silk that my parents brought back from Amsterdam to South Africa for my 21st birthday - as delicate as it sounds it looks as good today as 44 years ago. Then I have a very dark brown/black wool suit (ugly now, really) made in Poland that I was married in in 1980 that weighs a ton --- seems to be lined and interlined and with fat heavy rolled lapels, as if it were a kind of blanket --- but also could be sent to the cleaners and would come back with no wearing of the edges, lining or any discoloration and the stitching as taut as can be. Suits I have owned in the past two decades I have had to throw out because of worn areas and even small holes and tears (these include Armani, Hugo Boss and Zegna) after just a couple of years ---- but having said all that I am not sure I want to wear anything for longer than 5 years : I have 4 or 5 tuxes in my attic - the narrow lapel, peaked lapel, wide lapel, narrow tapered trousers, pleated wide trousers etc. just to keep up with the current cut at the time.
Nigel I forgot you were on Styleforum.
 

ValidusLA

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Average salary partner pay is about 360k according to Yale.
Yale survey is from 2016, half a decade old. The one I posted is 2019, so average probably gone above 430k by now, but at least more current.

There seems to be many fuzzy variables here, so people keep moving things around.
Totally fair. I was responding simply to when you said "Don't know many young people (e.g. under the age of 45) who have a lot of disposable income." Which I view as somewhat of a canard. I know a lot of people with a decent amount of money, and a few with a lot, who spend their money incredibly poorly. I have a 33 year old friend who does about 600k a year in finance who is somehow always broke. His wife doesn't work, he has 2 kids, he decided to live in Santa Monica, they eat out every night, and they drive brand new cars yearly and spend egregiously on luxury goods. Not how I would choose to live or spend my money, but I guess its how he chooses to go.

There is plenty of money getting thrown around in the under 45 bracket (often unwisely), but the demand for quality goods (especially in menswear) seems to be lacking compared to experiential spending and label/brand chasing.

The original comment was on causal effects. It was posited that quality (in the overall market) has declined despite young people having more disposable income.
Right, so mentioned above you seem to be saying you disagree with that?

Re: Apple, im not quite sure how they do things there but at a lot of tech places your signing TC is determined in dollar amount, a good amount being stock, and that dollar amount is locked in to stock at one moment around your hire date or grant date and then expressed in stock henceforth. Therefore over the last 10 years, your TC climbs and climbs as tech stocks climb and climb, not even accounting for any promos and refreshers and salary retargetings, as these grants usually vest over 4 years. To put it simply, you might sign on more low-mid 6 figures and 4 years later you’re making high 6 figures without any material changes to your role or title.
Excellent point. I have a fried who got in close to ground floor at Riot Games and when they got acquired by their Chinese masters he got paid out enough to pay off his loans, his wife's loans, put a down payment on a house in Orange County, and start a healthy portfolio. Plus he got a raise and still works there.
 

ValidusLA

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It happens in the home espresso world. I splurged on a Gaggia Classic which is an entry level consumer espresso machine and seen as baseline in the enthusiast world. It’s a few hundred dollars and for me that was a splurge for a coffee machine (not to mention the expensive grinder you have to buy too). Those communities have people shelling out thousands for machines and grinders. La Marzocco has a home machine for $5500 which is basically a smaller version of the pro machine. Some people buy pro machines which clock in at 5 figures. Grinders are expensive too, they can eclipse the machine in cost depending on various factors.

I splurged on a setup that is way way less but would still be to most people a huge outlay for coffee. And some more aggressive people in that world would probably say it’s entry level trash.

I’ve come to realize every enthusiast Internet forum has a similar pattern and just try and take in the more sane aspects while recognizing the undercurrent of insanity.
Espresso people are crazy. I bought a Rocket Giotto and thought I was pretty cool, but looking at some espresso forums I realized I was in fact....not.
 

dieworkwear

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Right, so mentioned above you seem to be saying you disagree with that?
Yes, I disagree with that. I think I stated my case above already, so won't bother repeating it in detail. But I think Millenials and Gen Z has less spending power than Gen X and Baby Boomers when they were at a similar point in life. I don't think young people should be spending money on high-end tailoring anyway, and you don't need to buy "high-quality clothes" to look good. Most well-dressed people I see are wearing low-quality clothes, but they look stylish because they have an eye for clothing. Most people wearing high-quality clothes, to me, look quite bad.

That depends on your outgoings surely? Big difference in how far that money goes depending on how many dependents you have & the cost of housing in your area.
I agree you have more disposable income if you live in an affordable area and/ or don't have kids.

I don't really know what market or demographic we're talking about at this point. But if we're talking about bespoke tailoring

1. You likely have to live in or near a big city, as that's the only place where there's access to good bespoke tailors. These areas are quite expensive

2. Even without dependents, I think it's a poor financial decision to build a bespoke wardrobe if you make low six figures. That said, many people make poor financial decisions, but they may like spending money on a hobby. It's just not something I think everyone should do.
 
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ValidusLA

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Most well-dressed people I see are wearing low-quality clothes, but they look stylish because they have an eye for clothing. Most people wearing high-quality clothes, to me, look quite bad.
I find this amusing. Most of what I see you post as examples in style advice or the board in general I would not construe as "low quality." I know you have an unabashed hatred for the iGentry (which is more than somewhat justified) but to say "most" people wearing high quality clothing look bad seems.....like a bit much.

I don't think young people should be spending money on high-end tailoring anyway, and you don't need to buy "high-quality clothes" to look good
Agreed, in general.

But I think Millenials and Gen Z has less spending power than Gen X and Baby Boomers when they were at a similar point in life
I think this is more complicated than it generally gets portrayed. They are definitely spending their money differently. Millennials and Gen Z are getting married later and less often and spending longer in school. Therefore they are taking longer to enter the workforce and get into 2 adult / 2 income households. Makes straight age comparison of a similar point in life much less straightforward.
 

ValidusLA

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You were talking about elites and high power professionals and bespoke, but now ... we're talking about Spier & Mackay?
Also, as a side note, never referenced Spier. I assume this was referencing my can dress well for less than 5k comment?

Hemrajani, Jonathan Behr, or High Society will put you in Bespoke for less than $4000, less than $3000 in HS/Hemrajani case. And that's just Los Angeles.
 
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dieworkwear

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I find this amusing. Most of what I see you post as examples in style advice or the board in general I would not construe as "low quality." I know you have an unabashed hatred for the iGentry (which is more than somewhat justified) but to say "most" people wearing high quality clothing look bad seems.....like a bit much.
Really? When I walk into Loro Piana and Neiman Marcus, most people look poorly dressed. When I walk into certain cafes, food markets, or music stores, there's a higher percentage of stylish people.

Style and price/ quality seem loosely related.

Also, as a side note, never refenced Spier. I assume this was referencing my can dress well for less than 5k comment?

Hemrajani, Jonathan Behr, or High Society will put you in Bespoke for less than $4000, less than $3000 in HS/Hemrajani case. And that's just Los Angeles.
If your income is in the low six figures, I also think it's a poor financial decision to buy multiples of $3k suits. It's a hobby and one that I'm into. But it's not something that I think makes for a wise financial decision, even if you don't have dependents.

This seems heavily skewed on this board because people commonly talk about $1.5k shoes and $5k suits. So suddenly a $3k bespoke seems like a "deal." Building a wardrobe with multiple $3k suits -- which require more outlay in terms of regular maintenance -- seems like a bad idea if your income is low six figures, pre-tax.
 

mossrockss

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Yes, I disagree with that. I think I stated my case above already, so won't bother repeating it in detail. But I think Millenials and Gen Z has less spending power than Gen X and Baby Boomers when they were at a similar point in life. I don't think young people should be spending money on high-end tailoring anyway, and you don't need to buy "high-quality clothes" to look good. Most well-dressed people I see are wearing low-quality clothes, but they look stylish because they have an eye for clothing. Most people wearing high-quality clothes, to me, look quite bad.



I agree you have more disposable income if you live in an affordable area and/ or don't have kids.

I don't really know what market or demographic we're talking about at this point. But if we're talking about bespoke tailoring

1. You likely have to live in or near a big city, as that's the only place where there's access to good bespoke tailors. These areas are quite expensive

2. Even without dependents, I think it's a poor financial decision to build a bespoke wardrobe if you make low six figures. That said, many people make poor financial decisions, but they may like spending money on a hobby. It's just not something I think everyone should do.
These types of discussions always fascinate me and I truly wonder how other people spend their money. I was talking to some new neighbors of ours who are on food stamps but just bought a house and had their first baby. We live in a small town outside Nashville.
Nashville has a surprisingly good custom menswear market (though "bespoke" as it's used here is a stretch in my opinion), though the off the rack and MTM options are great too.
I make low enough I think we might qualify for food stamps now with the birth of our second; we save somewhere around 40-50% of our income for a mixture of savings/investments/religious purposes. So I just, I dunno man. The mind boggles when I hear talk of low six figures in that way. I'd literally be rolling around in piles of cash with that much annual income LOL.
 

ValidusLA

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If your income is in the low six figures, I also think it's a poor financial decision to buy multiples of $3k suits. It's a hobby and one that I'm into. But it's not something that I think makes for a wise financial decision, even if you don't have dependents.

This seems heavily skewed on this board because people commonly talk about $1.5k shoes and $5k suits. So suddenly a $3k bespoke seems like a "deal." Building a wardrobe with multiple $3k suits -- which require more outlay in terms of regular maintenance -- seems like a bad idea if your income is low six figures, pre-tax.
Agreed. Could leverage your money more wisely. For professionals making 250k+ on dual incomes it doesn't seem totally unacceptable, especially of they also enjoy it.
 

ValidusLA

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Really? When I walk into Loro Piana and Neiman Marcus, most people look poorly dressed. When I walk into certain cafes, food markets, or music stores, there's a higher percentage of stylish people.

Style and price/ quality seem loosely related.
I agree style and price are not directly related all the time.

Regarding your first statement, that seems to be pretty subjective. Whenever I'm in the Bay Area, most people seem awfully dressed no matter where they are. Last time I was in an LP store I was in Taipei, and people were more stylish than most American settings.

I think some of this has to do with a preference for a certain style of dress (and perceptions of dress and class connotations).
 

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