October 26, 2012

The Bane of Leafblowers

In my mind, there is no modern appliance so annoying as the leaf blower. They vibrate at a pitch  that is designed to destroy concentration, are ubiquitous and guzzle energy.  But their worst fault is that they are unnecessary. A broom removes the leaves from a front lawn or porch just as efficiently with less noise and distraction to every one else.

But this desire for complex technology to do the job of simple objects is not restricted to leaf blowers. I see it many different appliances- especially for the kitchen- and begin to wonder if the bit of ease which this specialized tool offers our lives is really worth the increase of complexity and clutter. When I have thought about this idea more, I'll write a longer post. But I wanted to see if anyone else found overly specialized objects to be more a help or a hindrance to their lives.

October 19, 2012

Why Fashion Does Matter

Let us play a little game.

First, let's pose a hypothesis: fashion is a moral consideration.

No, not insofar as fair trade organic cotton fills your closet or you only buy handmade works of art to support local artisans (both noble goals). But because integration of life and ideals is a worthy goal and fashion is one of the best expressions of an Aesthetic.

Consider it from the point of view of philosophy. If metaphysics is to be anything more than an agreeable waste of time and intellect, it must have some baring on one's personal ethics, world view, and general lifestyle.  What use are convictions or beliefs if they are not practiced as well? After all, if we saw a person claim to love all life on earth, but go home each day and ruthlessly abuse her significant other, there would be some question to the validity of her claim. Hypocrisy in another word.

So, why don't we hold this same standard with Aesthetics? If you claim to love the Steampunk aesthetic, but your wardrobe consists of jeans and plain colored tee-shirts, why are you not branded as a hypocrite? Why is it acceptable to love a fashion or an ideal, but never express it in our daily lives?

The answer may lie in our perception of fashion: it is perfectly acceptable to have many different interests or styles of clothing where it would be reprehensible to have many different sorts of morals. Acceptable to dress as a Neo-Victorian one day, a modern celebrity the next, or search your closet for the perfect dress to match an event. But to put on one set of values to suit a certain situation and then replace them with another when the scenario changes and people become wary of your presence.

Is this distinction between Philosophy and Aesthetic a wrong one? Should faithfulness to one's aesthetic  be regaled as highly as one's monogamy to a certain set of values? If yes, both can and should evolve over time, but our current closet of hodgepodge fashions mingling next to each other shows a distinct lack of discretion and taste. Therefore, if multiple styles appeal to your Aesthetic, investigate further and discover the root cause for each. Find the first principles of your Aesthetics in a sense. Once done, embrace those principles and never deviate.

Clothing, then, is the easiest and most accessible way to express our Aesthetics to the outside world. Our choices of clothes, reflect our choices of what is beautiful or good as much as any action. Fashion does Matter.

October 12, 2012

Penniless Aristocrat: In Praise of Thrifting

Once upon a time, shopping wasn't a recreational sport.

Actually according to various etiquette books written prior to the fifties, it was considered bad manners to enter a shop just to browse. The phrase 'I'm just looking' was incomprehensible; you went out shopping list of goods and stores in hand, intending to purchase something.

As an ex-sales girl, I bemoan the death of this custom. It would have made my job so much easier and more satisfying, but I realize a return to this mindset is impossible. Shopping is now recreational. The urge to buy and consume is now an epidemic in most of the Western world. There are many other, better blogs, articles, studies and philosophies to explain this problem. You've all read them before, so I won't waste our time. Needless to say: more stuff does not equal more happiness. Clutter damages the serenity of our homes, our pocketbooks, and, potentially, the environment.

The logical solution would be to stop buying so many things. With the extra money, you can invest in one high quality item that brings delight and charm to your life- rather than a houseful of items that are only 'maybes.' So why don't we do it?

The fault lies with our increased desire for la nouveau- the new. There are so many novelties in modern life: new products, new ideas, new fashions, and new entertainments. Every time we fire up our computers or turn on our televisions, our brains are bombarded with the new, the different, the exciting. Our capacity for boredom has diminished with our attention spans. Why force yourself through "Vanity Fair" when you can flip to facebook or netflix in a second?

This desire for novelty extends  not only to our mental landscape but to our possessions as well. The thrill of a new pair of shoes, a new accessory or a knicknack is still delightful, if diminished, even if we are constantly buying new things. It will take a change far more than my willpower to keep me from wanting to acquire and consume.

So the Neo-Aristocrat faces a dilemma. Financial independence, ecological consciousness, and a desire for unique and high quality items directly compete with the drive for the new. This is where thrifting plays a role.

Again, countless other alternative fashion blogs rightly laud thrift shops for their unique and cheap clothing and accessory options. It's true. Especially if you live near a rich city, the pickings of thrift stores are a superb  place to build your wardrobe  But they also are a superb place to scratch the itch for the new. You can pick up a new mirror or skirt- have all the excitement of buying something new- while still maintaining the values of an Neo-Aristocrat. As second hand stores, the items of thrift shops do not pull more resources from the environment, are no expensive, often support a local charity, and can contain surprisingly wonderful items.

In short, Thrifting is a responsible and fun way to deal with a modern neurosis while maintaining some of the values of a Neo-Aristocrat.

Grace Notes:

~ A closet packed full of thrifted items is just as bad as a closet of items from designer brands or other clothing stores. Buy responsibly and purge your closet twice a year when switching out wardrobes.

~ Learn your fabrics, brands and cuts of clothes. Something from the Banana Republic will be of higher quality than something from Forever21. 100% pure silk or wool is generally higher quality than polyester or spandex.

~ If you can sew or alter clothing, the value of the thrift store expands exponentially. Same if you are learning to sew. Some thrift stores carry craft supplies or material. But if you want practice drafting patterns or making a mock up of a pattern, I recommend buying a bed sheet or table cloth to experiment with.

~ Wash everything before wearing it. Dry clean if necessary.

What about you? How does shopping at a thift store compare to a mall? Do you tend to value your thifted items more or less? What do you look for when you go into a Thrift store?