The things you take with you make a big statement about who you are and what you value. They tell the world all about you without ever saying a word. Choosing them wisely helps you tell the right story.
One of my favorite ad campaigns is from luxury watchmaker Patek Philippe. The tag line is, “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” This more or less embodies my view of how people should choose the stuff in their lives, particularly all those personal accessories. Truly personal objects that have meaning beyond their mere function should never be disposable.
If you have decided to buy a nice watch, purchase the best you can comfortably afford. More than most personal items, a watch is a true investment that should last a lifetime. Make sure it is something you want to wear, a style that fits your personality, and unique enough to be interesting. Watches make wonderful heirlooms, so try and choose quality over flash. An automatic movement, multiple complications, and elegant face make for a more expensive but desired family treasure.
Your pen is another item far more personal than might be thought. Notice that I said “your pen,” as though there is one specific pen that should always be with you. There should be. While most disposable hotel pens may be serviceable, something like an Omas 360, with its triangular barrel, makes a stylish statement that moves beyond mere function. Pens have that kind of power; they can be expensive works of art yet remain functioning tools. Therefore a pen can be practical, portable elegance.
When choosing a high-end writing instrument, make sure to select something that meets your matter-of-fact, as well as emotional, needs. Do you even know how to write with a fountain pen? Do you want to? If you’re going to spend $500 on a single pen, such practicalities matter.
Make a point to actually use your pen; don’t let it become some inanimate prop. As the Crane stationary company once pointed out: people don’t cherish e-mails, they cherish letters. There is something special and intensely personal about putting pen to paper, keeping a handwritten journal, or jotting down important thoughts.
By thinking ahead, these personal items will become your signature, like a more discreet version of Tom Wolfe’s white suit. They make you memorable but also allow you to define yourself to others. Think of famed Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, the man who led the charge to expose Richard Nixon’s shenanigans. Though a “newspaper man” by trade, he was, and still is, also a classy gent who understood personal elegance and wore custom Turnbull & Asser shirts, with or without a tie, virtually every day.
Off the Cuff
Speaking of which, cufflinks are another great way to show some character. With double cuffed shirts – French cuffs to Americans – becoming more popular, men are appreciating the opportunity to show off with cufflinks. To wit, I have a cautionary note: restraint in the area of cufflinks is a better play than exuberance. By all means have fun, express yourself, but don’t go overboard. The fine line between creative and tacky is too easily crossed. Sometimes, the best choice is a simple pair of silk knots.
When you are pickier about the personal items in your life they take on more meaning. Something else happens too. By thinning out all that extra junk taking up space in your life, you actually wind up with less. The items with which you are left are the ones that really matter, and that’s the important part.