I recall favorably the first night I spent in my spouse’s garret twenty years ago. Naturally, I maintain this memory carefully, doting on it like a delicate photograph that’s aging, edges first, a creeping brown border and satellite-like spots threaten my recollection. There are certain details which remain as crisp as a carrot because their impact struck me with tremendous velocity: his lingering fragrance hidden in the cotton of yesterday’s white shirt, the organization of his morning rituals: washcloth, cream shave, razor, brush. I remember these sneak-peaks into his privacy because they played important roles in who he was daily. All men have similar morning rituals but what impressed me, even back then, was his carefully selected instruments. Many men could care less, but for him it was important to have the precise razor or brush or after-shave balm.
Another time we’d been invited to a business colleague’s home for dinner. He orchestrated a wonderful meal which reflected skill, passion, and pride in what he presented to his guests. But most amazing was the absence of commotion, replaced instead by ease and fluidity and sufficiency produced by efficient use of very few utensils. I never ask for a recipe, but I did ask the secret to his efficiency. His reply? Limit yourself to four knives, but buy the very best knives: spend the extra money in the beginning, rather than repeatedly replacing them.
I allow myself the luxury of paying close attention to my private rituals and the tools by which I perform them. Personal details or items (whether tool, accessory or peculiarity) does someone select? These very personal choices provide a glimpse of who they really are, who they are and how they behave in private, when no one is watching or evaluating. These details are the intimacies of an individual. They’re not declarations or pronouncements or bravado; they’re not obvious, are often found in private rooms (bedroom, bathroom), are easily overlooked as an insignificant article or one of propriety’s niceties. But I have found them to contain much more passion than everyday items.
Personal details are often sought out or surreptitiously discovered or introduced by way of kindred spirits. They’re rarely received as gifts because their personal significance is concealed for fear of ridicule by friends for their dandiness. Cost is rarely a deterrent; if a person has selected a specific item their determination to acquire it is very strong; they’ll scour the marketplace; they’ll participate in auctions; they’ll keep abreast of discounts; and if all else fails they will happily exchange money for the possession or, if it is simply beyond their reach, they’ll step away and always admire the item with the hope of a giddy teenager meeting her teen idol.
It’s possible to obtain objects which are more than capable of performing the same tasks. For example fountain pens and ball-point pens; Bulova and Breitling watches; thermograph and letterpress stationery. It’s not the price that assigns value. Workmanship, materials, design, style, function and longevity all play important roles in my decisions.
A word of caution if the item is categorized as luxury: the old adage you get what you pay for is very important. A replica of an item is not an inexpensive version of the item. A replica is, at its basest, a forgery, misrepresenting itself as authentic at a 75% mark down. If you find a deal too good to be true, it is too good to be true! If you’re really in the market for luxury items do a lot of homework first; learn everything you can about the item; understand the difference between worth and value; and don’t buy as an investment unless you’re an aficionado.
These are my personal details: Grooming: Merkur safety razor, Niegeloh Topinox nail trimmer, Erbe scissors (Solingen, Germany); Kent hair brush (UK); Proraso shave cream and after-shave; Burberry Brit Eau de Toilette; Stationery: Letterpress monarch paper and envelopes, fold-over note card and envelopes, calling card, and return address label; Nakaya Urushi-Lacqured Long Writer fountain pen; Kitchen: Victorinox 10-inch Chef’s knife, 3-1/4-inch Paring knife, 12-inch Granton Edge Slicing knife; ARY Hot Gloves with red silicone grip; Polder Digital timer; Kuhn Rikon can opener; Audio: Etymotic Research HF5 in-ear earphones; Etymotic Research High-Fidelity ear plugs; Etymotic Research er89-2 Bluetooth cell phone headset; General: Fenix LED flashlights; Boker Solingen pocket knives; Barking Dalmatian Soap Dispenser.