On a recent episode of The Minimalists Podcast, Ryan and Josh were discussing the value of gathering “just for when” items. Josh had watched a documentary which had made him think about how unprepared he was for inevitabilities – e.g. a week-long loss of electricity at home in the Pacific North-West. This made me wonder: the idea of just in case items is such a pervasive one, it leads to such clutter, that we spend most of our time buying too much, and buying too much of what we will never really need to stockpile. Most people today, I’m sure, aren’t guilty of buying too much preserved or tinned food – they buy too much fresh food and then a lot of the time, they throw it away.
The same is true of fashion. I think the first time I started thinking about the importance of sustainability was when I read about the process it takes to make denim, funnily enough on Levi’s own website. The water usage alone is shocking. I grew up being largely clueless about clothes like a sizable majority of boys, and rode the wave in the last 10 years of young men who started to take an interest. The thing I do when I get interested in something, is read and research a lot. This naturally led me to read popular sites like the UK-based “style guide” Fashionbeans, which appears on the first page of a Google search for ‘men’s fashion advice’. Written in an easy to understand tone, with lots of structure and a lot of articles, a site like Fashionbeans was my idea of heaven. It was a one-stop resource – how do I know what chinos are versus jeans? Denim versus chambray? What are the symbolic differences between wearing one style of boots over another?! All of them were answered. But while reading, driven by the subtly included advertisements and examples, I began to wishlist. And wishlists aren’t rational, they’re not a list based on intention and curation, but on the basis of the endless thought process of ‘what more can/should/will I get’.
I know I’m not alone in this experience anyway, and if you’re reading a blog based on the concept of a Capsule Wardrobe (an idea I first came across, funnily, on Fashionbeans…) you’re probably nodding along. A capsule wardrobe sounds so boring to someone who’s getting into fashion, trying out ‘variety’ and ‘finding their style’ (the usual platitudes which hook into our ingrained sense of individualism). But a capsule wardrobe, like the modern minimalist movement, is not about deprivation at all. It’s about recognising when a ‘just in case’ possession is junk and when it’s really a useful, required ‘just for when’ item.
So instead of keeping possessions ‘on the hook’, stringing them along, promising to yourself that one day I will wear/use this, think about eventualities. In the first week and a half of 2017, I’ve been ill with a pretty heavy dose of the cold. This has made me appreciate the fact that there are certain things I have kept just for when I’m ill. Like Fisherman Friends lozenges (see pic above), which have been pretty great while walking the dog. A practical scarf or a warm hat would probably be useless to someone living near the equator. For me, well worth keeping stored away outside of the cold months. So just like underwear or pyjamas, I don’t count Just for When items on my pared down list.
My just for when, intentional wishlist
- I really need a new pair of shoes to walk the dog in. The UK doesn’t get massively cold, so ice and a bit of snow are the worst conditions a sole will have to live up to. It’s the rain that’s the problem. I have my eye on something like these Salomon shoes, maybe in a lower-top more trainer-ish style, with a Gore-Tex membrane to keep that rain out.
- My waterproof coat, which is a Barbour jacket in a fisherman style, has seen me through the last three winters. But now owning a dog is a key part of my life. In a particularly rainy walk a month or so ago, my coat was soaked through. I think it’s time to re-wax it. My other choice would be a sustainably made coat by the likes of Patagonia. I think it’s more worthwhile to maintain something if you can than discard, it’s part of the DNA of the item, even if Barbour jackets became a key item in the superficial #menswear movement. The proof will be how well it lasts again in a storm post-rewaxing.