Did you say Five Years? Why it takes that long

In an earlier blog I argued that it takes 5 years to build a Gentleman’s wardrobe.  I can imagine that for some of you the response may well be, Did you say Five Years?? Why should it take that long? Five years is a long time.  But is it?  I reckon that anyone over 30 has begun to realise that 5 years is not quite as long as it sounds.  Life has a way of rushing by and before you know it 2, 3, or even 5 years can go by.  So why is building a Gentleman’s wardrobe a 5-year project? Fittingly, here are 5 reasons

1.     Spreading the cost

Perhaps the most important reason for building your wardrobe over 5 years is in order to spread the cost.  Building a gentleman’s wardrobe is never going to be cheap. There are many ways to minimise cost but ultimately it will cost.  If money were no object then you probably could do it quicker but there are pitfalls there also.  However, unlike some projects you do not have to wait until the 5-year project is complete in order to see the benefits. You begin to see the benefits from year 1

2.     Learning your style

Unless you are unusually self-aware, or have a personal stylist, you probably have some way to go in terms of learning your own style.  What works for you, what make you comfortable and confident, and what you should leave well alone.  5-year project gives you room for manoeuvre, opportunity to make mistakes as well as plenty of time gradually to build up your collection. It also give you opportunity to work out who are your favourite outfitters. Over time you will work out where you prefer to go to find a tie, which may be different from where you go to find a coat, or where you purchase shoes.

3.     Mitigate shifts in fashion trends

Over 5 years fashion trends will inevitable shift. Each of us can recall wearing certain trends which at one stage we considered very fashionable but which now look to us very dated. If you build your wardrobe in one big hit, it will all become dated at roughly the same time. 

One way to mitigate these shifts is by choosing classic styles.  Nonetheless, fashions by their very definition change. For example, brogues, which are the fashionable shoe for both women and men in 2012 was not especially fashionable in 2007 and probably will be less fashionable in 2017. Building your wardrobe over 5 years allows you greater opportunity to mitigate shifting fashion trends, should you wish to do so, by incorporating some of these shifts in the building of your wardrobe.  

Some fashion trends, of course, you will choose not to follow. I am not a fan of skinny jeans, skinny ties, or skinny jacket lapels; nor of comically short suit jackets, which barely reach the waist.  However, I welcomed the advent of the slim fit suit and shall be sorry to see it go whenever the fashion gods decide to move in a different direction.

4.     Nearly anything can be accomplished in 5 years…

5 years seems to me to be a great block of time in which to accomplish something of personal significance.  Governments last 5 years, becoming fluent in another language takes a similar amount of time, and it requires around 5 years to train for many of the ancient professions. Lawyers, doctors, teachers, and priests all require about 5 years in training.

Any significant undertaking will take time if you intend to do it well. Building a gentleman’s wardrobe is, I suggest, a significant undertaking, not least because of the capacity of a well-appointed wardrobe to boost confidence.  It is not surprising, then, that it is not the work of a moment, especially if you are a man of modest means.  If you feel that you have a rather long way to go to build a well-appointed wardrobe, that sounds like a 5-year project to me…

5.     It’s not just about the destination it is also about the journey

5-year project is far more than a project to build a wardrobe. Whilst that is important, it is the point of the exercise after all, the journey is no less important. There is something significant I think about resisting the immediacy of our culture and determining to take your time to do something that is important to you. 

Some people carve, some people garden, some people collect stamps; and some people have a 5-year project.   5-year project is likely to become a journey of self-discovery; I have learnt a great deal that I did not previously know in my 5-year project as I am sure you will in yours.  It may be a simple skill like learning to tie a bow tie properly or how to polish your shoes; it might be simple facts like why is it called a ‘morning suit’ or where merino wool comes from.  It might be fresh insight about your own feelings of identity.

5-year project is also an exercise in restraint.  If you have a budget for your 5-year project, and you really should, you will discover very quickly that it is very easy to exceed it.  What you do next is part of your journey of discovery. Do you simply say, ‘What the hey,’ and blow the budget? Do you find a way of increasing the budget? Do you remind yourself why you set that budget in the first place and decide what to do without as you exercise some self-restraint?  Whatever you do decide it will be an interesting journey

So why don’t you begin your own 5-year project?

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