One of the great things about a 5-year project is that you learn a great deal. In addition to all the things one learns along the way about fabric and materials, cut and fit, colours and textures, care and heritage, a 5YP also provides opportunity to discover all sorts of things about yourself
Some things one might expect, such as a greater awareness of your own sense of style, what works for you, and what doesn’t. Some things are more unexpected, for example, what you learn about your capacity for self-discipline or about your personality.
One of the unexpected things I’ve learnt about my personality is that I am instinctively a collector. I imagine that for many people building a gentleman’s wardrobe is primarily about the enjoyment one derives from wearing one’s wardrobe. Clearly, I understand and relate.
However, I have come to recognise that for me there is an additional pleasure of simply having the collection. Wearing a great shirt or pair of cufflinks is fabulous, but so is simply owning them.
Looking back, this element of self-discovery should not have been as unexpected. I’ve been a collector for some time. As a very young child I had a rock collection. Quite how, why, or when I got started I have long forgotten. However, I do remember that by the time I was 7 I had a good-sized collection.
These weren’t just random rocks. I was particularly interested in flint. Something about the near translucent quality of these rocks was weirdly beguiling. Moreover, once I learned that flint had a long history of human use as arrowheads, cutting tools, and sources of sparks for starting a fire my fascination only grew.
To state the obvious, these rocks had no useful purpose. Nonetheless, I recall being intrigued by the way they looked, the part smooth, part rough texture, the coolness to the touch, and their solidity.
It strikes me that only collectors derive deep-seated satisfaction from putting together a collection, which neither has value to anyone else, nor is of any practical use, unless one wished to return to a pre safety matches era.
My rock-collecting career came to a premature end. We moved house when I was 7 and my parents were quite clear that they had no intention of loading up the moving truck with a pile of rocks. So I took one or two with me but the collection remained at the old house. I did start a new collection at the new house but never really got into it in the same way.
Discovering, or perhaps rediscovering, that I am an instinctive collector is a helpful bit of personal insight. It helps me better to understand (and hopefully to resist) my sometimes-irrational collecting impulses.
So when I feel the need to own that pair of shoes that I know I will wear precisely 4 times in the next 6 years, or the blue shirt that is so similar to the one I already own that few could tell them apart, or the obsessive need to have those cufflinks, cause they’re green, or yet another tie in pink, or feel I absolutely need a shoe trunk, I am beginning to understand it is not necessarily driven by a sense of style. Rather it is the collector’s impulse within.
It’s a bit like Gollum who desires the ring of power. He doesn’t plan to do anything in particular with it, nor harbours plans to conquer the world. Rather he simply wants to possess it, to stroke it, and to say occasionally, ‘My precious…..’
Who knows what you will learn through your 5YP?