My gold sandals have taken on a mythic quality. My husband says I have cupboards full, but he exaggerates. I have around half a dozen pairs routinely dusted down every summer. However, he has accurately observed gold sandals are one of my repeat buys. Alongside stripy T-shirts, polka dot shirts and trench coats; these are the items most likely to see me part with cash.
I’m quite persuasive when it comes to introducing similar garments into my wardrobe. I’ll justify repeat purchases with qualifying statements, such as, ‘but I don’t have one with a bottle green stripe.’ Or, ‘that charcoal trench-coat would be perfect with my grey Vans.’ No matter how many I already own, there’s always room for a slight variation.
And, I don’t think I’m unusual. For my friend Annie, it’s denim shirts she buys on repeat. For, Debbie, it’s cardigans in all colours, patterns and trims. There’s something reassuring about their familiarity. These garments are old friends, and the new versions are recent acquaintances we know we’ll get along with. When we commit to certain garments, till death us do part, are we permanently closing ourselves from new wardrobe possibilities? Does such predictability denote a lack imagination and adventure? Yesterday, I heard a woman in her twenties describe over afternoon tea her seasonal, brutal culling. ‘I’m done with that look. I’m not that person anymore,’ she announced.
Well, perhaps I’m done with all that Mr. Benn experimentation. I don’t think it’s any co-incidence all the great female designers distilled their design sensibility into a palette of recurring pieces. From, Claire McCardell who pioneered sportswear and simple separates to Coco Chanel with her Little Black Dress and pared-down skirt suits, each understood the importance of refining a formula to perfection. Over time, fashion will alter what we regard as an appealing aesthetic. The timeless blazer purchased in 1986 will now have ‘too wide’ arms and ‘too broad’ shoulders. Colour and print too can reveal a garment’s age, which is why neutrals are so popular with discerning buyers. Fabric technology improves our classics to give us garments that are more resilient, or easier to care for.
Modern brands such as Gap and Muji have built their empires on the idea of the repeat buy. Both deliver clothing designed to go the distance. But there’s always a contemporaneous nod to fashion, either with proportion, silhouette, shade, detail, fabric or finish. Muji’s water-repellent trainers are an excellent example of this. Historically, several notable males have applied the logic of the uniform to their lives, including: Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Tom Wolfe and Johnny Cash. Their outfits became part of their personal brand, a sartorial frame for their achievements. Perhaps by eliminating the “What shall I wear today?” question preserves valuable brain power and creative energy? I don’t recall any of those men ever being accused of being boring dressers, only having personal style. No matter how nonsensical it might seem to a casual observer, repeat buys can have their own beauty and logic.
Nilgin Yusuf is a freelance writer. You can find her on Twitter @Nilgin and Instagram @nilgin_yusuf