Your Accessories Matter, so Choose Wisely

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Details matter, it really is that simple. And some of the most important details are the personal accessories you carry around every day. From bespoke briefcases and luxurious writing portfolios to handmade pens and discreetly elegant cufflinks, the things you take with you make a big statement about who you are and what you value. Choosing them wisely helps you tell the right story.

One of my favorite ad campaigns is from luxury watchmaker Patek Philippe. The tag line is, “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” This more or less embodies my view of how people should choose the stuff in their lives, particularly all those personal accessories. Truly personal objects that have meaning beyond their mere function should never be disposable. Often, because of their very nature, these types of personal tools and accessories are expensive; those familiar with Patek Philippe know that’s a major understatement.

Still, if you are going to buy a nice watch, purchase the best you can comfortably afford. More than most personal items, a watch is a true investment that should last a lifetime. Make sure it is something you want to wear, a style that fits your personality, and unique enough to be interesting. Watches make wonderful heirlooms, so try and choose quality over flash; an automatic movement and multiple complications make for a more expensive but desired heirloom.

Your pen is another item that is far more personal than might be thought. Notice that I said “your pen,” as though there is one specific pen that should always be with you. There should be. While the disposable biro you picked up at some hotel may be serviceable, something like an Omas 360, with its triangular barrel, makes a stylish statement that moves beyond mere function. Pens have that kind of power; they can be expensive works of art yet remain functioning tools. Therefore a pen can be practical, portable elegance.  When choosing a high-end writing instrument, make sure to select something that meets your matter-of-fact, as well as emotional, needs. While the Montblanc 149 is a lovely writing instrument, purportedly owned by both the Pope and Queen of England, do you even know how to write with a fountain pen? Do you want to? (You should, but that’s just my opinion.) If you’re going to spend USD $500 on a single pen, such practicalities matter.

By thinking ahead, these personal items will become your signature, like a more discreet version of Tom Wolfe’s white suit. They make you memorable but also allow you to define yourself to others. Think of famed Washington Post editor Ben Bradley, the man who led the charge to expose Richard Nixon’s shenanigans. Though a “newspaper man” by trade, he was, and still is, also a classy gent who understood personal elegance and wore custom Turnbull & Asser shirts, with or without a tie, virtually every day.

Speaking of which, cufflinks are another great way to show some character. With double cuffed shirts, French cuffs to Americans, becoming more popular, men are appreciating the opportunity to show off with cufflinks. To whit, I have a cautionary note: restraint in the area of cufflinks is a better play than exuberance. By all means have fun, express yourself, but don’t go overboard. The fine line between creative and tacky is too easily crossed. Tiffany & Co., has sterling silver links that can be hand engraved with your initials; perfect for any occasion and wonderfully personal. Sometimes, however, the best choice is often a pair of simple silk knots.

When you are pickier about the personal items in your life, they take on more meaning. Something else happens too. By thinning out all that extra junk taking up space in your life, you actually wind up with less. However, the items you are left with are the ones that matter, and that’s the important part.


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Chris Hogan, an association executive based in Washington, D.C., blogs at OffTheCuffDC.com. A lifelong interest in style and clothing led to sales and management positions at several Ralph Lauren stores and an active wardrobe consulting practice

Comments

  1. AJ says:

    Good article!
    What about keychains? Any advice? What are the trends? Thanks!

  2. Tom C. says:

    I don’t think key chains are something that is ruled by trends, or am I wrong? A good key chain for me is any that isn’t some silly toy or in crazy colors. Vintage key chains, or even key cases are probably more distinguished.

  3. Chris Hogan says:

    Hi AJ and Tom, thanks very much for your comments. As to key chains, that’s a very interesting question and for the most part, I agree with Tom.

    Key chains are not particularly influenced by fashion cycles, however, they are affected by broader social and design trends. For example, key cases which were so popular for decades seemed to have vanished from the market; I haven’t seen them in long time.

    Generally, I would say that men tend to favor key chains that are simple but also reflect a little personality. In the States, classics like the braided leather loop and preppy “tie” versions are popular.

    I think the key – no pun intended – is to have something that is neither ostentatious nor pedestrian. For a grown up look, Tiffany & Co., makes some that are simple yet elegant.

    Thanks for bringing this up, it’s a good subject and I’ll talk about it in the near future on my blog.