Danny Wallace on how to do luxury properly
"You ever held a really good paperclip? You notice when you do"
Last year, a major Italian fashion label revealed that it was going to diversify, and instead of selling just suits and shoes and handbags in its high-end boutiques, it would now also be selling paperclips.
It seemed quite the unusual move for a fashion house, paperclips. A bit like if Hobbycraft sent out a press release saying that as well as scissors and glue it would now also be selling owls.
It wasn’t even a particularly elaborately designed paperclip. It was just a paperclip-shaped paperclip, suitable for clipping paper.
But it had one thing going for it.
Oh, the luxury! The weight! The cool, smooth curves! The shining silver loops and curls!
You ever held a really good paperclip? You notice when you do, don’t you?
This one wasn’t just designed to hold your documents, though. This one was designed to hold your money, and while $185 might sound like a lot for a luxury paperclip, it isn’t, because I have now said so.
What’s more, this one is to be applauded, which is what I am doing right this very second, even though it makes it much more difficult to type.
For this is my question to you: why should the most mundane experiences in our lives not be lubricated by sheer luxury?
A moment in time where by simply clipping one piece of paper to another, or tucking away a grubby and torn fiver, you can feel like a self-made steel billionaire, or Bill Gates doing his expenses?
Because if you’re going to use a paperclip today, don’t you want that paperclip to be the best paperclip you have ever used in your life? Don’t you want to go home and tell people about the paperclip you used? Don’t you want to be the guy with the paperclip story?
Of course you do. You’re not a psychopath.
And sure, buying one might mean saving up for a while, particularly if you think you might need more than one paperclip simultaneously in your life, but here is my point: too often we accept that mundane things must always be mundane. That basic items can never be improved, or that they shouldn’t, somehow.
And surely a paperclip is a business expense?
I’m not entirely sure why I’m so drawn to what I imagine is just quite a heavy paperclip I’ve only ever seen pictures of. But I think it’s because once, I read about a 100-year-old lady giving an interview to an American journalist. This journalist had asked as many people who’d reached 100 as they could for a small pearl of wisdom they’d picked up along the way. Just a little nugget. A tip that stood out to them more than almost anything else had. And this 100-year-old lady had paused and wisely said, “Invest in quality – it never goes out of style.”
This is something I have managed to largely ignore.
I am not a man who wears luxury shoes, for example. As I write this, I notice that my trainers have two holes and two distinct tears. I imagine that by the end of this column I will look a lot like Charlie Chaplin sitting on that bench making his shoes talk in The Tramp. I remember once being taken to a very fancy and luxurious Indian restaurant rather than my normal takeaway, and ordering the lamb. When it arrived, it was about the size of a 50-pence piece and glittering in gold leaf. I didn’t know whether to eat it or spend it.
But when I saw that oversized paperclip, I thought of that 100-year-old lady.
Not because she looked like a paperclip. And certainly not because I was going to buy one. But because I think it clarified for me my own opinion of luxury, as I thought about this week’s luxury-centred ShortList.
“Luxury is better if it lasts. If that moment where you lubricate your day can be a moment you lubricate every day”
So much luxury is transient. A lot of it is momentary, fleeting, gone. Maybe that’s the point. And your whole life can’t be a life of luxury, because then none of it is actually luxurious any more.
But luxury is better if it lasts. If that moment where you lubricate your day can be a moment you lubricate every day. And if it does, I think you’ll find two things about luxury.
One, that you need less of it. But two, that you’ll value what you have a lot more.
Maybe it’s a great chair, when you could’ve bought a whole series of very cheap ones.
Maybe it’s the watch you know someone close to you will inherit one day.
Or maybe – just maybe – it’s doing your expenses with just a really big Italian paperclip.
It’s not that last one. But you know what I mean.
Plus, now that I’ve written so much about it, I’m fairly sure I know what I’ll be getting for my birthday this year. Get ready for a lot of paperclip stories…