Quality vs. Value

A lot of the articles I write are intended to help you save money. We dads (and you moms) always need to be cognizant of costs. No one wants to spend money needlessly, but it’s also a good lesson for the kids. If they see dad buying a ton of stuff all the time, what does that say about the value of money or how to make wise purchases.

I used to think that quality equaled value. I thought that if I bought something that was of unquestionably high quality, then it would provide me with equally high value. I guess I didn’t think about the difference between the two words.

When I started out in my menswear journey, the goal was always to “buy less, buy better”. Maybe I couldn’t afford the expensive, handmade shoes or suit yet, but once I was able to, I would never go back since I wouldn’t need to. Higher quality, and usually higher price, meant higher value. It was a linear progression. It was a ladder where you only go up and up and up and never back down again. Because why would you?

Higher quality meant better. That was an unequivocal truth.

What I came to learn was that quality is not directly linked to value. This realization has allowed me to more whole-heartedly enjoy all the items of my wardrobe, not just the fancy stuff. It has also kept me from making unnecessary purchases.

The most obvious example of this in my own life is the case of three pairs of boots I own…

Red Wing Iron Rangers (below)

Rancourt Acadia Chukkas (below)

L.L. Bean Work Boots (below)

The former two pairs are of unquestionably higher quality than the latter pair. There really is no denying it. However, it’s the latter pair that has provided me with the highest value.

I purchased the Red Wings back in 2011 as an uncharacteristic present to myself. I just had one of the worst months of my life: I was fired from my job, my dog needed major surgery, and my dad died. I felt justified in treating myself a little bit. At the time, I had never purchased anything that expensive. At over $300, I was sure I was getting incredible value.

I don’t have to go into the quality of Red Wing boots here, an aspect with which I am sure everyone on the internet is well-acquainted. And to tell you the truth, I was never let down by the boots’ quality. Where the boots lacked was in their value to me, personally.

While very well made, the lack of cushioning in the footbed meant my feet were in agony at the end of a day of walking. I have relatively flat feet and my stride has a pronounced heel strike, so these boots were probably not the best choice for me.

Additionally, I can’t count the number of times I slipped and fell due to the slick cork outsole (a perplexing choice that Red Wing has since remedied with a rather discreet lug sole).

I wore the Red Wings pretty exclusively for quite a long time. I just kind of lived with all their shortcomings.

But I remember being legitimately confused when these boots didn’t tick all my boxes. But I paid good money for them! But they are such good quality! How can they not be right? Why do I find myself longing for something different?

I have written an in-depth review of the Rancourt Acadias so I won’t go into too much detail here regarding my issues with them. Suffice to say, I committed many hours/miles to those boots with dogged determination to make them work for me. Again, they were a bit pricey and handmade in the USA! How could they not be right?

Then there are my L.L. Bean Work Boots. I paid about $150 for them. I think they are made in China. They are not as well made or of as high quality as the Red Wings or Rancourts. That point is not debatable. But they provide me with the highest value.

The leather is thick but very supple. The footbed is soft and perfect for long walks. The sole is Vibram and provides plenty of grip on wet leaves or freshly washed floors. While not totally waterproof, they are water-resistant to a reasonable degree. They are pretty beaten up, but don’t look totally out of place with a rough tweed sport coat and chinos.

They really are great boots. I’ve gotten plenty of bang for my buck.

My point here is that when it comes to clothes, it’s not all about “quality”. Yes, quality is a great thing to strive for, but don’t totally discount the lesser-quality items. Don’t automatically think you need to replace something simply because you can get a similar item of higher quality.

That item might not provide the same level of value.

Remember quality ≠ value.

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