The Case Against “Elevating The Ordinary”

Usually in our “The Case Against…” series, we discuss specific pieces of menswear that don’t really live up to the hype. This time around, instead of talking about a particular item, we will delve into a broader concept.

Much of the advice regarding clothes you find on the internet has to do with the concept of “elevating the ordinary”. That means stepping up the quality of your basics.

The argument is that instead of the 5-pack of white t-shirts from the drug store, go for the luxe supima cotton from an actual clothing store. Sure, it will be more expensive, but the quality and construction will be of a higher level and you’ll enjoy it more. The same advice applies to things like underwear, socks, and stuff like that.

It makes some sense, but I find that, in practice, the marginal uptick in enjoyment does not outweigh the additional cost. There are two specific reasons why elevating the ordinary just doesn’t work.

#1 – I’m Not A Millionaire

Are any of you millionaires?

Me either.

We all have to make choices about where to allocate our finite funds. The more I spend on my underwear, the less I have to spend on an overcoat that will outlive me. The more I spend on a t-shirt, the less I have to spend on a nice watch.

And are the “luxurious” versions of those basics really that different from the regular versions (from a comfort and wear-ability perspective)? Despite what all those menswear marketing departments would have you believe, a cotton t-shirt is a cotton t-shirt.

There is not a huge quality jump from the cheap versions to the expensive versions. It’s just needless spending.

#2 – You’ll Still Look Like Crap

The hoodies Mark Zuckerberg wears are like $800 and made of cashmere. This could be a prime example of elevating the ordinary, except there’s one problem.

He still looks like shit. Or more specifically, like a goofy little kid.

Even if you elevate your basics like your jeans, t-shirts, and hoodies, you’ll still look like you’re wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and a hoodie. You won’t impress anyone with your $200 jeans versus your $50 jeans. No one can tell the difference (and you probably can’t either). You won’t look any more stylish than you did before.

All you did was make it more difficult to attain the things that you really SHOULD be spending more money on (your “splurge” items).

Let’s say you totally revamped your wardrobe because you wanted to “elevate” your ordinary pieces. You chucked all your t-shirts, undies, and socks and bought fancier versions. You’d still be at square one style-wise, and you wouldn’t really notice that much of a difference in your enjoyment of those items.

But you would be a few hundred dollars poorer.

Elevating the ordinary sounds great in theory. Who wouldn’t want a cashmere hoodie? But practically, it makes much more sense to stick with the inexpensive versions of your basics and put that money towards other things.

Do make sure you choose those basics with care, however. But try not to get duped into spending more than you really need to.

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