Doesn’t It Feel Good To Palessi?

Many years ago, I was business partners with a young man who was the very definition of Asperger’s Syndrome brought to life. I could tell a lot of stories about this fellow — the terrifying disappearances, the cars he killed, the Brazilian FN FAL that he kept in his bed, the chronic masturbation, the card counting, the accidentally picking up a prostitute on the way to work, the time that he crashed his mountain bike and my other friend tried to give him a tracheotomy — but I’ll save those for another time. The story I want to tell is on that he told he: My friend grew up dirt poor in a single-wide trailer with his Air Force dad, his Filipina mother, and his two siblings, way back in “the holler” of Jackson, Ohio. He lived off his brother’s hand-me-downs. The better-off kids would make fun of his family, singing this ditty to the tune of Electric Avenue:

We gonna rock down to
PAYLESS AND BUY SOME SHOES
They only cost a dollar

Alas, in the end the joke was on all those other kids, because my pal and his brother ended up surfing the turn-of-the-century tech wave into the kind of money where you never have to think about trailers, or Payless shoes, ever again. There’s a bit of irony to all of this, however, because nowadays the value of Payless shoes has gone from “a dollar” all the way to $640. In this brilliant prank-o-mercial, a bunch of “social media influencer” dipshits were invited to the grand opening of a store called “Palessi”. Once inside, they were given, and eagerly took, the chance to pay hundreds of bucks for shoes that can be found for $19.99 at Payless. The influencers gushed about the unbeatable style, materials, and prestige associated with being a “Palessi” customer.

The two immediate hot takes found everywhere on the web: Payless is smart, and influencers are stupid. Both of those takes are correct, but I’d like to be a little more perceptive than that, if I can manage it. My thoughts, in no particular order:

Maybe Supreme should sue for infringment? The infamous Supreme brand is basically Palessi; they put a small logo on overseas junk and mark it up somewhere between two hundred and one thousand percent. I confess that I am too old, too stupid, or just too unhip to understand the appeal. Most skaters or BMX riders will pay a little extra for commodity clothing that displays our favorite brand, since it gives us a chance to fly the flag, so to speak, but the vast majority of Supreme patrons have nothing to do with skating or OG street style in general. If Palessi had a cheap Futura Bold Italic logo, it would be indistinguishable from Supreme, except that in general the markups wouldn’t be as bad.

How many of the influencers knew the Palessi stuff was junk and got excited anyway? Chevrolet had no trouble finding real people who were willing to froth at the mouth when presented with a refrigerator-white Equinox LT:

Narrator: Now let’s see the vehicle that won J.D. Power’s “Most Interesting Ontario-Assembled Domestic SUV Between 176.7 and 176.9 Inches Long” award… three years in a row

Random Person: HOLY ASS-LICKING SHITBALLS! IF I LIVE A THOUSAND YEARS IN UTOPIA I’LL NEVER HAVE A BIGGER “WOW MOMENT”! (Faints.)

The autojourno landscape is teeming, locust-like, with undistinguished mouthpieces who can be reliably expected to become very enthusiastic about very uninteresting products so long as their travel, meal, and product-comp needs are met. Each and every one of them understands that only the most outrageous expressions of enthusiasm will be re-Tweeted or ‘Grammed for posterity. In this way, the media has essentially trained most of us to provide what the media wants, more or less on cue. The phenomenon of the eerily characterful local-TV interview has taught us all to go wooooo! So even if the “influencers” weren’t knocked out by Palessi shoes, they knew better than to express indifference. That way lies obscurity, dontcha know?

Not that the mainstream media is much better. Does anybody remember the days when one newspaper would “scoop” another one? Does anything like that ever happen nowadays? In 2018, the news arrives in coordinated fashion across multiple platforms, driven by “engagement companies” that dictate the nuts and bolts of media coverage the same way that high-end lobbyists are permitted to write the actual text of proposed legislation regulating the industries they represent. Consider the “Palessi” story: Did it really deserve a nationwide rollout of supposedly objective news coverage? Sure, I’ll discuss it here at Riverside Green because I’m fascinated by the mechanics and the message of it… but why, exactly, did USA Today have it front and center? Could it have anything to do with the fact that “Palessi” is going to be the subject of a major advertising push? Is the Palessi coverage you’re seeing today nothing but a long-form audition for Payless ad money? (We would absolutely accept a major partnership with Payless here, by the way. Payless — and get more!)

This kind of shit couldn’t happen in a country with intact families and even a vestige of middle-class structure. Something that the Palessi stunt put front and center in my mind: Could I, Jack Baruth, noted international bespoke client and ketchup-stainer of Kiton, be fooled in the same manner by a men’s Palessi? Let’s say, for example, that somebody claimed to have a new British shoe brand competing directly with Edward Green — but the shoes themselves were just Kenneth Coles with a different label. Would I fall for it? What about Chinese suits with a Zegna label? Or a fake variant of my cherished Tudor Black Bay Bronze?

Thirteen years ago, I wrote a long piece for a now-senescent mens’ clothing blog where I purchased “oxford”-style shoes from four different makers and attempted to compare them in detail, showing where each piece stood up and fell down. At the time, I felt that I have a pretty good handle on what makes for a quality shoe; in fact, I should re-do the test here using some of my personal inventory from Crockett&Jones, Bruno Magli, Grenson, and Edward Green in addition to the original four. It might be of interest to some readers. In any event, I don’t think I can be fooled when it comes to shoes.

With regards to other clothing items, I can readily distinguish the difference between fabric grades, hand vs. machine stitching, the composition of shirt buttons, and whatnot. But I have three significant advantages over the Palessi customers. The first is that men’s clothing, as a whole, tends to be of a much higher grade than women’s clothing, because we hold onto it much longer. (The white-label Armani coat I wore to dinner tonight? I bought it in 2002, making the amortized per-year cost of it less than what I’d pay for a new Men’s Wearhouse coat every year.) The second advantage is that I have a particular enthusiasm for the subject and am therefore reasonably well-studied on it to a degree you wouldn’t find in what LJK Setright called “T.C. Mits, The Celebrated Man In The Street”.

Lastly, however, I have something that very few, if any, of the Palessi customers have: I have a father who, from the earliest recollections of my youth, was didactic and forthright about what men should and should not wear. I learned the difference between Zegna and Brioni at his side the way other, frankly more fortunate, youth learned the hunting and skinning of deer. Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit Dad’s charm or his looks, so instead of being a dashing, perfectly fit fellow in a double-breasted Corelliani blazer like he was I’m a crippled, stumbling, shambolic Yeti in a Savile Row coat. At least I know what to wear, when to wear it, and why.

There was a time when most middle-class parents provided their children with a basic education regarding how and when to select and purchase clothing. Judging by the general sartorial state of my colleagues and co-workers, that time was some time before I was born, and my father represented the end of that tradition rather than its heyday. Yet I’m still capable of being shocked by modern indifference to gentility; last month I was involved in some magazine photography and the shooter asked me to button my jacket, which I did.

“Uh, could you do it with both hands?” he asked.

“No, I cannot button my coat with both hands, because I didn’t grow up in a trailer,” I responded. Didn’t everybody’s father teach them how to one-hand button a garment, either explicitly or through example? When Daniel Craig double-hand-buttons his dinner jacket (Tuxedo is a place, not a garment!) in Casino Royale, surely that’s meant to remind us that Bond was an orphan? Or was there not a single person on set who didn’t grow up in what the English call a “council flat”? Which leads to more questions: Does everyone know that you cannot leave oars at the dinner table? What about the length of visible cuff? Are there people who do not display a quarter inch of cuff? How far into anarchy have we slid, as a society?

In a perfect world, every father would teach his son how to distinguish, choose, and wear a quality garment. Each mother would do the same for her daughter. Those days are as dead as Marcus Aurelius. I can guarantee you that my son will be able to spot the difference between Neapolitan and Roman shoulders at a distance, but I don’t expect this knowledge to provide him with anything other than quiet amusement. It’s not just clothing, mind you. As we systematically break the bonds between parents and children in favor of forced obeisance to the Almighty Corporate Uniparty, all sorts of knowledge is being thrown away. How to repair simple machines, how to maintain a home, how to cook for a family, how to discipline and instruct children, how to manage one’s finances, how to recognize fraud, how to defend one’s self in a street fight, how to write a cover letter to a resume. It is a terrifying hollowing-out of society, leaving us with very little on which to build a system of values or even a self-image. Which is the point. The Uniparty breaks you down to make you anew — as genderfluid, as yellow-winged dragonkin, as a proud slut, as a soy boy, most importantly as dutiful consumer who receives and responds to marketing. Which brings me to my final thought, namely:

For most of humanity nowadays, the value of an item is solely determined as follows: multiply price by marketing. If you don’t know how to distinguish quality clothing, watches, appliances, or automobiles, how do you choose? The way most modern people do: figure out how much you can spend then purchase the best-marketed item in that range. Why not, when everything from our dishwashers to our interview suits are made in China by the lowest bidder, when we throw almost everything away before it is truly used up, when the pleasure of purchase outweighs the satisfaction of ownership by a long shot? The era of the respectable firm — Hickey-Freeman, IBM, Colt, Rolls-Royce — has yielded to a Bronze Age dominated by the all-powerful branding-of-the-moment — Supreme, OnePlus, Kimber, Bentley-by-Volkswagen.

There will continue to be people, like your humble author, who stubbornly insist on knowing the provenance of their goods and even meeting the creators of said goods. We will not exist in large enough numbers to matter. The future is meaning-averse, reality-distorted, highly-branded, where price is shorthand for value and a disposable name is hyped by disposable people through ephemeral social media until the excitement stalls and everyone moves on. Nothing will last. What you buy is garbage, what you own is meaningless, and the future holds nothing but more of the same, doled out in dopamine hits to keep you consuming and producing up to corporate standard. Ah, but would you truly want it any other way? Do you really want to build your home with your bare heands and wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life? Could you tolerate that life, should you accidentally achieve it? Having been born a housecat, could you ever become a lion? In the end, doesn’t it feel good to Palessi?

88 Replies to “Doesn’t It Feel Good To Palessi?”

  1. Ryan

    It’s funny that you bring up the “amortized” cost of quality clothing. I was recently trying to explain to a friend of mine how paying for quality is cheaper in the long run. For example, my latest pair of jeans from Detroit Denim have seen nearly daily wear for the past year with little wear. I would’ve burned through 3 pairs of Levis in that same timeframe and they look like shit comparatively.

    Some of my favorite pieces of clothing (Vietnam-era M65 jacket, Filson and Woolrich wool clothing, Brooks Cafe Racer jacket) are things that were passed down to me from my dad/uncle/grandfather. Some of it dates back to the 40s. There’s no doubt in my mind that one day I will pass them down to my own son one day. As you stated, most people seem to be more concerned with #branding than the quality of an item, and it’s a damn shame.

    Then again, I bought a Shinola chronograph last week. Perhaps I’m not as immune to marketing bullshit as I’d like to believe..

    Reply
  2. John C.

    We have just asked 100 divers of MB diesels to drive our proudly American made Dodge 600 ES and tell us what they think. “Oh it is smooth and fast!” This is a pretty old form of advertising and there is a valid point.

    There is such a thing as market power and often time it can be used to match the high cost stuff even when sourcing from China, the high end brand is too after all and has less ability than the expensive brand to say a few times make it better to earn our life changing order.

    Reply
    • cwallace

      And of those 100 MB drivers who thought the Dodge was smooth and fast, precisely zero of them went and swapped their Benz for one, because smooth and fast wasn’t the point. A Dodge 600 ES is not what you buy when you want to think you’re impressing strangers, or when you’re “rewarding yourself” for choosing to prioritize corporate success.

      If your luxo-rig is indeed smoother and faster than average, it’s a symptom, not a cause. Pre-Palessi, anyways, the luxury item had to be superior in some way to justify the extra bucks you were really spending to score a lingering glance from your neighbor’s wife.

      (Besides weren’t many lawn tractors “smooth and fast” compared to an early-80’s Merc diesel?)

      Reply
        • John C.

          If only Nate was one of the 100 MB owners invited. His interest would have become lifelong, and more would have been saved. A real influencer in the best sense.

          Reply
          • -Nate

            You’re laughing I know but who knows ? I liked K Cars and various other MoPars over the decades, maybe I’da kept a Dodge Diesel 600 running forever…..

            -Nate

    • Rob De Witt

      …the high end brand is too after all and has less ability than the expensive brand to say a few times make it better to earn our life changing order.

      Huh?

      Reply
      • John C.

        A high end brand will have smaller orders to who they farm out to than a big brand with larger orders. VW could demand and receive a better accelerator pedal from China than Aston Martin.

        Reply
  3. yamahog

    If I had the money, I’d start a charity to get soy boys on repli-racers. This country’s moxie and thumos reserves are depleted.

    Reply
  4. baconator

    Yes, well, as a guy who grew up — not in a trailer, exactly, but literally next door to the Shady Lawn trailer park and within smoke-wafting distance of the Travelport truck stop — I studied clothing quite a bit in my younger years. I wanted to understand the difference between quality clothing and the stuff that my parents wore. This proved marginally useful in the first few years of my career, when men still wore suits to serious jobs in downtown skyscrapers.

    Nowadays, I wear a suit on the east coast, but not too nice a suit, lest I frighten the Aspergers-ridden middle managers and hedge fund analysts that are the gatekeepers to my deals. And here in the office I can’t wear anything more than maybe two notches above pajamas. Anything more prompts the engineering team to brand me as “too formal” and “out of touch.”

    Times change. The upside is that I get to wear pants in hues that would have flatly disqualified me from employment 25 years ago. So there’s that.

    Reply
    • Carmine

      I had a similar thought this weekend watching some SpaceX thing that a friend had DVR’d about the Falcon Rockets and our saviour ELON, watching the mission control people and other Musk minions wandering around I made the comment, “why does everyone that works there look like an unemployed junkie?” Seriously, sandals, scruffy beards, T-shits with “neck holes”(can you still call it a “collar” when it goes from shoulder blade to shoulder blade?) so wide you could put 3 heads through them.

      In my mind I was comparing that to the spiffy buzz cut skinny tie image that in my mind is what mission control should look like and shaking my head……..

      Reply
    • sgeffe

      I honestly feel “dressed up” in anything with a collar! When I started where I am now (twenty-five years as of this past October, county government IT department), first and only job out of college, the rule was shirt and tie, dress-down on Friday. If I left my department, I would always have a jacket on—not required, mind you. I had two Haggar suits, two Haggar jackets, and a “Year ‘Rounder” blazer from Land’s End. (I was damn near in tears when I couldn’t fit into that blazer, and was told it couldn’t be altered to fit, a few years ago!) Had two pairs of Bostonian oxfords, and a pair of penny loafers whose brand I don’t recall. My dress shirts were always the entry-level fitted Land’s End $19.95 Oxford 60/40-blend button-downs. Held up like crazy, and since I can’t iron a shirt to save my life, I’ve always had my shirts done at an area dry-cleaners, light starch on hangers! I’ve got a couple of original shirts still in my rotation.

      A few years after I started working, we went to business-casual, M-Th. No ties, no more jackets. Clarks and Rockport walking shoes sufficed for footwear, since I’ve also always parked in the same lot a quarter-mile from my building.

      Land’s End, L.L. Bean, and Eddie Bauer were clothing staples for my entire family for damn near a generation! Just reasonable-quality stuff that lasted! But now, you can’t get a low-priced, fitted, 60/40-blend Oxford shirt from Land’s End or L.L. Bean at any price! (Hell, you’re lucky to be able to get any men’s clothing at L/E at ALL!) All their men’s shirts look the same at each vendor, just like they came out of the same Chinese sweatshop, with only four sizes from which to choose, all no-iron, wrinkle-attracting! All of their polo shirts look like the same Chinesium stuff, as well! (I’ve since relegated L/E shirts which were made years after those original ones to the dust rag pile after fewer years of use! Writing on the wall!) I wear L/E and other Penney’s/Kohl’s-grade stuff, but aside from Docker’s khakis, everything else is just “meh!” Gets the job done, nothing more!

      After Jack’s jeremiad here, I’d hate to see what even a Brooks Brothers, say, has become, or any real high-end stuff. The Haggar stuff today looks TRULY pitiful, and Penney’s doesn’t do after-purchase alterations any more! Jos. A. Bank if I need a suit? Don’t know! I’ve got a pair of J&M Oxfords I hardly wear, so I’m set on those! Otherwise, outside of work, jeans & T-shirts, shorts (tanks/sleeveless Ts in summer/around the house year-round, if I even have a shirt on) and sandal-sole Teva flips (one pair of which, my first, is now nearing their end after twenty years), and TopSiders, along with a sole (😁) pair of old, but presentable, Reebok low-tops for winter wear on Fridays for dress-down. (Men’s Wearhouse anything? Laughable-looking garbage which bunches up nicely, at least if the tuxedo I rented for my brother’s wedding is representative of the brand!)

      If I could do high-quality jeans & T-shirts year-round to work, with a dressed-up pair of shorts in the summer, I’d be in heaven! If I could, I wouldn’t wear socks unless the temperature dropped below twenty degrees for a high, or if there was two inches of snow on the ground! (Well, even with that snow thing, it’s still a slushy mess once it hits freezing!) For bombing around town or just running errands in the winter, I like the slip-on snow shoes from L/E..well, that is until they stopped carrying them in men’s sizes! Fortunately, their outerwear is still pretty good, if all lookalikes, across those three vendors. I’ve also got a made-in-U.S.A. Cooper leather bomber just like FedEx pilots are issued—wears like iron!

      So I’m not into the high-end stuff, but stuff that just works. Not a brand whore for the most part, but I still want to look decent when called for, yet I’m comfortable enough in my own skin that I’m not afraid to walk around in public in sweats, shorts, or pretty much anything above pajamas, if I just want to be comfortable! (Heaven knows there’s plenty of people who TRULY don’t care what they look like out in public, and in pajamas sometimes!)

      About the only thing I do need that I haven’t found is a good light outerwear-type thing for the walk to/from work in early fall/late spring—a North Face fleece something would probably work, but I haven’t looked around enough to see if they’ve got anything I’d like.

      Reply
      • baconator

        Brooks Brothers has actually improved in quality a bit over the last 10 years. They cheapened out during the late 90s and early 2000s, but have rescued it. And unlike most of the department store brands, who have succumbed to the flood-height pant lengths and low-rise waistline that Tom Ford popularized for gaunt and gay Millenials, Brooks Bros. will still sell you a suit made for middle-aged dad bods.

        Reply
      • Ronnie Schreiber

        I’m hard to fit so if I’m ever rich, I’ll have bespoke suits made on Saville Row. In the meantime I can look decent without spending a ton of money. There’s a store around the corner called Suit Depot. The owner is relatively young, started out selling used clothing on eBay, and after selling 7 figures a year online he decided to open a retail shop. Almost everything there is Chinese, but he appears to have lined up good manufacturers. The suits are nicely made, come with a lot of features, and they’re very inexpensive. Will they last 20 years? I’m 63. I won’t last 20 years. In any case, there’s an old-school Russian tailor named Roman who rents space in their building who can take whatever I find off the rack that fits my funny shape and make me look good.

        Reply
        • sgeffe

          My Dad swore by Kuppenheimer suits, which as I just saw via a little Google-fu, were absorbed into Men’s Wearhouse!

          Like I implied, the time I wore some of their stuff, I didn’t like the way I looked! I guarantee it! 😂

          Reply
  5. Rock36

    I grew up with a single mom, and I would have loved to know this stuff growing up, not sure it would have mattered even if my father was around.

    I at least have the likes of Jean Baudrillard with echoed sentiments from Jack Baruth to at least deconstruct the phenomenon even if there is no true solution.

    Reply
  6. Mike B

    BMW guts any vestige of character from its lineup and still calls itself the Ultimate Driving Machine. Porsche makes all its money from wildly profitable SUVs while prattling on about motorsport history in 911s.

    Marketing works, people attach themselves to Brand Image instead of brand substance. And as long as the cash register keeps cha-chinging I don’t expect much to change, in any industry, until perhaps all brands feel exactly the same and the meaningless worthless junk they’re peddling can’t hold up the image any longer.

    Reply
    • safe as milk

      i like to think that eventually cheapening a brand will cause it to fall but i have to admit in the case of the german auto makers nobody seems to notice. my friends bmw one series drives great but the engine was constantly in for recall work and then grenaded itself as soon as the warranty expired. the kicker is that he still loves it!

      Reply
      • -Nate

        “the engine was constantly in for recall work and then grenaded itself as soon as the warranty expired. the kicker is that he still loves it!”

        Dig it ~ us LBC Nutters are like this too .

        I got maybe 40,000 miles out of my BMC’a A series 1500 CC engine, yes a lot of it was flat footing it but really ~ only FORTY THOUSAND MILES ?! .

        Tough shit, I’ll rebuilt it yet again and go do it again, wash, rise repeat until I wreck the damn thing .

        -Nate

        Reply
          • -Nate

            You’re right of course, I meant the B series engine .

            I now have a couple 1962 B series 1800’s, I’m thinking of maybe replacing the current and original 1500 with one, cherry pick the best block, crank and so on, my point being who in their right mind would dump any serious $ into a 50 + year old LBC or a ten year old Bimmer, right ? .

            We’re just Nutters is all =8-) .

            -Nate

        • Ronnie Schreiber

          I think the solution to the B series engine is the Buick/Rover V8. With a modern 5 speed the drivetrain would weigh less than a B with a 4 spd overdrive box. As a matter of fact, I think the solution to the Lotus 907 engine is also the Buick/Rover V8.

          Reply
          • -Nate

            That’s only if you accept V – configuration engines, then you’re right, that aluminum Buick 215 engine is lightweight and robust, I used to find low mileage ones in junked Rovers all the time and tried mightily to get my Hot Rodder buddies to try them, even once , to no avail .

            At $150 fan to clutch including core charge they were a serious bargain but as soon as they heard ‘Rover’ they stopped listening .

            Many other engines are lighter than a BMC B series engine but that doesn’t matter to a true Nutter, does it ? =8-) .

            -Nate

  7. jc

    I’m not into clothing, but I understand the sentiments perfectly. Just mention to almost any man under 40 the concept of regularly shining your shoes and replacing heels and soles when they wear out, thus establishing “worn out” as the point when the uppers crack irreparably (10-25 years, typically) and watch his head explode.

    It’s funny how people will pay extra for electric guitars that are “pre-aged” to look like someone’s worn the finish off through years of playing and practicing, but let any other mechanical device need repair and it’s “worn out, gotta get a new one”. And heaven forbid one pulls out a flip-phone! Never mind the incredulous looks I get when someone mentions the latest TV show and I respond “nope, never seen it, haven’t owned a TV set in a dozen years, don’t have time for the required 20 hours per week, need to spend that time doing other things…”

    Reply
    • Rick T.

      My current healthcare client in Nashville is particularly uncaring as to male office wear. Earlier in the week I spotted a thirty-something wearing shorts and no socks in 40 degree weather.

      I entered the business world (Big 8 accounting) only a few short years after I would have been required to wear a hat but still required to required to wear a suit coat when outside the office. Fun times in 90 degree humid Chicago summers.

      These days it’s decent quality shirts and slacks with always well-shined Rockports.I could probably get away with T-shirts and jeans but just can’t bring myself and can’t imagine what the client would think although many of them don’t dress for success.

      Reply
      • Eric H

        I never understood how success was correlated with suits.
        Correlation with status perhaps indicating you no longer needed to wear “work clothes” so yo didn’t damage your Sunday best.

        The sartorial degradation is a good thing. Judging people on their actions and abilities as opposed to how they dress is an improvement to society. Our shambolic yeti host should be grateful, he’d have to groom himself like someone who has access to indoor plumbing and a barber otherwise.

        Reply
      • -Nate

        ” always well-shined Rockports.”

        ?? Why the hell do they make shiny wing tips sans steel toes but NO ONE makes shiny steel toed wingtips ?? .

        God damn it all to hell .

        -Nate

        Reply
    • Daniel J

      Meh. I honestly have no use for a good quality pair of oxfords.

      Tennis shoes? Hiking boots? You bet. But even the quality ones are mostly made over seas.

      Reply
  8. jc

    Oh, I just thought of one other –

    Suggest to anyone under the age of 40 that they just replace the power cord on a tool or appliance!

    They run from the room screaming! “Don’t you need a professional for that?”

    My 80 year old 1/4″ electric drill is on its third or fourth cord now, and no telling how many sets of carbon brushes.

    Reply
    • safe as milk

      i fixed our gas oven when it failed the day before thanksgiving by swapping the igniter from the broiler to the oven. my wife was convinced it would explode because i wasn’t a professional. yesterday she reminded me that we need to call a technician to repair the broiler. i didn’t bother to tell her that the new igniter is already in the closet and that i’m just waiting for her to go out for a few hours so i can install it myself.

      Reply
      • gtem

        When we bought our house I went out of my way to scoop up a cheap decade old Maytag washer and dryer pair from “Big Jon’s” used appliances, the kind that don’t have touch screens or pleasant sounding chimes, and were still made in Newton Iowa. At some point the dryer got a noisy bearing noise, I was able to buy a belt and roller replacement kit for $40, completely disassemble the dryer down to the drum in about 45 minutes, find the offending bearing (it actually just needed some lithium grease), slapped it back together and it’s been chugging along since. My in laws had a fancy new LG washer/dryer combo, last year one of the units developed some kind of recurring door-closed sensor issue, after a bit of DIY troubleshooting my electrical-engineer father in law threw his hands up and bought a nice new Samsung unit for around $1k. My buying/fixing habits were inherited from my parents, they’ve got the original 1980s appliances in their house that have been working just fine with a few cheap and easy-to-replace components. The 80s-early 90s were probably the tail end of repairable and durable home appliances (coinciding with all of that stuff being outsourced). Oh yeah my grandfather in law has an old GE fridge from the 50s in his basement for beer storage, that thing is a freaking tank and the quality of the copper tubing and condenser/compressor in that thing will probably have it outliving everything that’s yet to be made in the next 3 decades.

        Reply
        • Carmine

          Some of those old appliances are amazing, a classic Western Electric phone is another thing of beauty, you can take that out and use to hammer nails all day, go home and plug it into the wall and make a call clear as day.

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          • hank chinaski

            I’ve got an Asko washer approaching it’s 20th birthday needing only some brushes and a hose. Ma’s LG croaked in 7 years.
            A relative has a subZ from probably the 50s or 60s that just recently got some TLC.

            Jack’s opener above is quite the teaser. Better than even Rodney maybe.

          • Ronnie Schreiber

            I still have my late father’s desk phone from his veterinary practice in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Western Electric Model 302, built in 1938. It’s not surprising that phone handsets were once murder weapons. That’s some serious bakelite there. There’s an intermittent short in the handset cable and the dial needs some lubrication but other than that it works fine, well, if I still had a land line. The sound quality is superb. Cell phones can’t compare, at least with their speakers – with headphones audio quality on modern phones is pretty good.

          • -Nate

            My 1923 Termite farm has two Western Electric #500 dial ‘phones in it, one is a wall set in the kitchen, ‘t other is a desk top set in the living room, both work perfectly and have those wonderful bells I like to hear .

            I also have a few Princess ‘phones stashed away in case my 5 – 1/2 y.O. grand daughter ever wants one…..powder blue & avocado green .

            -Nate

      • Daniel Sharpe

        While I can do elecrical work on the house just fine, god forbid my insurance company finds out if my house burns down since I’m not a certified electrician.

        I had a 4 year old oven that went out and it needed a new control board. At almost 200 dollars for just the part, it was more cost effective to get a new range.

        Reply
      • sgeffe

        And my folks just had to get a new range because a circuit board fried on their ten-year-old one, and the part was no longer being made! They’ve been through two refrigerators in the thirty-four years they’ve lived in their house, although the original refrigerator and stove from our family’s previous house reside in their basement! (Their laundry luck hasn’t been as good, going through a washer/dryer pair every eight years or so like clockwork! Their original iron from the beginning of their marriage lasted for thirty-five years, but they’ve gone through one every five years since! Same with toasters!

        They just got rid of a Thomson-Electronics RCA CRT TV which was probably twenty years old, and had replaced a Sylvania console TV with that RCA. (They had the power-switch board replaced at least twice!) I still have a Toshiba 27” TV and Sharp Carousel microwave oven which I purchased when I moved out on my own twenty years ago, along with a Yamaha stereo and NHT speakers.

        My Millennial, tatted, scruffy-bearded boss knows the value of a dollar, and in some ways, he and his wife are throwbacks: he will attempt to fix anything broken before pitching it (within reason—cell phones just get replaced, but they’ll use them to contract’s end, even with cracked screens and busted cases), while she likes old-fashioned decorations and houseware products: find a ceramic crock or milk-jug-like something, and she’ll be all over it! (She might have made a couple dresses for her oldest daughter—I don’t recall.) But the day that someone knocked over a pile of old PCs to be sent for recycling was what cemented my “old-fashioned” label for him, as he emerged from his office to see what the commotion was about: the last person I had heard exclaiming “What the Sam Hill??!!” was my grandmother!

        I’ve had better luck with computers: eight years out of my last two Dell laptops.

        It’s sickening how disposable our society has become, especially as inflation has gotten us to the point that $50 is needed to buy what $20 did just fifteen or so years ago.

        Reply
  9. -Nate

    Once again I see just how little I actually know about anything, good thing I can come here to be educated, I wonder if I’ll do anything useful with what I learn .

    “(Besides weren’t many lawn tractors “smooth and fast” compared to an early-80’s Merc diesel?)”

    _NO_ ~ if you think this, you need another Mechanic .

    As far as trailers, gah ~ next to a swamp, never have any god damn window screens, they were rebuilt after having had fires in them ~ living in a trailer makes you very interested in traveling and improving your lot in life .

    -Nate

    Reply
    • Jeff Zekas

      Actually, trailers have an advantage here in Oregon: after so many years, if you put them on your own land, you don’t have to pay the infamous “trailer tax” which the leftist leaders of Orygun charge poor folks. Speaking of cars, almost bought an old MGB the other day. But after years of doing project cars with my sons (’64 Chevy Truck, ’68 Galaxie, Acura Integra) I’m pretty much done with carrying my AAA tow card everywhere. However, I did see a classic Austin Mini the other day which was really tempting…

      Reply
  10. safe as milk

    as to fashion, i stumbled across this jerry seinfeld interview yesterday

    https://youtu.be/YsFItXMCKJk?t=377

    he’s decrying about how bad older guys look in jeans. i’m so dense that i honestly don’t know what he’s talking about. i’ve worn levis 501s almost everyday of my life. sometimes people seriously ask, if they were faded and they had holes when i bought them.

    Reply
    • dejal

      You (and I) probably wear jeans because they are functional and you do not give a …. what others are thinking.

      People like him are wearing jeans (or not ) as a fashion statement.

      Jerry Porsche Seinfeld (if he still is into them) probably has never gotten dirty working on his cars in his life because he probably has never worked on them.

      Jay Leno wears jeans. Jay Leno gets dirty.

      Reply
  11. John Phelps

    This is a widespread problem, younger Americans simply don’t know what quality is. I am in my mid 30’s and grew up in a middle class family; we purchased the same disposable everything that everyone else did. Quality items aren’t accessible to the everyday consumer; you must go out of your way to find quality items, be it clothing, appliances, or kitchen knives.

    The good news is that younger Americans do care about the environment, and one of the most underrepresented ways to protect the environment is by buying high quality goods that won’t end up in a landfill a year. If you have the opportunity to buy a gift for somone under the age of 40 buy them something of exceptional quality, even if it is small, and explain that it is meant to last a lifetime and be repaired if needed. Approach it from an environmental angle and it will hit home.

    Reply
    • Jeff Zekas

      Yep, my 27 year old firefighter son buys at REI Co-op cos everything is super well made, and if it wears out prematurely, you can bring it back. For him, if it’s not up to back country useage, then it’s not good enough to buy or wear.

      Reply
  12. Ronnie Schreiber

    I use my battery powered Ryobi drill a lot more frequently than my 30 year old Craftsman (made in USA). I suspect, though, that my grandsons will still be able to use the Craftsman drill long after the Ryobi fails irrepairably. You think the brushes in the Ryobi’s motor are replaceable? On the other hand, I use lithium-ion tool batteries to run all sorts of DIY projects like my Quilter Microblock in a harmonica case amplifier combo.

    I have an all-aluminum housing Black & Decker circular saw that my father, o’b’m’, bought sometime in the early to mid 1960s. That old stuff used some serious bearings.

    Of course, not everything made in the USA was built to a high standard. Late 1950s or early 1960s RCA tube stereos were not built like McIntosh stuff. Nat Daniels and Earl Muntz are personal heroes to me but a lot of their success was in their abilities to make stuff inexpensively.

    The thing is that while some American made goods cut corners (corrugated cardboard to insulate hot electronics?) much of that old stuff was designed to be repaired, in part because technology wasn’t as good and things broke or needed regular service more frequently than they do now (when was the last time you took a television in to a tv repair shop or had the chassis on your car lubricated?), but also because things like tools and appliances, major purchases in many cases, were assumed to last a long time and were worth fixing.

    When you can buy a 55 inch flat screen tv for $400, is it worth spending money of fixing the two year old 55″ model that cost you $1,000? Still, it would be nice if Samsung, LG et al made replacement parts available.

    Reply
    • Dan S

      A friend of mine in his early 30s recently sent me photos of all the circuit boards on his lcd he’d removed and desoldered the ICs from to test them.

      Wound up replacing a $10 chip and putting it back together.

      Reply
    • dejal

      Check out a youtube channel “Hand Tool Rescue”.

      Canadian guy, doesn’t talk, the video is sped up to maybe twice as fast.
      Takes old power tools and tools even older and makes them look and work brand new.

      Sponsored by evapo-rust. 445,000 subscribers. To watch a guy tear down, clean, oil, paint and reassemble tools.

      Reply
      • Eric H

        I hope you watch AvE.
        A completely ridiculous and totally Canadian guy doing all sorts of good stuff.
        His “BOLTR” (Bored of Lame Tool Reviews) series are great, he starts by disassembling and inspecting the innards of anything people send him or his patreon supporters ask him to buy.

        Reply
        • dejal

          Oh yeah!!!!! I found the “Hand Tools Rescue” guy when he pimped that adjustable HTR wrench. Cool wrench.

          Can’t figure the guy out. He’s obviously very, very intelligent. I think he’s an engineer that came out of the school of hard knocks. His mastery in butchering the English language (which is a put on) is genius. I’ve shown relatives his videos, some think he’s great, others think he shouldn’t swear and boring.

          There’s a guy (from the US or Canada) living in China named Scotty that has a few videos under the “Strange Parts” branding. He ended up in NYC and his doing his video and mentions that one guy doesn’t want his face shown. Also in the video someone is wearing a “Release the schmooe” T-Shirt. Probably this guy.

          The new CNC videos are funny as hell. Where he sticks the USB drive into the Haas and it takes him 4-5 tries.
          Youtube must pay very well.

          I believe he said “There’s 2 kinds of people in the world, ones that can weld and ones that want to.” I don’t weld but I’m fascinated by welding. I found him while researching a Harbor Freight buy. First thing was “Who the hell is this guy?”

          He reminds me a bit of Jonathan Winters and Robin Williams. Their minds never had an off switch.

          Keep your ….. You know the rest.

          Reply
    • Daniel Sharpe

      Ronnie,

      Ryobis new brushless tools are fantastic. I’d imagine that replacing the brushes on an old drill if you could find them might not be worth the time.

      I had a 6 year of plasma tv and the power supply went out. Pulled it apart and found a replacement for about 300 bucks. That’s not worth it to me. I also had a home theater subwoofer where a resistor melted into the PCB on the amp. The amp was 3/4 the price of the whole unit!

      Reply
      • dejal

        I ordered 3 refurbished Amazon Echos and 3 Mr. Beams RF linked lights from Woot (owned by Amazon). Echos looked brand new. 1 Echo had a duff speaker but Bluetooth and the 3.5 jack worked fine.
        1 light was constantly going on and off, which when the other 2 had the same DIP switch setting also went on and off.

        Each time I contacted Woot. I asked them for an RMA for the duff ones.
        “Nah, you keep it. If you get them to work, lucky you. We’ll send new ones out.”
        $20 items with chips on a circuit board are not worth the cost of shipping back let alone someone spending
        more than 10 minutes trying to fix it.

        So, I have echo hooked up with 3.5 jack to a speaker. The light now works, no idea why. The replacement light when I got it also didn’t work, and now works fine. Best I think is the spot they were going crazy at is a couple of feet from a garage door panel with RF signaling. b

        Reply
    • Jeff Weimer

      I had a filter in the “light engine” on my then 7-year old JVC projection tv go bad.The individual part wasn’t sold separately, and the entire light engine itself was over $1k. Bought a larger, 3D, smart, flat tv for that money.

      But I only really needed that $20 (est) part.

      Reply
  13. brawnychicken

    There is a huge underground (sort of) movement of people who are interested in, making, and buying real quality items that are made to last. I see it in furniture every single day. I’m sure it’s happening in clothing and everything else too. There is a rejection of the mass produced junk happening-and it’s going to cost some big businesses a portion, or all, of their business in not too long. The demographic is largely white people with an education, some money-but not rich-and from 35-50 years old.

    Reply
  14. Mike

    I’m trying teach my kids the lesson on quality. Last year I got my oldest a set of cheap Harbor Freight sockets- the $4 set at the end of the aisle. I figured it be something good with which he could learn basic socket wrench use as well as the importance of organization. It took all of three uses before he realized how frustrating cheap tools are. It took a couple months for the plastic tray in the box to deteriorate to the point he couldn’t keep the sockets in place and organized. On his own he snagged one of my extra socket organizers to keep his own tools organized and in place. And this Christmas he hasn’t been able to decide which he wants more, a proper tool set or a good toolbox with drawers so that he can organize his tools better. $4 well spent as far as I’m concerned.

    Reply
    • dejal

      Worst things about socket sets from any brand is the blow-mold cases. I’d say these days H/F sockets and wrenches isn’t that off from Craftsman. That’s because Craftsman wasn’t what it once was and H/F has upped their game. The real old Craftsman tools were the real deal.

      Reply
      • gtem

        I was gonna say, these days anymore, within the class of regular non-professional class tools, the Pittsburgh stuff for the most part is not much different (any different) in many cases, and HF has upped their game with offering a Craftsman-tier no questions asked warranty on a lot of it.

        Reply
        • Gregori Temnykh

          My most used 3/8 inch socket set is from Kobalt, no complaints. But my general take on it is if I’m getting cheap Chinese tools, I may as well save money and buy HF’s Pittsburgh brand.

          I lucked out and found a full craftsman tool chest sitting out by the dumpster at my old apartment building when I first moved out to Indy. Was rolling it back to my rented garage when I realized this thing was heavy and full of stuff (was missing the key to open it). Went on craftsman’s website with the code punched into the lock cylinder, got my replacement key for a few bucks, and uncovered that there was a full 250 piece craftsman toolset inside, still in the bags! My other big score at that apartment was a 5 bike swing-out Thule hitch carrier that someone likewise just set out by the dumpster, same situation: missing the key for the hitch lock. Got the replacement key from Thule, and I had me a like-new bike carrier that normally sells for $550. Always astounded at the kind of things people throw out in the nicer parts of town.

          Reply
    • -Nate

      @Mike :

      Good man, now go buy him a good quality tool box, older Kennedy ones are out standing .

      When I was still working my old rollaways were filled with lots of American made Craftsman tools, inevitably the others who had $30,000.000 (in the 1970’s mind you) Snap On tool sets, boxes et. al made fun of my “Crpasman” tools .

      Of course, when they’d get stuck (often) and I bailed them out, they’d get very angry……

      Just as owning a Ferrari doesn’t make you a good driver, owning fancy tools doesn’t make you any sore of actual Mechanic .

      “The demographic is largely white people with an education, some money-but not rich-and from 35-50 years old.”

      Aw crap ~ that lets me out then .

      -Nate

      Reply
  15. Cliffg

    I will frankly admit that I have no idea what Jack is talking about in his sartorial choices. I did wear a suit back in the old days, and did learn the difference between a nicely tailored suit and junk. I also spent a few decades repairing stuff for a living, some old stuff was good and some wasn’t. I recently had a 70″ tv decide to fail, Sharp had no interest in selling the boards to fix it, so calling a repairman was useless. After about 7 youtube videos figured out it was the main power board. Found one on Ebay for $55, and replaced it. It works fine. So….using modernity to fix modern stuff the old fashioned way – by myself. Frankly that tv is in a different universe than the old Magnavox 25″ I paid an inflation adjusted $3500 for back in 1978. I have found a lot of old stuff is really cool to look at, like my 1955 1/4″ B&D drill. But I only use my Bosch cordless for actual drilling. I have found Kimbers to be reliable and accurate, but I probably wouldn’t try my first 200 rounds with the cheapest ammo/reloads I could find.

    Reply
  16. ScottS

    A great commentary on values and quality that I can deeply relate to. I think having fewer but better things is ultimately more satisfying. The surest way to understand quality is to make things. Even if you are not a highly skilled craftsman having experience in making things provides a frame of reference by which to evaluate nearly anything. I was fortunate to have nearly free reign of my dads workshop growing up and I took full advantage of the opportunity. One of the most useful skills I took away from that is how to keep a knife sharp (I mean truly sharp). This also had the side effect coming to understand blade steel and the fundamental truth that “you can’t sharpen a turd”. There are still opportunities for young people to learn to make things and thus come to understand a few fundamental truths, but these opportunities are coming from the home with far less frequency than in the past.

    I like what these guys are doing. http://www.northmen.com/en/about-us/who-where-and-why

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Excepting stuff that is obviously of-the-moment, such as Sonny Crockett Armani, the most avant-garde of the double breasted coats, and the current soy boy Tom Ford undersize cuts, there is no expiration date for most things. I have a picture of me in a single breasted glen plaid Armani CZ from 1991 and you could sell that suit at q men’s store today. The tie, on the other hand…

      Reply
      • trollson

        I mean out of style in a broader sense. Nobody wears suits anymore. If I bought a nice suit, I’d have nowhere to wear it.

        But maybe that just speaks for my choice of venues.

        Reply
          • trollson

            Is it really cost effective to buy expensive suits worn only for weddings and funerals? In this case, cheap Chinese suits actually make sense!

          • Ronnie Schreiber

            I probably should have added going to church or synagogue, though from images I’ve seen from some of the mega churches, folks dress casually in houses of worship these days too.

        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          I probably wear a coat and tie thirty or forty times a year. Rarely is it absolutely mandatory for me to do so however.

          Reply
          • -Nate

            In 1972, for a brief shining moment weddings only needed clean jeans with no holes, an ironed T – shirt and a careful polishing of my engineer boots……

            Those were the non Hippie weddings, Hippie weddings were strange beyond belief .

            -Nate

  17. sgeffe

    I had a Radio Shack Chronomatic-238 clock-radio that served me well as my water-upper for twenty years, then sat on my desk at work until last year, when the plastic on the front cracked after it got hit with a small rubber ball someone was throwing around! I’ll bet I could find a part for it online, along with the volume control which is nothing but static! (Worn contacts, probably.)

    That thing had a sticker saying to take it back to the nearest ‘Shack for repairs! Could you imagine that now? In the garbage it would go!

    Reply
    • -Nate

      I still have a 1969 Radio Shack ‘Patrolman’ AM-VHF pocket radio that listens to the very few police calls still on VHF, I have the companion one that hears air craft calls too plus my late Mother’s ‘Weather Cube’ from that same time period, all still work fine but use those dang rectangular 9 volt batteries that don’t last long .

      They used to sell good stuff back in the day, I remember when they had used WWII surplus radio bits and bobs back in the 1960’s .

      Going out on a limb here I’m guessing my 25 year old J.C. Penny suits are no longer fashionable even though I now fit them again…..

      -Nate
      (sitting in a $tarbuck$ in Arcadia, Ca. next to a bum who has a new tablet along with his trash bags full of worldly goods…….)

      Reply
      • Jeff Zekas

        Yeah, all the cops here in Eugene, Oregon use encrypted transmissions, so you can’t listen in, like in the old days. Strange how hobos can’t afford an apartment, but always have nice laptops and iPhones…

        Reply
      • Ronnie Schreiber

        The early Radio Shack stuff was decent, but Allied Electronics was the place to get quality consumer and hobby electronics at bargain prices. Now they’re a wholesale electronics component supplier (if it’s the same company).

        Reply
  18. James

    My father is no longer around to advise me on this, so– should I trade in my 230 for an M3, in a few years? Is the M3 a thing of quality, or just disposable garbage with a brand name on it?

    Reply
  19. dumas

    I had to think about this a bit, and I can offer another possibility- that this was a deliberate attempt to remind the “social media influencers” of their place. If a big business isn’t careful, they could end up wielding outsized influence in a negative way against your brand. If you make them look a bit stupid you weaken their influence, without totally taking it away. This way they stay that little bit weaker, poorer, and more dependent on you- a bit like how all those Youtubers got ruined when the big Alphabet changed their payout structure. If an influencer gets a bit too important they might actually be able to do something on their own.

    Also, the old style media groups (newspapers, TV, etc) have an interest in cutting their competition down to size. I think that is part of the reason (among others as you’ve stated) why they glommed onto this story en masse.

    Reply
  20. Dachs

    I am not sure what possessed our humble author to describe Colt as a respectable firm.

    But that highlights the problem we have. There is a non trivial cost of maintaining expertise in all the various subject areas that may be relevant in the future.

    At least our humble author will join us in the pit of mediocrity. He will be better dressed than me. I will be on a soap box talking to myself.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Colt is a nightmare nowadays — I’m talking about the Colt that made Royal Blue Pythons back in the day.

      Reply
  21. Brian

    Some of the ideas in this column are things that should be incorporated in your eventual book. Knowledge that has been thrown away but should be preserved and passed on to future generations before it’s lost forever. I can see the title of that forthcoming book now- “Deep Thoughts” by Jack Baruth…

    P.S. When will we be able to order that?

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I’ve had a book in draft for a long time but what I need is six relatively unoccupied months to write the rest of it!

      Reply

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