Guest blog written by Gene Colter.
The item in question is a patchwork vest for kids, available from J. Crew’s “Crewcuts” line for $325. Spotted on a flier ad on a countertop at a train station. Said flier was soon doused in coffee as the result of the classic “spit shot” produced by the person writing this entry.
This is an article of clothing whose economic excesses deserve further examination and perturbation. The two feet or so of material on display in this imported luxury speaks volumes about the reputations of both the retailer who sells it and the parents and relatives who will buy it.
First, the obvious: By definition, junior will get one season’s wear out of this item. One. (If your child can still wear the vest 12 months hence then there are medical problems in your family, and I wish you nothing but the path to good health, and please stop reading now.)
But, foolish blogger, you’re thinking, can’t you understand that this item can be passed down to little brother?
Indeed. Which amortizes its cost slightly – but of course also means that you have taken on the financial responsibility of another kid. So, at the risk of using fuzzy math, you’ve got the price down to about $162. That’ll make a dent in the $200,000 or so the extra kid will cost you through age 18 provided you don’t send him to private school.
Got more kids? Great. You’re really spreading your vest
costs now. But you’ll also need to throw in additional costs. Does mom
work and also run the household? Tack on $500 a week or so for the
therapy sessions she will need and deserve. Figure at least one of the
kids will need same, so that’s an extra grand a week. Marriage
counseling may be in the offing, too.
Three or more kids in the house also means you need to start
depreciating that house value quickly. I estimate that my two boys do
roughly $10K of damage a year to my already ailing New Jersey abode.
With three the house literally would not be standing. (On the plus
side, my likely demise would cause the life policy to kick in, so my
wife and boys wouldn’t have to suffer long.)
Kidding aside, how does a company like Crew justify charging $325 for
an article with planned obsolescence written all over it? Besides the
fact that people will pay the price, it’s a savvy marketing ploy. Crew
boss Mickey Drexler – a great stylist with a gimlet eye for fashion —
knows you can reach both the well off and the aspiring-to-be-well-off
by offering luxury lines. It works. (Until it doesn’t, perhaps because
the brand loses luster. Then there’s an overhaul, at which point the
chief usually moves on.)
But can we really justify paying $325 a pop for our sons to have
something nice to wear for the two or three weekend afternoons they
spend destroying the pile of leaves dad just raked up?