This week, a reader sent me an e-mail asking me about cashmere:
It reminded me of a dinner I had 4 years ago.
We sat down. The sommelier poured us wine while our server brought out a single plate with a shot glass for each of us. It was filled with pea soup. It was a shockingly vibrant green.
I took the shot.
It was smooth, no grain or bits of pea in sight, and had the most concentrated intense pea flavor. Slightly sweet, with the perfect amount of savory you expect from a pea soup. Except, it was like no other pea soup I’ve ever had.
It was one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten in my life.
My girlfriend and I were at Aldea, a Michelin star Portuguese restaurant in New York City, just off of Union Square. We were celebrating our 1 year Anniversary.
Neither of us had ever had experienced a tasting menu before. Nor have we ever experience the work of a Michelin star chef.
ALDEA’S TASTING MENU, WITH WINE PAIRING, IS $220 PER PERSON
Not the most expensive tasting menu, but more than we’re used to. But consider one of our favorite meals to splurge on is Shake Shack on the weekends.
I could sit here all day and tell you how delicious the dishes were. How the wagyu beef melts like butter on your tongue. How the staff brought out three extra desserts for us to celebrate the occasion.
But it’s not going to really give an idea of what it’s like to experience quality on another level. Nor will it convince you that it’s “worth it”, at least with confidence.
Seeing a picture of a common looking cashmere sweater that’s 6x the cost of other cashmere sweaters can be shocking and confusing. Probably even offensive.
Looking at a $200 menu of tiny plates of food evokes the same feeling in a lot of people. It certainly did for me just a few years before our dinner.
Since our experience at Aldea, my girlfriend and I have fallen in love with tasting menus. We don’t do it often, but after that meal we both left with an understanding.
I stopped being offended or shocked. I “got it”.
This is the important lesson about quality and luxury. It has to be experienced first hand to be really understood.
Whether or not Thom Browne’s cashmere sweater is worth it is something I can’t answer now, as I’ve never handled it in person. It would be a mistake for me to assume it’s high quality because it’s Thom Browne. But it’s also a mistake to assume that it’s only expensive because it’s a name brand, and not because it’s extremely high quality.
The Essential Man is about looking your absolute best. A huge part of that is developing an “only the best” mindset. I stand by my recommendations. Whether they’re $12 socks from Uniqlo or $400+ shoes from Common Projects, because I only recommend things I have first hand experience with.
I want to challenge you. Especially if you find a lot of designer clothes costs shocking.
Next weekend head out to a clothing store that’s a bit out of your budget. Even uncomfortably out of your budget. Whether that’s Barney’s, Bergdorf’s or something local. You don’t have to buy anything, just try a few things on. Feel material. Talk to the salesperson. Take that shot of pea soup.
Then headover to H&M or an outlet store and try on something similar.
You don’t have to buy anything. You might even come to the conclusion that no, a $1500 Thom Browne sweater is not worth it. But challenge your assumptions. Dig deeper. So long as you are pushing yourself for the best, because this is the type of reader I want for The Essential Man.
I’d love to hear about something that used to shock you that, once you experienced, you “got”. Leave a comment below.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes/images:
(p.s. Yes, I’ll be checking out Thom Browne cashmere sweaters in person very soon. I have, however, experienced Elder Statesman before and their cashmere is amazing. Definitely better than stock J.Crew cashmere.)