Worn In, not worn out.

There’s a reason why Stevie Ray Vaughan wielded his “Number One” for 17 faithful years.

His iconic Fender Strat, a beautiful mutt of a guitar, improved night after night, show after show. The six-stringed slugger of a guitar withstood the beatings of tours, studio sessions, and even SRV’s own formidable hands. It was the perfect tool. The maple neck and rosewood fretboard soaked in moisture and oils each day, only to dry out and become a more perfect version of itself. The guitar’s solid alder body now brandishes the patina of a piece that worked hard and got better with age. “Number One” is an exemplar of craftsmanship, reminding us that all good things improve with age.

So how does a man choose a Number One?

Whatever his station in life, he needs tools that won’t fail in crucial moments. He needs things that will serve him in the boardroom, courtroom, and even the classroom. These tools should be with him for the long haul and get better with age.

The idiom goes that one should buy the best that one can afford...

But frankly, one can’t afford to buy anything less. As Tony Bennett says, you’ll go broke buying cheap. Cheap tools are meant to break and replace, getting worn out with each use. The cheap messenger bag breaks a strap when you’re racing to catch the train, or that $10 umbrella inverts on the way to an important pitch. But good things are made to last.

My father still uses a ½” Craftsman wrench that’s over half a century old. He knows exactly when to use it and he doesn’t have to waste energy wondering if it will break. It won’t. In his garage is a 150-year-old bench vise that belonged to his grandfather. It’s made of solid steel with over 5,000 lbs of clamping force. It’s a serious tool that works better and better as the decades roll by. The metals soften, the movement smoothens, and the grip tightens.

These are the qualities by which a man should decide which items he needs for life. He should consider materials, design, craftsmanship, and, of course, function. A right-minded gentleman can’t help but apply these truths to the sartorial arena. His clothes are tools of the same vein and reflect his considerations.

His clothes are tools of the same vein and reflect his considerations.

Yet, don’t mistake me for a devout utilitarian. Aesthetics is the essential language we aim to speak with our clothing, and luxury is the cherry on top. But to enjoy the luxuries, such as that pure silk cacao sportcoat you’ve been titillated about, one must have dependable fundamentals for the day-to-day.

Whatever the man’s station in life, his dress communicates his respect for the job, a readiness to perform, and his ambitions beyond it. Cheap pieces just won’t do. In all things, he strives to acquire a level of quality that he knows will perform and age along with him. His clothing should look better with age, as should he.

Better put, Picasso said, “We don’t grow older, we grow riper.” As such, the best things in life get worn in, not worn out.

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