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by David Isle

“The best part of making love is the walk up the stairs,” as someone - probably Oscar Wilde, all the best quotes are his - once said. Or perhaps many times said - despite the aphorism I’ve begun with here, Wilde seemed to delight in repetition nearly as much as anticipation. In any case, the quotation captures beautifully the deliciousness of wanting and the comparative banality of having.

If human emotions reach their pinnacle in Wilde quotations, they finally die a grisly death in the academic journals of economics.  Economists were among the last humans on earth to detect (I can’t even say “experience”) the joy in eager expectation, and have given it a name in their own language: “anticipatory utility” (I am still waiting for some heroic pedant to correct this misusage of “anticipatory”). One implication of anticipatory utility is that if you like waiting for something, you should do it for as long as possible. In other words, you would like to find out about good things that will happen in the future as soon as you can, so that you will have something to look forward to.

Why hash this out on a clothing blog? When you buy something off the rack, you get all your thrill of acquisition packed into one transaction. Your walk up the stairs is alarmingly short.

But there are ways to add steps. 

One of the reasons I enjoy the bespoke process so much is that the acquisition is tasted gradually - first the vague vision of a new jacket in the mind’s eye, then the selection of fabric and details with the tailor, then a fitting or two as the plaything becomes more and more fully realized, then the final transformation of imagined artistry into living Galatea, that you can carry home and live with happily forever after.

Some tailors are even so acutely aware of this psychological effect that they extend the waiting process for longer than originally planned. They may even themselves delight in teasing their clients, Sirens singing to mast-bound Odysseuses of the jackets nearly finished, only needing buttonholes. This is the true bespoke experience.

Pre-orders are a happy compromise between the quick hop up the stairs of buying off the shelves and the stumbling climb up the bespoke mountain. In the case of the zip wallet pictured above, you can ruminate on your favorite swatch color, then savor the next few months while your new wallet is made by hand in the mountains of Spain.

Of course a truly evolved customer may be able to convince themselves to expect something that isn’t actually coming, thereby enjoying the walk up the stairs for free. But this strategy must have its limits, as you can only fool yourself for so long. As the great philosopher George W. Bush once said, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…you can’t get fooled again!” Besides, even if Wilde is right and the walk up the stairs is the best part of making love, sometimes the rest is pretty good too.