I’ve worn the same belt for over 20 years. In October 2019, I finally decided that the wear on it was enough and it was time to consider buying a new belt.
This was no easy decision as I am fascinated with time and highly value items that are sentimental, things that are part of my past. Before I get to the story of my belt, here are some of the things I wear and why I wear them.
I still have one of my watches from high school that I wore for business. That was recently replaced by my late father-in-law’s watch . The fact that his watch is much nicer doesn’t mean anything to me, it is that the sentimental value of it is greater than a watch I wore in high school. Memories of him are more important than faded memories of high school so my high school watch gets put back on the shelf.
The watch for daily wear is a G-Shock given to me by my then girlfriend, now wife back in 2002. I didn’t wear watches because my mobile phone had a clock and could do so much more. Wearing a watch became pointless to me as a cell phone became a mainstay of my pocket, so I just put the watch in a drawer for 16 years until I considered wearing a watch again in 2018. Everyone was wearing Apple watches, fitness trackers and so I gave watches another thought. I would have bought a Samsung Gear until I realized I really don’t need more pings, notifications, alerts in my life . But then I rediscovered my G-Shock watch. That watch had been with me for 16 years and now had heavy sentimental value. It was part of my past so I put it on and have been wearing it ever since.
A few other items were bought new but were popular in the past. These are my Oakley sunglasses, Air Jordan and Reebok Pump shoes and a jean jacket. I don’t wear these all at the same time otherwise I’d look like I was straight out of the late ’80s early ’90s. I don’t have my original jean jacket or shoes anymore but I do have my original Oakleys. They aren’t in great shape so I had to get new ones of those as well.
Now, lets finally get to my belt. I bought my Versace belt in Besançon, France in the year 2000. I had never owned a luxury fashion item before and stepping into the small, intimate shop somewhere in a modest French town left a deep impression in both my mind and subconscious. I still remember the 30 something owner reaching out to shake my hand and then gently admonishing me as I reached out with my black leather gloves still on. He told me in French how rude it would be to shake hands keeping my gloves on. I quickly removed them, let out a slightly embarrassed smile and apologized. This seemed to do the trick and I was back in his good graces. I had expected the owner of a high end fashion shop in France to be rude and perhaps think I was not worthy to set foot in his shop. With this gentleman it was the exact opposite and I dare say he liked me. It could have been I was one of the few Americans, if not the only one who spoke passable French or it could have been he was gay and found me attractive? Either way I appreciated the hospitable feeling instead of being looked down upon which is what I had expected.
That is the portion I remember from my waking consciousness but I also say it affected my subconsciousness because just in the past year I had a dream of being in a small, intimate, high-end clothier. It was the kind of shop you’d find in London that had been in the family for generations. It was all solid oak and hand crafted textiles stuffed into a claustrophobic, street level space no bigger than a large family living room. Although the arrangement of the suits seemed suffocating, the feeling of being crowded gave way to an intoxication of sophistication and refinement that has been lost in our modern times. They sold mainly suits with brands that are not familiar to the mainstream but that any 1% ultra rich person would immediately recognize. This dream came to me shortly after deciding to stop wearing my beloved Versace belt. Therefore, there is no doubt it was my subconscious releasing a long fermenting mixture of my experience and feelings of a small shop in France from a vault which had accumulated 20 years of dust.
It is interesting to reflect on why some experiences are locked up into extremely powerful memories and some are not regardless of how strongly they affect our lives. The subconscious has its own way of deciding that isn’t really apparent to our conscious mind. All I did was buy a belt but that memory, although 20 years old and seemingly unimportant, remains powerful and even causes me to have dreams. I can’t even think of a similarly strong memory for the past 10 years! In fact, the past 10 years have been pretty much a blur and if it weren’t for this blog I don’t think I would remember too much of it even though the moments are of great importance since they involve my kids. I remember buying a belt more than I do what happened at my kid’s birthdays, or other important milestones. I remember them because I took pictures and video. I did not take pictures or video of buying a belt yet I remember vividly.
There is also another memory I have of France where I bought a product that I keep to this day. It is my Bvlgari Blue cologne and my mind has also stored this experience in its own locker. My sister had come to Paris to visit me and it was bought at a high end department store. It was winter with Christmas lights up on the trees on the Champs Élysées, a nip in the air and a slight dusting of snow on the ground. I had on a Versace jacket, a scarf which I had bought from an elderly gentleman on the Champs-Élysées and the same gloves I was scolded for wearing when I bought my belt. The smell of the cologne department overwhelmed me with intoxicating luxury. The environment compelled me to buy something; a festive Christmas joy was in the air on a cold December and here I was in Paris, with my sister and able to speak French as I showed her around and we visited the shops and restaurants. I wanted to capture that moment, to bottle it up and keep forever on the shelf of life experience. That experience ended up being stored in bottle of the luxurious, soapy scent of Bvlgari Blue cologne.
I’ve long lost that original bottle but it caught my eye a few years ago and once I sprayed the sample the memory of being in Paris with my sister came rushing back to me. That was the cologne I needed and that I currently wear for work.
I speak of these experiences being 20 years old but just saying the number really doesn’t evoke the weight of two decades that it should. Perhaps some examples would help?
Twenty years ago you could walk right up to the gate of an airline and say goodbye or greet friends as they entered or exited the aircraft, there was no security. Back then nobody you knew had cell phones. The internet was AOL and you had to use a PC that was physically plugged into the wall. E-mail was exciting and you were extremely happy to receive anything at all, even junk e-mail.
As for me personally, I was a college student. I did not have a wife and kids. The future was a vast expanse of endless possibilities depending on the choices I was making at the time. I ended up going to Japan, Vietnam and then the Bay but I could just as easily have ended up living in London, France, Spain, or Korea, Mexico, almost anywhere depending on the choices I made then. At 42 years old the vast expanse of future possibilities, which encompassed thousands of paths are now narrowed by some 95%. Those paths open to me at 20 years old are now lost due to age, family, career, responsibility. An example could be as life as a mold of clay. At 20 years old and making good decisions you can mold your life into whatever you want it to be. At 42 that mold has hardened into your own creation. It can no longer be completely reshaped but perhaps added to in some parts and trimmed in others. Although at this age I hear more stories of divorce and the like which is akin to just smashing the mold on the ground although the pieces still remain.
Backtracking a bit I wanted to mention that although I remember my belt (since I wore it everyday) and my cologne, I had completely forgotten about my Versace jacket until I wrote the paragraph about being in Paris above. I was entirely prepared to say I’ve only owned two luxury fashion items in my life but it is in fact three. As I thought about buying the cologne, I strove to remember details about being in Paris so I could write a better paragraph. I tried to remember what coat I was wearing and my mind took me to a picture with my sister in front of the Louvre. It is thanks to that picture I can remember what coat I was wearing and then remembering it was Versace with a neon green interior! That coat has long been lost both physically and to my memories. I now wonder if perhaps I still have it tucked away somewhere although I can slightly recall it being old, faded and perhaps a zipper broken. Or perhaps these are false memories and I lost it in a bar after drinking too much in Spain? I have no idea, but now I’m intrigued as to what happened to that jacket. I think the chances of remembering are slim and finding it even slimmer but now I want to try.
As I mentioned I was completely prepared to say I have only owned two luxury items but in remember the Versace jacket I remember my Dad also bought me a luxury jacket I found on sale in Beverly Hills while we were there for the Rose Bowl in 1998. That one I know I unfortunately forgot in a bar or taxi. Here in America if you lose something there is a 90% chance you will not get it back. This isn’t Japan. Everyone out for themselves here, it is the American way.
OK, aside from the two jackets I lost, the two luxury items were the belt that I bought and a Prada key ring given to me by my wife. Like many women everywhere, but especially in Asia, she really liked luxury products when she was in her college and just after graduation years so had a few things Prada. Anyway, I’ve never cared much about luxury items except for my belt but my keys were wearing a hole in my suit pants and so she had this old Prada key ring she never used and gave it to me back in 2007. I still use it to this day as old, worn and faded as it is, the important thing is not that it is Prada but that my wife gave it to me in 2007. As long as it serves its purpose I’ll use it and when it doesn’t serve its purpose it will go in my treasure box along with my belt and other precious items from my past.
As I said, I don’t care about luxury items. I feel that people who feel the need to flash their expensive brands for everyone to see are making a silly attempt to establish a social order to everyone they meet. They are in effect asking everyone to show them deference because through their clothes show they have money and having money means being more important than those that do not have money. I think that these brands give them a sort of empty confidence and by trying to elevate themselves also make them look down on others. I went to the Versace store in San Francisco once as my Vietnamese buddy really liked to shop there. I remember seeing a fat, old, white guy decked out in Versace complete with the sweater draped over his shoulders and black sunglasses, just standing there in the middle of the store in self-important glory. I could literally feel him looking down on everyone thanks to all the Versace he was wearing.
I learned long ago that true confidence comes from the inside not the outside. Confidence drawn from clothing, the type of car driven and so on crumbles very quickly against even the slightest opposition. The reason is those people expect to be treated extra well because they believe they are better than those they interact with and their clothing should clearly communicate that. So when they face the slightest challenge or criticism most will completely crumble. This is in contrast to one who has true confidence that comes from within. Any criticism or challenge to those with true confidence has the same effect as throwing a pebble at a suit of armor.
As for me my confidence came in waves. In high school it was thanks to wresting. In college and through my 20s and 30s it was being able to speak foreign languages and my world travels. At 42 confidence comes from a life of good choices, being able to provide for my family, having a career I really like and from my experience of speaking with people on a daily basis and being able to relate to almost anyone. Yes, I do still draw confidence from being worldly, speaking languages and yes, even karate but that is because these are things others respect, not necessarily because I’m overly proud of the achievements.
One of the best benefits of having confidence is it allows you to be kind to people even when they are not kind to you. Everyone is trying to make it through this life and I’ve been very fortunate to have the confidence I do. So when I can spread a little cheer simply by calling people by their name, or making small jokes which makes them laugh we are both made happier.
I’ve gone off on a tangent. This post is about my belt and my belt is being retired. Over the years I’ve had the buckle replaced with a cheap one as the original broke and I’ve had it polished a few times by a cobbler. Yes, shoe cobblers still exist and they know how to work with belts as well. But given the wear to the inside where the holes are located I think it is time to move on. Thank you belt for 20 years of holding up my pants and shorts. You have earned your place in the treasure chest.