Commentary, Philosophies

Ideal Craftsmanship

I’ve been obsessed for a while now with an outdoor goods company called Best Made Company. The enchantment is owed as much to their unobtainability (the products themselves are quite expensive) as it is to the allure of the products themselves. The pictures of each product allude to their quality, not just in product design but in aesthetic. But the question is, what pulls us in about goods like this? What is it about an aluminum, red first-aid kit with a lower case “x” in the middle that gets is hooks in us, rendering consideration for price and competing products a trivial conversation next to their intrinsic gravity?

The answer has to be price. I mean come on, it’s a simple formula: an attractive product with a prohibitively expensive price = instant purchase from anyone with some room on their credit card. We’re creatures who love our exclusivity. We demand exclusivity to the point that even validation of our tastes can result in a dulling of the sheen our objects of affection emanate. We find confidence in our selections especially when no other being in our social circle makes the same selection.

But that doesn’t work. I mean, the first thing I do when I check out the Best Made Co. website is search for affordable options; things I can justify purchasing to myself. I don’t need a $490 set of nautical flags, nor do I need a $300 axe. I don’t find these items any more appealing because they would empty my bank account, that’s just simply not the case.

Well then it’s gotta be the fact that I don’t own these things already. Grass is always greener, always. I don’t currently own a decent first-aid kit, so why not get an attractive one? I don’t own a jug of maple syrup, so I need one. Even if I have one stocking cap, this one is different. Different color, different material, different feel. It’s just different okay? I need it because it’s different and that has to be better.

But even typing that feels ridiculous. I take one look at that stocking cap and think “nah, I already have a stocking cap that’s functional and stylish, I’m good.” Similarly I just can’t add a set of playing cards to my cart, pay shipping, wait several days, and then use them if I can just drive to the grocery store and get the stupid things while finding out the top 50 ways to please my man. Onward and upward.

Presentation. Presen-fucking-tation my friend. Just look at the website for Christ’s sake. Well designed, attractive, the products laid out nice and cleanly, no attempts to hint at a lifestyle you could or could not possess. The imagination can run wild, project, hold the damn ram’s horn cups, fly the hand-made American flag. The whole catalog is my oyster, laid out cleanly and neatly, inspiring confidence and coolness, practically beckoning me into its beckoning arms. (beckoning)

No. No. And no. No. The website is gorgeous, yes. Even the design of the basic products is alluring, but I haven’t made a purchase solely based on a pretty pitch since that dating website claimed that Natalie Portman lived in Des Moines. I enjoy the colors but I don’t feel compelled by them the same way that I do by a Wal-Mart bargain, and we all know that nothing pretty happens at Wal-Mart.

So what is it? What allows me to accept higher prices as reasonable? Unpossessed products as worthwhile goals? A perfect presentation as an accurate description of the goods themselves?

The answer, is honesty.

You see, Best Made Co. is a rare thing in our society. The goods, as you can see by this video, are handcrafted by American laborers. Their quality is unmatched, the spirit imbued in their creation is passion. The website gives pictures of goods, a price, and nothing else unless requested. No spin up front.  Further information is available upon request, but even the information given is a simple description.

For that reason, prices are higher because they deserve to be, they are not lower because of over-farmed land. The location of their creation is known and their customer service team is a group of indivduals with real names, not Peggy in Turkmenistan. There is no pre-amble or editorializing upfront, the antithesis of a contemporary news cast. Their quality is intrinsic to the products themselves by way of manufacturing, thought, and intent, the same way that NPR considers time-honored journalistic principals when reporting political events and your loved ones tell you how wonderful you are to them instead of forcing you to assume and rely on yourself.

The heart of it is that heart counts. Shiny ideas, expensive cars, and well-drawn powerpoints can only do so much; it is only the opposite intersection of all our contemporary marketing fool’s gold that makes an idea worth listening to, a product worth purchasing, and a smile worth sharing.


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