What changed? Well, everything changed.

A man hasn’t got a corner on virtue just because his shoes are shined.” – Ann Petry

All this talk of fashion reminds me of a wonderful tour I was given of the John Lobb workshop in Paris, prior to its move to the rue de Mogador. If you haven’t heard the name before, John Lobb has been making some of the world’s finest shoes and boots since 1866 (http://www.johnlobb.com/heritage/). John Lobb was acquired by the Hermès Group in 1974 and their bespoke creations are wearable works of art.

Prior to the industrial revolution, bespoke tailoring, boot and shoemaking was the norm. Every outfit and every pair used to be made to fit the individual, highlighting assets and downplaying liabilities. Then came the industrial revolution and its machines and factories transformed an industry filled with artisans and craftsman.

Powerloom, Image by Wikipedia

The novelty and economics of “machine made” created an enormous splash, whose ripples continue to lap upon the shore of the pages of current fashion history. Everything could be made, cheaper, more quickly and for more people. What changed? Well, everything changed.

I recently spoke with a haberdasher about his experience with new clients who have never before tried custom-made clothing. He told me an interesting story about a man he had worked with the week before who never really liked clothing as his height and weight made it impossible for him to buy anything off the rack that fit properly. When he realized he could have clothes made to not only fit, but complement his frame, he was overjoyed. It was if a veil had lifted in his experience and with it went pounds of shame, embarrassment and discomfort that he had lived with all his life. He went from prisoner to proprietor. What changed, everything changed.

I’ve enjoyed seeing a resurgence of bespoke artisans – tailors, boot and makers and the like – in the wake of the industrial revolution. Unfortunately the cost of having clothing or footwear custom tailored is too high for most, but there are ways to complement your size and shape. It takes little research and a bit of practice, but men and women can find clothing that will improve their appearance on any income. You needn’t spend a fortune to find ways to magnify your virtue through wise clothing choices.

I spent an hour or so speaking with the various artisans in the John Lobb atelier, and to my surprise just about everyone I met had been working there for at least twenty years! They were proud of their craftsmanship, protective of their art and confident in their skill. All of them felt honored to do what they were doing and wouldn’t trade their craft for the world.

Compare that with the experience of most factory workers in today’s textile mills and you get a closer view of the changes wrought by the industrial age upon the loom of humanity. It is a starkly different texture. Progress? Well, I’m not so sure.

Forgive me for prying, but what in your world do you allow to imprison you? Your clothing is but one possible jailer, but what of your diet, your outlook, your friendships, your lifestyle? In my view far too many people live their lives in prisons of their own making. How do you break down these walls? Well, at first you must learn to be comfortable in your own shoes.

You have to be willing to get to know yourself as you are, here and now. Come to rest in your limitations and you will soon be free from your limitations. From there you can find those resources at your disposal that will best complement you as you now are. Moving onward and upward from there is easy!

If your experience is anything like mine was, when you come to rest with yourself the first question that will come to mind is “What changed?” To which you will naturally respond: “Well, everything changed.”

Have a great day!

11 thoughts on “What changed? Well, everything changed.

  1. Lydia

    I feel like I have been 4 or 5 different people in my lifetime. When I look at what was the impetus for the “new” me it was usually that I had let myself out of some kind of constriction in my views. I have found the biggest oppressor in my life has been me. Let freedom ring!!!
    Great post today and yesterday. Congratulations on getting Fresh Pressed.

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  2. Joshua

    Thanks Gregg, for summing my experience of late as I center my concern in what your post has provided, I wasn’t so certain what had changed….besides my perspective and vision, therefore everything…and this is continuing to happen, thanks to your provision, and some seemingly new eagerness for change.
    Filling my shell of limitation to overflowing is a great habit to engage in, thanks for the wise & encouraging reminder!

    Congrats on freshly pressed!!!

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  3. I keep thinking of getting some bespoke shoes, but somehow, there’s always a jacket or suit to commission first… 🙂

    The modern artisan is, I think, a different beast in some respects to the artisan of old. Colin, above, touches upon this difference: the modern artisan is held in greater regard and there is more choice about what trade (or profession) to go into.

    I would suggest that it is industrialisation itself that permits this greater regard for the artisan. When everything is hand-made, what added value can it possess? It is only when everything is machine-made that the hand-made become precious.

    Romantic notions of artisanal blood, sweat & tears being poured into the work, the extra labour time and cost, the concept of individualised fit… these are only so valuable to some in the modern world _because_ so much of what we produce cannot, by nature of the method of production & pricepoint, have them.

    However, they are a very pleasant indulgence and the better fit and comfort that bespoke offers (when done right, in the hands of good tailor, or cordwainer) cannot be argued with and for me, is worth the price.

    Mind you, in the hands of a less able maker, the product can potentially be dire, and worse than standardised mass production.

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  4. Isabelle Kearney

    That’s an interesting thought – be free in your limitations. It makes more sense than fighting them or giving up. In my experience, when you see what is right in any situation, it helps you to be more creative, which is freeing!

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  5. Colin

    I find it interesting that the bespoke shoemakers of today love the craftsmanship of their job, but factory shoemakers are thought of as underpaid sweatshop workers. I wonder if the pre industrial revolution craftsmen loved their job as much as today’s craftsmen do? I bet some did, but probably not all of them. The difference between them being whether they let their circumstances (their profession) be a prison, or whether they took so much pride in the details of making the perfect shoe that they loved their job. Like you pointed out, you can let your limitations be a prison, or they can be your new beginning. Thanks!

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    1. There is no need to turn back the dial, but it is important to look carefully at the assumptions we’ve held relative to progress. I’m all for progress as long as its direction is true to its name.

      Far too often regression is confused with progression in the process of incremental change and the net result is nothing more than needless suffering. It’s worth asking “what assumptions am I holding that are preventing me/us from truly moving forward” on a regular basis.

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