A friend of mine explained the purpose of a tourbillon the other day as I admired his Patek Phillipe. It turns out that the tourbillon was originally invented to solve the problem of pocket watches losing time as they lay vertically in a gentleman's pocket. The addition of this constantly moving piece solved the problem of gravity’s effect on the watch's mechanism. Tourbillons are still in use on wristwatches today but serve no real purpose because wristwatches, unlike pocket watches, move around constantly with our wrists (you know - typing, walking, shakeweighting - normal guy stuff).
The vestigial tourbillon has me thinking a lot lately about how we as men buy our clothes. As a salesperson, I've found that men love to get some insider information about the garment they're about to purchase. I often find myself telling a potential client about the usefulness of a patch pocket or how a spalla camicia napoletana shoulder on a suit increases mobility. It's a tried and true method of romancing a product. But lately I find myself bored with it.
Much of our behavior towards the clothing we buy comes from our shame in partaking in something that has often been seen as frivolous. Men tend to make a show of talking about the practicality of suits I sell them and when I juxtapose that against the reactions of the women they often bring with them, I find myself feeling sad for us as men.
I believe it's time for us to shift our perception of our clothing. Men today care more about their appearance than they did ten or twenty years ago. But the concern is mostly instrumental - as a tool to get a better job or some other form of status. But I encourage an enjoyment of the garments we put on our backs just for their inherent beauty.
A ticket pocket on a sports jacket is very much like a tourbillon. It's not all that useful in our modern world - its original purpose was to carry a train ticket for a gentleman traveling to the country for the weekend. But it adds character to the garment and is just beautiful. Likewise a hand finished shoulder is not necessary now that automation makes a clean finish on a shoulder possible but the shirring of a well-laid spalla camicia is simply beautiful.
We live in an era that seems to present us with new threats every day. I personally find it increasingly necessary to pause and admire the inherent beauty of the world around me. I find solace in it. Next time you purchase any type of garment, I'd encourage you to allow yourself to truly engage with the frivolity and beauty of dressing well too.