Pants & the Steadfast vs. Hot-Swap Component

A few years back (turns out almost exactly 3, now that I look), a post on snarkmarket proposed a cool way of thinking about “stuff”, drawing a distinction between “components” that are steadfast and those that won’t really last. The talk in the post was about media devices and the danger of buying a “TV” that locked you in with some set of services or other tech stuff that might be quickly made obsolete. The plea was for a “dumb” screen instead – something that could just show a good picture, and be swapped in with whatever particular content device or source might become the new norm (Apple TV, Mac Mini, cable box, etc.). We were looking for our first flat panel display at the time (I think!) so it resonated.

Then, interesting design-y guy Frank Chimero dropped into the comments there with a reformulation and expansion of the original distinction, arguing that we should think of objects as “steadfast” vs. “hot-swap”. Steadfast, as you would expect, are things that last and can serve as the foundation for a system. Whereas hot-swap items come and go, and can be plugged in and removed “without shutting down the system”. I find it a useful way of thinking about the stuff you buy and own and how to prioritize where the money is spent on quality and utility. In terms of computing/tech stuff, for instance, Chimero thought of his external display, keyboard and mouse/trackpad as “steadfast” and a laptop as increasingly “hot-swap”. In the age of cloud storage, the App store and Dropbox, laptops can actually come and go without much bother (putting aside the issue of *cost*).

Chimero also used the example of clothing, thinking of shoes, pants, coats as steadfast and t-shirts, shirts and ties as hot-swap. I’m with Chimero on the shirts, socks and underwear as hot-swap (how could one be otherwise, really?). But this is the (micro) dilemma I currently face: are pants really steadfast or are they hot-swap? As part of my ongoing wardrobe renewal and simplification – broadly organized around what seems to get called the “capsule wardrobe” model (and likely the focus of another blog post) – I’ve settled on having a few pairs of grey chino-type trousers for work. Almost any dark shoes will work with these, as will black or dark socks as well (so I don’t have to buy tan/light socks), and any number of sweaters. There are now a number of interesting trouser options out there from a variety of these small-batch boutique-ish producers (e.g. Bonobos, Outlier), ranging from premium prices (~$100 retail) to crazy expensive. Outlier, for instance, makes some pants that would seem to be super durable and “steadfast”…but they are $240 a pair! My current candidate for the hot-swap pant is the Uniqlo “vintage”(?) chino, which can be had for $40. The Producer from Express is about the same….and can be had on eBay for anywhere in the $15-20 range. Even if they only last two years, it’s hard to not consider pants as a hot-swap component.

So, there you have the first post for 2014, and it’s about pants – albeit with a useful distinction about “components” and such. Again, though, if the point is to get some words (any words) out there, this will have to do for now!



One thought on “Pants & the Steadfast vs. Hot-Swap Component

  1. Consider the possible endpoint before committing to this approach. I will use myself as a bad example to heighten the fright factor.
    I am pretty much doing what you are suggesting for pants. I’ve got it down to a science or should I say I have achieved steadfast status for pants. I have three colors: navy, grey and tan. I have found that Eddie Bauer makes a quality that will last two years and can cut to custom length which I need IF I order on line. So now, I can wait for the increasingly frequent Eddie Bauer sales and order. Voila! No more actual shopping! And in case I can’t figure out which pants are the two year old ones (maybe could be called “cold swap”) they even have a code printed right inside as to their production date!!
    The endpoint: you could have the same dressing style as a guy who can now collect Social Security… You can avoid going into stores where you might get distracted by new styles… Is this a happy outcome?
    And since you are a college professor you could even buy a brown Harris tweed sport coat, and when the elbows wear out in about ten years, you can put those lovely suede patches sewn on and pretty much cruise on in all the way to retirement with a highly steadfast coat. And it is culturally appropriate for your social milieu, or at least a former generation of college profs. Just use the term”mid century Classic” when referring to your style, and claim retro- chic status points.
    In summary: frightening .
    Beware this pathway.

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