I recently got a job working for a luxury-menswear retailer. When hired, I was told the job was not going to be easy, and would require a lot of studying and garment measuring. “A lot of people who work in fashion think it’s going to be glamorous, but it’s not,” my boss told me. I’ve always been drawn to jobs that have a deep well of information to process. Both coffee and books have the potential to be lifelong pursuits, career and hobby wise, but now I had the opportunity to try something I hadn’t really considered before.
In my job interview, I said that my primary career goal was to learn how to run a small business. Today, I fulfill online orders, manage on-the-floor sales, and accumulate a lot of “product knowledge.” What makes the store kind of funny is that the average price of an article of clothing is $400. Dress shirts run about $200 and all the jackets I like are about $800. This was initially unfathomable for me, but the more I learn about the products, the more I understand how this price point is justified.
One of the more pressing points of my learning is that I’ve never really known how to do laundry. I’ve done it at home growing up, but I was imitating my parents and not really knowing the effect of putting something in the washer and the drier. All I knew was that I had to put my shirts into the washer and then the drier in order to wear them again. Getting nice clothing was a source of anxiety for me because in my heart I knew I might ruin the piece because I just didn’t know the effects of cleaning them.
Fortunately, my job provided some rule-of-thumb insight. “For the majority of garments, cold wash and hang dry is the best thing you can do for them,” my boss told me. “There are exceptions, but typically you want to avoid the drier. Yes, it’s a modern convenience, but it is essentially an oven. When you throw your clothes into an oven, you are going to burn them.” My throat tightened up. The night before I had just thrown a $200 shirt into the drier. I resolved to buy a clothes-drying rack immediately in order to preserve any more shirts that I got from this job.
The more I embark on self-education online in various subjects, whether it be fashion, coffee, or robotics, I’ve noticed that it becomes important to make sure that your sources are credible. With footwear, there is a huge online community of people who geek out about the craftsmanship behind shoes, however a lot of self-proclaimed experts are charlatans. Misinformation runs amok, and part of my job as a retailer is correcting customers when they’ve been told a lie on the internet. The way around this is to either be very careful and picky about your sources, or to have an experienced expert guiding you through the maze of information.
Without a strong foundational knowledge connected to a credible source, self-education is risky. School and life has taught me to question everything I see, from movies to the New York Times to my Google Search results. My dream was that the internet would make self-education a breeze, though I’m learning that it still requires meaningful connections to your community. Trusted knowledge helps bridge the gap to more true knowledge. Theories must always be tested and sources must always be cited. And laundry should be carefully considered and respected.