Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Feelin' Rich: The Tale of Two Irish Tweed Suits

In the early 80's my husband and I traveled to Ireland. Man, the dollar was strong!
It was a great vacation on a modest budget; one of the highlights which we still gleefully recall was our trip to Kevin & Howlin, a famous tweed purveyor in Dublin. My husband loves Irish tweed jackets - university style dressing and very practical. In those days, especially in Great Britain, central heating was not the norm, and those tweeds really kept people warm. They travel well without wrinkling and wear like iron. They are far less common now that heating is pretty much taken for granted, both indoors and in cars, and men have switched to three season suits, but they are still classic.
We were delighted by this quaint, beautiful store and the inventory wowed my husband. And the prices, when converted to dollars, were really cheap.
He happily tried on a suit off-the-rack and discovered - to his astonishment - that while all his American-bought suits required extensive tailoring, the Kevin & Howlin tweed fit him perfectly.
He was so pleased.
I then said something really transgressive, at least in the sober, frugal, financially disciplined (and somewhat withholding) culture in which my husband was raised:
He looked at me with a degree of disbelief. But he considered my suggestion, and proceeded to follow it. The two suits together cost a bit over $200. He wore them weekly for over a decade, and when the pants went, he still enjoyed the jackets. One would have been great. But the second was really over the top.
Of course if we hadn't generally been frugal, this wouldn't have seemed like a big deal. In our case it was a paradigm breaker. (And not replicable. With the dollar in the basement relative to the British pound, and Irish tweed increasingly rare, this is not to be repeated, alas.)
But at that moment in time for an extra $100, he could purchase a second perfect suit. Having the second was utter luxury, like winning the lottery. Indeed we felt very rich.
Thus ends my second of my Feelin' Rich stories.

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