Zach Stone on Ownership

"When Grant asked me to do this, I was initially hesitant on several accounts. First, I am a proud man, and talking about stuff does not jive with my vision of my own masculinity.1 Secondly, blogging about stuff is, in my experience, the quickest way to be dissatisfied with what one does have. As I have ruminated over his request- a post about clothing and spirituality/morality/ethics- I recalled two poems about clothing by an old friend. In one he contemplates a series of possessions passed down among the men in his family: a watch, a hunting, coat, etc. In another he realizes he just purchased his final overcoat, i.e. the last one he will need before dying, and asks when he will be on to pencils and paper clips. In both cases 'stuff' served as an anchor for memory and meaning. To borrow an idea from an older friend and mentor, T.S. Eliot, stuff can function in our lives the way an 'objective correlative' operates in a poem.2 This is, of course, the basic premise of wedding/engagement rings. In short, emotion and memory are funny beasts. While inanimate objects do not have memories per se, the force of human memory invests them with significance derived from the experiences they facilitated.

And now I arrive at my boots. I've written about my Red Wings before. Since January 2010 they have seen 12 countries, sat at high tables, climbed mountains, stomped through snow, gone to weddings, served as a pillow, and generally done everything.3 I am not, though, here to celebrate their versatility in some paean or exhortation to purchase. Rather I wish to consider our relationship. I remember lacing them in the dark to slink out of bedrooms I didn't belong in. I see a scar on the right heel- filled in with polish- from a barbwire fence I jumped to tell a girl I loved her. I see the worn down heels from the cobbles and pavements of Oxford and Italy. I see the badly scuffed toes, wear still visible beneath the buffing, of the volcanic rock of Mt. Esja. When I lace them up I remember wearing them from London to Istanbul last winter. The little flecks of mud remind me of the happiest walks of my life in the hills between London and Oxford. Their burnished sheen reminds me of a mother who loves her son too much to let his boots go to ruin. Even their label recalls a city that just won't die even though the whole world is trying to kill it.4 My boots are nothing special themselves; rather they have walked with me through two of the most significant years of my life. Periodically I see other boots that I think look nice, but really, I wouldn't trust them. The last few years have been a season of risk taking and growth, if at times painful. I have bounced between countries, jobs, and houses. And yet each morning starts about the same: tea, tea, tea, lace up the boots and get to work. Contentment, I have found, comes not from having the right things but deciding to really own that which one does possess. Ownership is a daily choice to embrace that which is in front of you rather than seek escape in the desire for that which might be better. It may be silly to try and fasten such a 'big' idea to a pair of boots, but really, that's the whole point of ownership: 'to give to airy nothings local habitation and a name.'5"

-Zach Stone

[1] 'stuff' may be construed to include experiences, though this post will generally focus on clothing/fashion

[2] T.S. Eliot, 'Hamlet and His Problems,' read here:

[3] America, England, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iceland

[4] Detroit

[5] William Shakespeare, Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 5, Scene 1.