Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not expressed in fancy—rich, not gaudy,
For the apparel oft proclaims the man.
—Polonius, “Hamlet” Act 1, Scene 3.
Take a look at the man above. Without even knowing what he looks like beneath his clothes, any man would trade places with him without a moment’s hesitation.
Now consider the man below…
Is he known to be particularly homely or ungainly? Or is he rather known around the world as a top-shelf looker? Would any man not desire to trade appearances with him? And yet now consider the patently hideous visual impact he makes here. Would you boldly stride through public spaces in such a get-up? Would you show up for a job interview, serve a subpoena, or deliver a fine oration? Whatever else may be said about Shakespeare’s Polonius, his advice is sound: Spend all you can afford on clothes, but make sure they’re quality, not flashy, since clothes make the man.
In my experience, sometimes even a single article or accessory can substantially improve the visual impact delivered by one’s appearance.
When TJ saw me carrying around a stack of 120 undergraduate essays on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Plato’s Republic in two paper filing folders, he offered to upgrade me to something better suited to the task. Something that would reflect the importance and prestige of the documents it carries: the StevensLeather Portfolio Document Sleeve pictured above. The difference between the paper sleeves and the leather portfolio was akin to the difference between a paper gown and Cliff Secord’s jacket. I wondered why I had been carrying around pieces of trash. The next day it rained and I had to carry the papers across campus. Had they been in open paper sleeves they would have been soaked. Instead I looked classy, and the papers were dry when I delivered them to the professor. Had they been in the paper folders I suppose I could have carried them under my shirt. I probably wouldn’t have looked specifically bad when I walked into the office. I would have survived. This leather sleeve is not a necessity. But it is sharp.
It is big enough to hold a fairly thick stack of papers (roughly 120 1–2 page essays and Reason and Responsibility edited by Joel Feinberg and Russ Shafer-Landau). It is constructed of a thick, rich, full-grain, hand-cut, hand-dyed, American-sourced bovine leather by a couple out of Saint Albans, West Virginia. The stitching is all done by hand with a thick nylon cord first coated with beeswax. It is basically the nicest portfolio crafted by humankind. With one caveat: the button. It has a nickel-plated snap that broke after a few days of use. The portfolio will likely endure with grace and class for another 100 years without it. The piece still looks and feels and smells amazing. Since they are made to order, I recommend checking back with the artisans before purchasing one to see whether the snap issue has been addressed. We’ll update this article if we hear first.
I am hoping that since I’ll be carrying it by hand it will develop a nice patina fairly quickly, but we shall see. At the end of the day, this item delivers a lot of visual and functional quality for its price. I recommend it for anyone who can imagine a use for it and who likes its overall appearance. See some more pictures or buy it straightaway here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/StevensLeather.