The Danger of Certainty

I am currently reading a Mark Manson bestseller, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. Full disclosure – I’m not done reading it, but I couldn’t wait to finish it to write about it because I got too excited about one of the chapters. I don’t actively follow his blog, but the book was recommended on some Minimalism forum out there and I thought it’d be an educational read for me, especially as  someone who is interested in letting go of mental and physical clutter. I’m 75% through the book and so far I am not disappointed.

“Certainty” is touted as a good thing in society. We hear nice things like “Believe in Yourself,” “Trust your Gut,” “Be Yourself,” “Be Unique,” “Be You,” “Find Yourself,” and so on. I make these kinds of statements on my blog all the time, because I really do believe in the benefits of personal development and self-confidence, and personal development starts with self-awareness, so I encourage people to create mission statements or celebrate their own uniqueness.  Certainty helps people feel secure and grounded and gives them purpose. Not to mention in a lot of situations, standing up for yourself can be critically important. Hashtag, Rosa Parks.

Truth be told, Manson’s ideas have come into conflict with some of my views. He argues that putting our identity and values on a pedestal breeds narcissism and entitlement, even going so far as to call the assumption that our values are “perfect and complete” a “dangerously dogmatic mindset.” The fact is, when it comes to lofty things like values and personalities and behaviors and tendencies – all those things that make you, you and me, me – well, there is really no “certainty” about them, except that they are entirely subjective and taken to the extreme. Terrorist groups really, truly think that their values are the right thing for society, yet they will do everything, including hurting others, to stick to their values and make their point. They don’t doubt themselves. And that is the problem.

The firmer we hold ourselves to our values and beliefs, the more we are at risk of not allowing ourselves to change them. And we desperately need to allowed to change them, because as humans we are frequently wrong and subject to cognitive biases.

Manson made up “Manson’s Law of Avoidance,” which is:

“The more something threatens your identity, the more you will avoid it.”

That is to say that anything that threatens to change or challenge what you believe in, what values you hold, what you want to represent, how you fit into this world, how you perceive yourself, how you want to be perceived – is scary and uncomfortable. The more protective we are of our identities, the less open we are to the necessary change required for learning and growth. Almost everything we do, say, own, and treat others is in an effort to fit into a our very own, carefully crafted mold. We want to be known to our peers and closest companions as someone who believes this, or does that, or stands up for this, or won’t take that. When we confront a situation where what we want to be is challenged, we fight back with what we are, or what we supposedly are.

Why is letting go of things hard? Why is it so hard to let go of trinkets from failed relationships? Because we consciously or subconsciously incorporate them into our identities and that is how we get stuck with sentimental clutter. Why do we have trouble with falling in love, with big decisions like going back to school, with buying houses, and changing jobs? Besides the magnitude of the consequences and effects on those around us, they are all events that will significantly reshape our identities. Similarly, we’ll have equal or more trouble with falling out of love via breakup or divorce, selling our houses, and so on. It’s even harder to let go of something that has been so ingrained in our identities than something that has the potential to reshape it. So naturally, we put them off or never get around to them.

I’m not trying to say that we should go and pummel ourselves with life-changing events without being thoughtful about them. I am trying to say that we need to understand and adapt to those situations while leaving room for doubt. Nobody on this earth is always right. I am also not trying to say that you should doubt others and have no self-confidence – there has to be a balance, right? Otherwise, what would be the purpose of reading this blog post or having conversations with other people if we’re just going to doubt everyone?

Have the conversations, read the books, and acknowledge that you suck. We are imperfect beings, and we must acknowledge that our thoughts and beliefs are imperfect too.

Review: Kit and Ace Over Time Part 2 (and a note on their customer service)

Since my Kit and Ace posts have been my most viewed posts on this blog thus far, I do want to mention that I am not affiliated with them in any way. I have not received clothes from them for free – everything I’ve tried, I bought myself. All of my Kit and Ace posts on here are 100% free of incentives. That being said, since I’ve been wearing their stuff for almost a year now, I do have a few things to say to help out my fellow shoppers, since their website still doesn’t have a review section.

Durability Issues

In my first Kit and Ace review, I raved about their Noosa tee which they no longer carry. Seeing as I did put their technical cashmere tees through the ringer for almost a year, I have to admit – they are not invincible. Eventually, I’ve gotten small holes and tears from regular use – snags on a sharp object or pulls from getting caught. Comfortable, soft, and stretchy they are; tough and durable they are not. Some of their technical cashmere shirts are so thin they are see-through (particularly their lighter colors), so I’ve been resorting to darker or saturated colors. Miskace, their “brushed” fabric, is a bit thicker, but seemingly less stretchy, and more prone to pilling (interior only).

I will also say that after putting them through the wash a few times, they do seem a wee bit misshapen after a few washes. I’ve only really used their boyfriend fit items so it doesn’t actually matter that much, but an $80 tee should have some resilience. I will say that the same thing has happened with other brands that sell expensive t-shirts (I’ve gotten holes in Burberry tees too), so…price and quality are not always directly correlated.

Recently, I got my hands on their Julian scarf. It was originally priced at $248. Right now, it has been marked down to$78. It is a humongous 100% cashmere scarf that kept me warm in sub 20 degree temperatures. It ended up shedding so badly I nearly used an entire lint roller on the merino sweater I was wearing underneath to get all the fuzz off. Curious about how and why that happened, I did some research on how to recognize quality cashmere, and I decided that there was a pretty good chance that their cashmere was not 2-ply cashmere which is used in more quality cashmere goods. Kit and Ace doesn’t say anything about where they source their cashmere or the quality of the weave. I will say that unless it’s from a reputable mill like one from Scotland, it will remain questionable, so I would stay away from their 100% cashmere items until I get proof that pilling and shedding won’t happen.

Customer Service & Corporate Culture

So far, any time I had a problem with an item, I haven’t had any issues getting an exchange or refund. At the very least, they do seem to want you to be happy with their clothes, so despite their strict return policy, I haven’t had any trouble working with their customer service representatives. Even though they want their clothes back in new condition with tags still attached, the tags have mainly been attached with safety pins, so you don’t need to really worry about cutting tags.

I did read a fair bit about their corporate culture on Glassdoor, and it seems to be a mess. There is a lot of discourse on Kit and Ace’s obsession with “integrity” despite it not being present at a corporate level, and the company doesn’t seem to be performing as well as it had hoped given the recent layoffs and store closings. I do love the basic clothes that they offer, but I don’t know that “undercover athletes” are so fashion-forward as to want insanely wide-legged pants and strangely cut shorts. I love the minimalist aesthetic, but I’m more inclined to value practicality over Lady Gaga-esque fashion-forward, so I tend to be more interested in their basic tees than anything else. I wouldn’t go out and buy anything they sell that isn’t versatile enough for everyday wear.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos to share today, but my point is – be wary of their 100% cashmere items, and always wash their garments on delicate.

Review: How Does Kit and Ace Clothing Hold Up Over Time? (Tried and Tested)

A couple months ago, I wrote a review of several Kit and Ace items that I purchased. My closet consists of a lot of Kit and Ace, but back when I wrote the review, everything was relatively new. My Kit and Ace clothes get worn daily and go through enough battering that I feel enough time has passed where I can give an honest assessment of how they hold up over a few months of daily wear.

So far, not too bad. From A-F, I’d give them a B. Let’s delve into the why.

Quality Issues

There is some pilling – there is no denying it. They been through weekly wash and dry cycles (I always wash delicate cold and low dry), and the insides of my brushed technical cashmere pieces definitely show small pills. The severity can be seen in the photos below. Do I notice it? Yes, the feel is a bit different – rougher, as with anything that has pilling. Does it bother me? Well…yes, the texture has changed and it is less soft. The longer fibers of the brushed fabric pilled more, but the t-shirts pilled too.

Hollis Brushed Long Sleeve

Hollis Brushed Long Sleeve

Noosa Tee - pilling along the collar

Noosa Tee – pilling along the collar

Bottom line: these clothes are not immune to wear and tear. So far, they’ve handled decently, given that I’ve worn and washed them all almost every single week since I got them.

Rosemary Long Sleeve - loose thread

Rosemary Long Sleeve – loose thread and pilling

DSC_0801

Noosa Tee – split/cracked foil

Service Issues

Kit and Ace has to work on their order processing system. All of their returns are manually processed, and while they include the materials you need to easily make returns, you have to email them to obtain a Return Authorization Number that you write on the label. For one of these items, I waited several days for this to happen (which meant that the two week window was rapidly closing), and I had to call them just to get them to email me. I’m not sure if there was some kind of backup or my email fell through the cracks or something else.

There was another scenario in which I requested an exchange because the shirt that I received was damaged in the mail. They told me to return the item and they would quickly send me a new shirt. Excellent. So I did as they told me, and a few days later, I received a return authorization number. Whaa?? I already returned the shirt! Looks like there is work to be done on their front end/back end communication.

Technical Cashmere Variations

I believe they may have also thickened their technical cashmere. I have two of their white shirts and both of them are supposedly constructed with their proprietary technical cashmere fabric (not the brushed variety). The older shirt (Noosa tee) I have is much thinner, to the point where you can faintly see pant lines and bra lines underneath it. The newer shirt with the same white fabric (Dana tee) is thicker and is a brighter white.

Bottom Line

We’ll give it a few more months and see how they go! I hope they’ll last me more than a year.

Psst: here’s part 2 of this post, 7 months later!

Review: Kit and Ace Technical Cashmere Basics

As a techwear enthusiast and fitness junkie, I am an unapologetic fan of “athleisure” clothing.  A minimalist wardrobe should have items that you enjoy wearing, sure – but if you lead an active lifestyle, you will probably also have clothing meant for a specific function, such as yoga pants or cycling shorts. Techwear is clothing that intersects form and function, or fashionable clothing that made of fabrics that are practical and comfortable. Kit and Ace is a new company that is one of the first to recognize this trend and capitalize on it, but because it is so new, there is little information out there on whether or not its clothes deliver what they claim.

Kit and Ace is like Lululemon‘s little sister. The company was founded in Fall 2014 by Lululemon’s former CEO Chip Wilson’s wife, Shannon Wilson, and her son, J.J. Kit and Ace operates similarly to Lululemon. They both have a strict 14-day return policy (tags attached, clothing unworn), free shipping both ways, final sale on markdowns, and distinctive branding. They both license “proprietary fabrics”. Lululemon’s signature fabrics include luon and luxtreme, and Kit and Ace’s products are made of a proprietary fabric blend they call “technical cashmere.” Technical cashmere is marketed as comfortable, machine washable/dry-able, and preshrunk (read: low maintenance). The fabric is “movement friendly,” which means it is stretchy and great for active people. The styling of their clothes is distinctively modern and minimal, with neutrals (white, gray, black, ecru) dominating the palette. Occasionally you’ll see a bright orange or blue thrown in. This makes it easy to mix and match – perfect for capsule wardrobes. The designs are at the intersection of loungewear, casual wear, and for some, workwear.

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