The Montblanc 146, a Ralph Lauren Jumper and an identity crisis

Disclaimer: This post is not intended to offend either the users of Montblancs, nor the wearers of Ralph Lauren clothing, it’s merely my personal musings.

  Don’t fret dear reader, despite the title this blog is not about to turn into some peculiar pen-fashion blog. Anyone who knows my fashion sense can tell you just how bad an idea that would be… Nor is it a review of the Montblanc 146, although if you would like me to do that, let me know.

However, as the title may have given away I do own both a Montblanc 146 and a Ralph Lauren jumper, and somewhat strangely I have a very similar feeling about both of them. Confused? Well I can’t promise it’ll all make sense by the end, but here are my thoughts.

I bought the jumper from a charity shop for £4 (I think they’re normally ~£50) and I bought the Montblanc for £150 from ebay (which might explain why the piston seal has just given up on me). At the time of purchase I had similar feeling about both of them, excitement at the idea of being able to buy something that I could never justifying buying at full price, as well as feeling quite pleased at myself for having got a bargain. In both cases I’d looked at them previously and thought about buying them, but felt the price was too much for me. Crucially however I definitely wanted both the jumper and the 146.

  So what happened next? Well I wore the jumper a few times and was generally pretty pleased with it, it was warm, comfy and about as stylish as I get. The Montblanc wrote really nicely, it wasn’t the best writer in my collection, but I hadn’t expected it to be. In fact it was exactly what I had expected it to be, namely an excellently tuned firm nib. It got quite a bit of use around and about.

But then the next stage. I stopped really wearing the jumper. It was everything it had been before, it wasn’t any less comfy, warm or stylish, but I wasn’t wearing it. Nor had I really fallen out of love with it, I did actually still really quite like it. No, the problem was that it was fundamentally a £50 jumper, even if I had only paid £4 for it. I’m pretty sure this is something that only bothered me, it’s not like people were throwing themselves at me in the street shouting ‘£50 for a jumper?! You lunatic!’ In fact I’m 90% sure no one even gave it a second glance, but the fact remained that I felt a bit silly wearing effectively a £50 jumper, even if no one actually cared. The same thing happened with the Montblanc, although to be fair I think it was less tied to money with the Montblanc and more about the ‘status symbol’ side of things. I didn’t really want the accompanying status, an whilst I’m not sure very many people actually would have recognised that little white snowflake logo, I knew it was there, and that was enough. Although the 146 numbers amongst my more expensive pens there more expensive pens that I use without any kind of self consciousness. It doesn’t look particularly ostentatious, and truth be told I’m not sure how many people would really recognise it as anything beyond a quite nice pen. But despite this on some level you are supposed to know it’s a Montblanc, after all that is a not insignificant part of their brand strategy. I don’t have anything against Montblanc, but as a brand it doesn’t feel very ‘me’ and as with the jumper I just felt a bit silly using it.  I had a few moments of mental conflict, of theoretically liking both of these items and yet not really liking me using them. I guess that’s the thing with aspirational brands, you sort of have to want to aspire to be like the people in their adverts, and that just wasn’t really me.

So is that the end? Well, very nearly. The jumper has actually found a use, I wear it for gardening, and actually it works, for all the original reasons I liked it, but used for something as unglamorous as shoveling compost I feel it loses what put me off wearing it, no one in the Ralph Lauren advert is shoveling compost, but I like gardening, and as such I feel like I’ve reclaimed it for a more ‘me’ like purpose. As for the Montblanc, it’s temporarily laid up with a leaking piston, whilst I work out if I want to send it off to be fixed. Hopefully like the jumper it’ll find its niche where it really just works.

  So there you are, my thoughts, not meant to be in any way a negative reflection on either brands, much less the many people who use and love their products, indeed I like them, I just struggle to use them without having a minor crisis about who I am. To those who use them and love doing so I take my hat off (although it probably won’t be a Ralph Lauren hat).

So what about you, have you ever had a similar situation? Is the  brand something you consider when making a purchase? Does branding ever shape your decision to purchase something? Or do you just think I’m weird and have written about jumpers too much? Regardless let me know in the comments below.

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