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How to buy luxury: Notebooks

31 August 2008

Those familiar with my How to Buy Luxury series will remember that I have a few straightforward guidelines for buying luxury effectively. (Here luxury will be defined as whatever is just beyond the top end of your budget – go on, be a little irresponsible!) Those guidelines are: buy quality, buy classic and buy everyday.

Taking them in reverse order, whenever a man is considering spending a lot of money on an item he should consider how often he will use the item, how likely he is to go off it and how much it will repay the investment over time.

It’s worth buying a really expensive pair of brown leather shoes if you will wear them both casually and formally, if they are a simple, classic design unlikely to be affected by the vagaries of fashion, and if looking after them will make them last years and years.

For a man, this is most satisfying because it makes you feel you’ve got value for money. Not for you the seasonal fripperies of the new hot handbag. You invest; you spend your money wisely.

My most recent acquisition in this category was a good leather notebook. Now, in order to fulfil the luxury tests, this had to be a notebook that could be refilled. Otherwise it was unlikely to last more than a few months. It also had to be a notebook that I would use at work and at home, to ensure I would get maximum use out of it. So it had to be a little conservative, suitable for business.

Not many places do luxury stationary, and most do not offer refillable notebooks. The real top end is ludicrously expensive – Smythson, for example, has some really gorgeous writing folders in chocolate crocodile skin (sounds tasty, doesn’t it?). But they start at £280. That’s a little too irresponsible.

Eventually I found the solution: the Hermes Ulysse notebook. Hermes was not one of my first ports of call. I assumed most would be in the Smythson price range, and indeed the agenda covers start at £195 and go up above £400. But Ulysse notebooks are cheaper because they are simpler – just one length of leather that the refills snap onto. Full price is £125. In the summer sale, £85.

That’s still a lot for a notebook. But it is something I will use everyday at work, every weekend at home and for notes when I am travelling. Indeed, the advantage of the snap-in refills is that you can easily swap around different pads of paper for different uses. It will be blank when I’m travelling, for sketching as well as writing, and lined for notes at work.

Great quality, classic (dark brown, not the green illustrated) and everyday. The pleasure it will give being taken out in meeting after meeting will quickly make it value for money. Just like the fountain pen, just like the briefcase it sits in. That’s how to buy luxury.