If you've spent any time at all on style forums, you've most likely heard someone exclaiming that they can’t wait to “destroy” or “beat the shit out of” a certain item. They're usually referring to things that get better with age – leather shoes, a canvas bag, or raw denim, for example.
Their plans for this destruction include methods like using sandpaper to achieve fades on a pair jeans, taking a pair $500 Alden Indie boots for a strenuous hike, purposely leaving clothes in the backyard to become sun-faded, etc.
What they're after is a well-worn, loved look, but expediting the aging process often results in making the item at hand appear neglected and sloppy.
Instead, the focus should be placed on using the item as often as possible, for its intended purpose, and caring for it to increase its life span. This is the correct way to achieve a rich patina.
The formula is simple. Use + Maintenance + Time = Patina.
Why do we like apparel with a little wear?
Our brains tend to gather information to make certain quick assumptions about the world around us, saving us from wasting time on all that pesky, intensive thinking. So when we see a pair of obviously broken-in, but well cared for shoes for example, a few conclusions are drawn.
The person wearing those shoes really loves them. Why?
Well, they must be really comfortable or else he wouldn’t have worn them often enough to bring about their current state.
They must be of high quality (and probably expensive) or else they would've fallen apart by now.
If any repairs have been made, you know they’re good, otherwise the owner would've just tossed them in favor of a new pair, as is par for the course in our throw-away society.
The polished toe shows that the owner still takes pride in his old possession and the fact that the item is still in rotation shows that its design is timeless.
All of these assumptions are made without any effort on our part, leaving us with a sense of admiration towards that certain item.
On the other hand, when we see brand new items, we don't know or can't make the same conclusions.
Maybe they’re junk and won’t last through the season. Maybe it was an impulse buy and the owner is unsure about the style or function. Whatever the reason, the item hasn't earned its spot as a wardrobe staple.
So we don't have the same reaction to new clothes.
And then there are the new items that have been obviously manhandled and abused in an attempt to emulate the effect of long-term love and use.
Can you fake patina?
Intentionally destroyed clothes versus those with well-earned patina can be viewed liked a sun tan. A real tan represents a life of fun and leisure, instantly recognizable, desirable, and unmistakable.
While a streaky, orange tan from a bottle punches you in the face at first sight and screams “I'm trying extremely hard and failing miserably!”
So do yourself a favor, stick to the formula (Use + Maintenance + Time = Patina) and enjoy the journey. Any attempt to manipulate a variable is sure to lead you to fake tan territory. Steer clear, my friends.