Editor’s Note: As a collective, the Gear Patrol staff is a wealth of knowledge about products — everyone is an expert in his or her own right. Of course, every story we publish is a testament to that. In our personal lives, we pursue our product passion too. This series is our way of showcasing and sharing our insights on products we inpidually endorse and love and own. Our hope is that you enjoy it all — and perhaps discover something new as you meet our staff over the next few weeks.
Among all life’s many clichés, you’ll often hear “you get what you pay for.” Frankly, I’m not buying it. There are plenty of conspicuously overpriced products out there, as well as products whose overwhelming quality and value seem to greatly outpace their actual price tags. My consumerist modus operandi is to seek the latter. Usually, that means buying vintage or used (as you’ll see is the case with a couple things on this list), but it also means staying informed on brand-new products or using simple trial and error until you find the thing that works. Every now and then, of course, you can afford to give yourself a little leeway to impulse-buy a retro video game.
Uniqlo Supima Cotton T-Shirt
When t-shirts start costing over $30, I get fed up with the whole “elevated basics” thing. I now own over a dozen of these t-shirts because they’re soft and continue to hold their shape even after almost two years of wear. I don’t think you can ask more of a $10 t-shirt.
New Republic Houston Chelsea Boot
This pair of suede Chelseas from Mark McNairy’s affordable, direct-to-consumer line, New Republic, has to be one of the most insane deals in footwear. While cheap shoes generally end up looking and feeling cheap in person, these boots really do look every bit as handsome as they do online, and they’re some of the most comfortable shoes I own.
Layrite Matte Cream Pomade
I’ve jumped between a couple different styling products, but so far this hair cream from Layrite is the clear winner. I have thick, wavy hair that’s difficult to keep in shape, but this keeps a solid hold. Application is easy, and there’s no dryness, stickiness or any kind of residue. It also smells like cake.
Ikea LISABO Dining Table
When Ikea’s LISABO table series won a Red Dot Award in 2016, it proved to snobs what many people have known for years: Ikea makes some genuinely exceptional shit. Aside from the fact that you can assemble it tool-free in about 90 seconds, the design and finish are fantastic for what is ultimately a $150 dining table. Family heirloom? No. But for your first adult apartment, I challenge you to find anything better for the money, short of a miraculous vintage find on Craigslist.
Knoll Pollock Executive Chair
Speaking of miraculous vintage finds, I scored two mid-’70s Knoll Pollock Chairs for about a tenth the price of the current production version, which, save for a few details, look nearly identical to mine. Hell, the fact that the chair is still in production and remains almost entirely unchanged after 50 years is a testament to its timeless design. Mine also have some intact “IBM Property” stickers on the base, which means I’m likely spending my workday sitting in a soft leather pillow full of some long-gone software engineer’s farts. Worth it.
Super NES Classic Edition
Yes, it’s a nostalgia-powered cash grab. But, it’s a nostalgia-powered cash grab for the first video game console I remember playing. Of course I was at Target half an hour before opening the morning the console hit store shelves. Unfortunately, like the NES Classic before it, the controller cables are too short, but I’m okay authentically reliving the experience by sitting cross-legged on the floor, face just inches from the TV, with a Capri Sun by my side.
Seiko Prospex SBDC031 ‘Sumo’
Time and time again I’ve extolled the value in buying vintage. But as far as new watches go, you’re looking at Seiko if you want the most watch for your money. The cult-hit “Sumo” is no exception. The highlights: a tried-and-true in-house automatic movement from the Japanese watchmaker; a 200-meter depth rating I’ll never actually need; a well-finished, multi-faceted case. Throw in the cool-factor of this being a Japan-only model, and the sub-$500 asking price begins to look like the timekeeping deal of the century.
Having personally shot on a very entry-level Nikon D3100 for what feels like an eternity, I finally decided to step up to a full-frame DSLR. Though it’s beginning to show its age, the D750 seemed like the obvious choice. It’s one of the best entries into full-frame DSLR photography for its its litany of features, easygoing ergonomic, stellar image quality and (relatively) low cost.
2004 Volvo V70R
I’m a car enthusiast, and more specifically, a Volvo enthusiast, which puts me at this weird intersection of practicality and stupidity — exactly why a 13-year-old, 300-horsepower station wagon with a stick shift seems to makes perfect sense to me. I could tell you about how quick it is, or how buttery-soft the seats are, or how its cargo area is practically a bottomless blackhole for gear, and I’d take it all back the second the Haldex system decides to implode.
’93–’95 Mazda RX-7
I truly believe the final-generation RX-7 is one of the best-looking, most under-appreciated cars ever made. Aside from its clean lines and classic proportions, you have one of the most unique engines under the hood: a 1.3-liter, twin-turbo rotary putting out over 250 horsepower. Finicky? Hell yes. But the best things in life aren’t so easy.
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