Rory Sutherland Rory Sutherland

How men’s wardrobes prove constraints can be good for us


One thing that surprised every-one during lockdown was how many people derived unexpected pleasure from living under imposed restrictions. Can people become happier when temporarily prevented from doing things they would normally do? Almost certainly. Sometimes such circumstances force us to try something new which we subsequently prefer; at other times we enjoy having an external excuse not to do things we don’t want to do at all.

There is an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry gleefully realises that his mother’s death provides him with a reason to cancel all his upcoming engagements. All of us, I suspect, recognise this: we have moments where we are grateful to be mildly ill, since it pleasantly reduces the pace of life in a way which would be impossible were we feeling fine.

Exceptional world events provide us with a similar excuse to rethink things at scale. There is simply more permission to fail, and an implicit understanding that it’s acceptable to try unconventional things.

Consider how much better it is to be a bloke than to be a woman, sartorially speaking

Necessity isn’t only the mother of invention. It’s also the mother of trying those things you always secretly wanted to do, but not enough to be the only person having to justify doing it. A shortage of workers during the second world war made it uncontentious for women to enter the workforce. In the pandemic, online grocery shopping and video calls saw ten years of growth in six months.

Flexible working was, I suspect, something everyone secretly wanted, but not enough to go it alone. I also think the pandemic has made it much easier to justify use of remote medical appointments. Before last year, these would have been seen as a desperate cost-cutting measure and nothing else.

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