EBAY CAN BE a fantastic teacher of basic economic principles. I’ve been an active buyer recently, and enjoy watching the interaction among supply, demand and price.
Take the market for business attire. Demand has declined for suits, blazers and jackets. This has happened at the same time that supply has risen, so prices are cheap.
Suits were once the everyday uniform for both men and women. When I started working, I owned six suits in shades of blue and gray: a winter suit, a summer suit and four three-season suits. Getting ready for work was easy: just pull out a suit and coordinated shirt. The only real decision I needed to make involved choosing a tie.
Business fashion eventually switched from suits to sportcoats and chinos. It then became even more casual. Nowadays, many offices only require chinos and a shirt.
I always loved jackets. Living in Minnesota, I found a sportcoat to be a valuable piece of clothing. I could wear it seven months a year and remove it when the weather got warm.
I still own a number of jackets in various materials and styles. My favorite jackets are made of wool tweed. They’re durable and wrinkle resistant, and look sharp. I paid more than $150 for my favorite tweed jacket back then—but I could never bring myself to splurge on a classic Harris Tweed.
Harris Tweeds are handwoven on Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, with the cloth available in wonderful patterns. Harris Tweeds command a premium because of their high quality.
If you’ve ever watched Downton Abbey, you may have noticed Hugh Bonneville’s character wearing tweed suits. They look fabulous on him. Nobody will ever confuse me with a television star. Still, I pull on a tweed jacket whenever I want to look fancier than normal.
Over the past year, I’ve purchased four lightly worn Harris Tweed jackets on eBay. I paid between $47 and $57. The low price is a prime example of supply and demand at work.
Supply and demand trends are also evident in the market for bolo ties. Yes, bolo ties. They’re a fine example of Native American jewelry and an excellent option for men who don’t wear extra rings, bracelets or necklaces. I bought my first bolo tie while vacationing with my wife in the Southwest.
Bolo ties traditionally come from the different Native American tribes in the region. You can now find numerous styles produced by different tribes. I recently decided to collect one bolo tie in each of the main styles: overlay, mosaic inlay, sandcast, turquoise and concho.
Five years ago, I could purchase a vintage bolo tie on eBay for $50 to $60. Since then, TV shows like Yellowstone and Tombstone have sparked an increase in demand. Current prices are three-to-four times higher than what I paid. At today’s prices, I’m an admirer of the beautiful silverwork, but no longer a buyer.
Everyone, I believe, should have a handle on basic economic principles. See an older fellow in a Harris Tweed jacket and a Native American bolo tie? Feel free to ask him if he got a bargain.