Valentine’s Day: perhaps the most divisive celebration in our calendars. So divisive, in fact, that some do not consider it a celebration at all; cited by some to be the pinnacle of romance, and by others a corporate invention to sell greetings cards. Amid mass production and with more significance than ever placed on material things, has this celebration lost its meaning? Has sentiment been overshadowed by expectation and convenience?
The history of Valentine’s Day is perhaps not what you’d expect. Far from being invented for the purpose of selling cards and heart-shaped chocolate boxes, its celebration goes back centuries. There were, in fact, several St. Valentines, all martyred for rebelling against order and power in the name of love. Beyond the Saints themselves, mid-February was celebrated in Roman and Pagan cultures as a time of love, hope and prosperity.
Like everything else, Valentine’s Day celebrations changed with the times. While it was once a day to exchange handwritten letters and perhaps small tokens with loved ones, mass manufacture changed the game. The emergence of Cadbury’s heart-shaped chocolate boxes in 1861 made businesses boom, and are responsible for the chocolatiers’ trend that is still strong today.
It is only natural - and good! - that traditions should evolve. Ready-made cards with printed messages replaced hand-written letters in 1900, at a time when people were discouraged from heartfelt or emotional displays. And centuries before that, Valentine’s activities were largely performed in the hopes of sparking romantic love, marriage prospects and fertility. These traditions don’t (or shouldn’t!) resound today. Of course we should reimagine the celebration: to embrace what love means to us now, in all of its wonderful forms.
Romantic love is just one of the meaningful loves to be had in our lives. Different countries and cultures have made the tradition their own, such as the celebration of friends and lovers on el Día de los Enamorados in many Latin American countries. Love for our friends, family, neighbours, pets, and ourselves are all cause to celebrate on Valentine’s Day. However, many of us end up last-minute panic-buying for the occasion, meaning the overconsumption of perhaps poorly made or generic gifts. If we fall victim to the V-Day shopping dash, for the sake of having a gift to give a loved one, will our gift truly reflect how we feel about them?
Thoughtful, meaningful gifts will only grow in sentiment over time, resembling many more memories to be made with your loved ones.
We’re certainly not saying that Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be celebrated with cards or chocolates. In fact, we think it should be celebrated however you want! On a day that can feel so pressured to ‘get it right’ with a grand gesture or public display, let’s let go of what we think we should do. And if you do want to do something a little different this year, it could be a great time to make a truly thoughtful gesture. Perhaps you’ll add a staple to your tableware, so you and your best friend can plate up your go-to takeaway in style. Maybe you’ll commit to slowing down and taking time for yourself, whether alone or with a partner, by savouring your morning coffee or breakfast in bed in the comfiest PJs. Let’s consider not just the happiness of the day itself, but how we can invest in each other’s happiness year-round, for many more to come.
We all deserve to take a moment to appreciate ourselves and those we love in our lives. And if you do want to mark the occasion with a thoughtful gift, we’ve put together a collection of some ideas that are outside the heart-shaped box. Make this Valentine’s Day thoughtful, meaningful, and memorable - whatever that looks like to you.
If you’ve been following Buy Me Once closely, you’ll know that this last little while has been a period of change. We have been working with our customers to try and better understand and communicate the power of long-lasting products.
One of the things we did was to put together a survey. We asked directly: what are the products you love the most? We wanted to know how long your things had lasted, why you thought they lasted so long, and what those products meant to you.
The stories we received blew us away. They have helped to redefine what Buy Me Once is about, and inspired each member of our team. When we made our first ever ad last year, the animator used the stories for inspiration. When researching products, we have had your words echoing in our ears.
Before we delve into some of your stories, we’d like to share some statistics:
The oldest product was 80 years old.
Not surprisingly to us, it was a cast iron frying pan. Cassandra said it was a family heirloom from her grandmother that had been looked after and seasoned with care. She reckons she uses it around 15 times a week, even now. Over 80 years, that works out to over 60,000 uses. That’s a lot of meals, and a lot of memories.
You’ve kept these things for a really long time.
Across the 230 responses, the average amount of time you had your product was 21 years, spanning between 1 and 80 years.
And you use them almost every day.
Whether it be your daily coffee or a piece of jewellery you wear everyday, these things are embedded in your routines. The average across all responses was 5.6 uses per week.
The variety was astounding.
We coded our responses with 22 different categories, from things like gardening, to furniture, jewellery and even stationery. Whilst many of you related to functional items, often it was a small gift, or travelling memento that became a special family treasure.
But kitchenware came out on top.
Most of you picked your thing that lasted from the kitchen. This was 91 respondents - about 40% of you. They varied from frying pans and knives to coffee makers or even Kitchen Aid mixers. The average number of years you had kept your kitchen things was 23 years, and you used them an average of seven times per week.
Here are a selection of your responses. Every couple of days we’ll be sharing a different story highlight at the top of our homepage.
Ann from London loves her parents' paring knife.
We loved hearing about the story behind this paring knife from Ann. She told us about its classic design, with its simple, tactile wooden handle. When her parents emigrated from Canada they brought boxes and boxes of things from their first home. Many of those things are still in the family today and in regular use. This humble knife is one. With all that history, she could never imagine replacing it.
Ann admits that she actually used to tease her parents for keeping, reusing, and repurposing everything. Now she realises they had it right all along. Waste, over-consumption, and treating everything as disposable is not only unsustainable, it robs us of the joys of appreciating the things that serve us everyday.
Simon from Norwich loves making porridge.
So much so, he told us he has been using the same saucepan for his morning porridge since 1979. It’s clearly a quality product, manufactured by the long passed Polaris (remember them?). He pointed out that the handle would be the only place on the pan where it could break, but his story is one of care. It’s been exclusively hand washed for those 40 years, and the handle is still in fine fettle.
Karina from Fernwood loves her Fjallraven backpack.
In its four years, this backpack has been everywhere with Karina. She had it the first time she met her boyfriend - and she had it when they went on trips to Ireland, Iceland, Portugal, Spain and all over the UK. It has been used as hand luggage and a carryall for work. She was wearing it when her boyfriend proposed to her in Iceland in Geyser Valley, and planned to use it as a hospital bag for upcoming labour and even as a nappy bag. Even as this backpack's use changes throughout her life, Karina plans to be inseparable from it.
Carolyne from Montreal loves making orange juice.
Another product that has been around for generations, this juice maker is 60 years old, and first belonged to Carolyne's grandmother. Carolyne never saw her grandmother in the kitchen unless she was making herself orange juice. Today, it’s her grownup kids that use it.
Catherine from Alaska loves her KitchenAid mixer
Catherine lives in Alaska, several thousand miles from her home in Minnesota. On a rare visit, her mother wanted to purchase a bread machine for her. Catherine suggested a KitchenAid mixer instead as it would be more generally useful. They’re expensive things - at the time, Catherine would not have been to afford one on her own. But together they went to pick one out. That was 22 years ago. Catherine was pregnant with her third and last child.
Jump to the present day, and the mixer looks and acts exactly as it did when she brought it home. It has been a constant presence in her family life. Over the years she’s made plenty of bread, but also cinnamon rolls, cookies, and gift-bakes galore. Whenever her family of five were treated to hamburgers for dinner, she used the mixer to make milkshakes. A tradition formed. Once, when she broke her arm at Christmas, she talked her son through the cinnamon roll-baking process. She’s pretty sure his rolls were better than hers!
Through the years as she spoke with her mother on the phone, she’d thank her time and again, and let her know which recipes of hers she had made with it now. The frequent thank yous would become a tender joke between them. But it was always meant sincerely. It is a gift that she had with her always, and a constant reminder of her mother’s generous spirit.
Mark from Scarborough loves making his daily coffee with his French press.
It’s double-walled stainless steel, it’s tough, and it can support being knocked about. Nine years into its service, it’s even been up a mountain, joining Mark on his 50th birthday camping celebration, and fuelling him before the hike up the great Katahdin.
Sally loves her floral raincoat
She tells us that every single time she wears it, she gets a compliment - especially from people under the age of 30. She tells them that it’s vintage, but the truth is that she bought it as new - 30 years ago. Made from quality materials, she’s never had to even sew on a button.
Gonda loves her Grandma’s coffee maker.
She can still picture her grandmother using it in the kitchen. Her 70s style curtains in orange, yellow and brown, the comforting smell of freshly ground coffee wafting through the apartment. She knows that her Grandmother would be so pleased to know it is still used and loved by her family today - and that it will be passed onto the next generation to enjoy too!
Learn more about Buy Me Once.
On the benefits of linen and why proper pajamas are underrated
If you’re anything like me, it’s likely you haven’t owned actual pajamas since you were a kid. I’m not talking about the odd pair of sweatpants paired with a T-shirt from some long-passed charity event. I’m talking about a matching set. With buttons.
I never had myself pinned as the sort of guy to have pajamas with buttons, but for years now my girlfriend has been overly keen on the idea of matching outfits. Despite her best efforts to align our wardrobe choices, I’ve stood firm. It’s been a line I haven’t been willing to cross. However, last year I’d had my eye on some particularly beautiful - and unisex - BuyMeOnce PJs: 100% pure French linen, mottled gray with impeccable navy piping, made by flax experts Piglet.
I surprised her on Christmas morning, and we drank cocktails in our crisp matching threads. I thought I’d simply splashed out on some nice loungewear, with cute and thoughtful boyfriend points thrown in. But little did I know the extent to which these linen pajamas would take over my life.
After spending pretty much the entirety of the Christmas holidays in my Piglet pajamas (I had actually grown way more attached to them than my girlfriend had), existing in a state of perfect comfort became addictive. Whereas beforehand I tended not to change clothes until bedtime, I had become someone who comes back from work and jumps straight into jammies. The welcoming embrace of high-quality stonewashed linen became an essential part of my evening unwinding routine, and I loved it.
For those of you not familiar with the feeling of being entirely flax-clad, I’ll elaborate on exactly why it’s so special. Firstly, pure linen is not only incredibly breathable and lightweight, it also keeps you warm in the cold, and cool in the heat. For someone who can’t stand overheating in bed, this is a revelation.
Secondly, when you wear these pajamas for the first time after washing, they feel so crisp and clean, like slipping into fresh sheets. Then after a short while, they ‘break in’ to amazing softness. I can’t describe how comforting this experience is. They’ve become dramatically softer and softer over time too - a claim I remember reading, but has still managed to surprise me.
The pajamas themselves are beautifully made. With a roomy, relaxed fit (cut the same for men and women), the fine detailing takes them to the next level. With white pearl buttons and neat piping along hems, a luxurious touch is added to the tactile linen fabric. I don’t bother ironing them, but just hang them to dry - I love the somewhat wrinkly look they get. It somehow adds to their comforting nature, and they always keep their shape.
And, one last thing I’ve found out recently - linen is a sustainable crop. Growing flax requires far less water than cotton (rainfall tends to suffice), and very little fertiliser. It’s a rotation crop, farmed naturally in small batches, and every part of the plant can be used. The long fibres of the flax plant are inherently durable, and the resulting luxurious fabric is highly resistant to pilling or misshaping. This means your clothes will last and last.
Fast forward three months from Christmas. It’s now March 25th, the country is in lockdown and fortunately, I’m able to work remotely. I’m doing work, and thus not wearing my Piglet pajamas, though I wish I was. As soon as I shut my laptop, I jump straight into them. This is because I have effectively Pavloved myself into associating my PJs with downtime.
If you’re also new to working from home full-time, you may be struggling with your routine. It’s not an easy task differentiating work and home when you spend all day in one place. For this reason, I can’t recommend enough the rediscovery of pajamas. They’ve become an essential part of my work-from-home routine, helping me separate out my downtime with a pleasurable ritual. In a pretty significant way, my Piglet PJs are helping me stay sane and comfy, and in times like these, you can’t really put a price on that.
Shop the full Piglet collection here.
In light of the rapidly growing uncertainty we are all facing since the outbreak of coronavirus, we want to ensure the BuyMeOnce community are informed of the steps we are taking to prepare, to assure you that we're operating as normal, and working as safely as possible.
What steps are we taking?
- We have been proactively speaking with our brands to ensure any impacts to stock levels, manufacturing or delivery are identified as early as possible.
- We will be keeping our site updated to reflect any new developments that may arise.
- We are fortunate that our team is able to work remotely, enabling us to remain online, provide customer service and answer any questions or concerns you may have.
What's the impact to our business?
You may notice unavailability for some brands on our site. We will continue to update availabilities as we receive them from our brands.
A lot of brands are running at capacity or with less staff, so we ask that you wait an extra day or two to receive your order.
Small businesses like BuyMeOnce and many of the unique brands we retail are particularly vulnerable to feeling the full force of these events.
Through this we remain open for business as usual.
We’d like to thank you for your continued support as we navigate through the pandemic.
We sincerely wish you all the best during this difficult time.
Stay safe and stay home.