Welcome to our first September issue and the beginning of a run of magazines that will see us publishing weekly until the end of the year. After a long summer with fewer editions, things feel very “back to school” again. I love September for that reason. I’ve always loved the optimism of a fresh academic year and the opportunity to wipe the slate clean – although admittedly my childhood excitement was less to do with hitting the books and more about the purchase of new shoes.
Forget January, September will always feel like the most significant reset of the year. Looking at Max von Gumppenberg’s images of Luca Gajdus wearing ageless Armani tailoring (“The Suit Has No Time: Giorgio Armani on his new made-to-measure line”), I feel the same frisson of possibility, of opportunity and change. It’s especially pertinent this season when so much of the year has felt the same. Perhaps it’s a unique perversion, but I’ve rarely felt such longing for a reason to put on a blazer once again.
Businesswear may not be top of everyone’s list of favourite things, but few would argue that they have no time for books. What one reads, how one displays one’s literature and what one prioritises on a shelf offer an instant insight into a person’s character. This year the bookshelf has soared in visibility with the advent of the digital workspace and the Zoom backdrop, which has given us a unique opportunity to peruse the reading matter, houseplants and knick-knacks of other people’s rooms. It’s a phenomenon that is brilliantly skewered on the Twitter account Bookshelf Credibility (@bcredibility), an anonymously run feed that assesses other people’s shelves. “What you say is not as important as the bookcase behind you” runs the strapline, and its playful analysis can be both celebratory and scathing. Anthony Fauci is described as having “so much credibility that books get out of bookcases and settle behind him”. The United States secretary of education Betsy DeVos demonstrates a total lack of credibility while posing by an empty shelf. Bearing in mind the bookshelf’s sudden moment in the spotlight and the status it conveys, we decided to carry out a sweep within our archive to find out what How To Spend It contributors revealed. An impressive stack of “The Aesthete” was soon uncovered, and with it a starry portfolio of shelves. In “Shelf Worth: How Shelving Became the Status Symbol of 2020”, we examine some of the most awe-inspiring cases, while Kate Finnigan – who has an appreciation for the Universal 606 Shelving System by Vitsœ that borders on the fanatic – examines why a shelf brings so much joy.
On the subject of archives, team How To Spend It has spent much of the summer shifting our own digital back catalogue from the HTSI website so that we can relaunch under the umbrella of the FT (less shelf worth than elf work, I would hazard, as the manual input of several hundred pieces has been no small effort to undertake). For many years, HTSI has existed adjacent to the digital colossus housing the news site, and since becoming editor I have been mad keen to move back in. As of this month, all our new digital content will be fully integrated within the FT.com offering – you can find us via the homepage or at ft.com/htsi.
My hope is that this move will improve your experience of the website, make our features easier to find, align us with the exciting ongoing changes in the digital newsroom, and help you better to curate your reads (we will also be relaunching the How To Spend It newsletter, so please do sign up at ft.com/newsletters after registering for free). Mostly, though, I’m thrilled to be joining the FT website; after nearly a year in the preparation, it feels like coming home.
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