Sustainable (Hu)Man: Rediscovering the Old (as Adam)

I’m a bit obsessed with this new website I recently discovered. Aside from its slightly male-centric title (as such, I’m suggesting a re-title as ‘Sustainable HUman’), Sustainable Man provides a necessary addition to the conversation about sustainability and mindful living.

The blog states:

To “sustain” something, we must prolong it indefinitely, which begs the obvious question: what is it that we want to sustain?  Perhaps we ought to start with something as simple as “life”. Preferably, a comfortable life with as little suffering as possible. Ideally, a world where every human being has the opportunity to live a healthy life, free to learn, explore and create beauty in the world.  Sustainability, therefore, is the discussion about how to achieve the goal of creating this world that can sustain this kind of life thousands of years into the future for everyone.

The simplicity that sustainable living proposes is so tempting, is it not? Which brings me to a seemingly tangential, but actually quite related plug: a few weeks back, while in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, I had the pleasure of stumbling into a new boutique in the area, proprietor Adam Irish’s Old as Adam. (Okay, in truth, I wasn’t exactly stumbling — I was sober and my parents suggested my husband and I explore the tiny, riverside shop).

Adam Irish of Old as Adam

That said, Old as Adam reminded me of one of those delightful ‘curiosity’ shops that Owen Wilson’s character writes about in Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris. Irish himself sat at an antique desk, bow tie perfectly tied and tweed jacket draped over a vintage chair, eating a Singaporean curry rice from nearby restaurant Street (the juxtaposition of modern global with antique local was not lost on Irish). Still, the Old as Adam philosophy is not one of simple romantic nostalgia, but a repurposing and re-imagining of the material world. As the shop’s website eloquently states:

My aims are more than to collect beautiful and bizarre stuff. I search for things that make us question the dictates of the present. An old object’s purpose, quality, aesthetics, and the lost way of life and perspective it embodies can teach as much about the past as it can about the present. Holding (or in fact wearing) something belonging to another time connects us to history more than any history book. Repurposing that object for the present is an act of rebellion against a disposable, consumer-driven society that in its dogged pursuit of progress often fails to see what is left behind. One who appreciates old good things reaps the fruits of such ignorance.

Sustainable (hu)man indeed! At Old as Adam, I found a gorgeous 1940s White Stag red wool jacket perfect for the holidays in colder climes. I also witnessed my husband, for the first time in his life, delighting in shopping—he snagged a well-priced vintage Gucci cashmere sweater, made in Ireland in the 1950s, at a time when clothing was made with such care it could last for generations (and has).

The sustainable ethos lives on in Old as Adam. I encourage anyone in the area to visit this shop; you’ll likely find yourself delighting in the offerings for hours and recalling a material past when the material was an artform in itself. This is not your local WalMart or Ikea’s throw-away, Chinese factory-made wares, but painstakingly crafted clothing, furniture, and artifacts meant to honor their origins, never bound for your city’s trash dump.

Old as Adam is evidence of a growing call for the objects we purchase, wear, and use to be ones created with a sustainable vision in mind. I thank Irish for his honorable pursuit of a past in which objects were created for lasting utility, not for a disposable culture mindlessly trashing this earth.

Old as Adam
33 Ceres St.
Portsmouth, NH 03801

Hours: Fri and Sat, noon to 9pm; Sun noon to 5pm; during the week by chance/appt
Etsy shop

About Kaitlin Solimine

Kaitlin Solimine was raised in New Hampshire but has considered China a second home for the past two decades. She is the author of the award-winning forthcoming novel Empire of Glass and co-founder of Hippo Reads, a media start-up connecting academic insights with real world issues. She lives in Singapore.
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