The Major Shop – Retail Clothing Part Nine

The big retail shop – Coleworths, Flyers, Getar, Big Letter, etc. exist in every major Australian city – indeed they have branches in multiple locations downtown and at shopping centres. In addition to white goods, manchester, and bargain bins full of toilet brushes, they sell clothing. A lot of it.

Many people stock their wardrobes exclusively from these stores, and can live comfortably by doing so. The goods they buy are generally reasonably well-made, reasonably well-fitting, and reasonably priced. But there is one disadvantage for the shopper: they will look like 250,000 other Australians each season. If they are frugal shoppers they will look like this more cheaply, but one season out of synch.

I can sympathise with this – I am equally well dressed, but in many cases the season is Winter, 1962.

The buyers for the big stores wield tremendous economic power in the clothing business, as they have very big purses indeed. And they are canny – they are always trying to achieve the perfect purchase…the garment that sells out completely on the last day of the season, leaving room on the shelves for the next attraction. But with this skill comes  responsibility. They are going to make the country look the way they buy for at least the next year.

Sometimes they get it right, and we all look decent. Sometimes they get it wrong and we all look like prats. And sometimes they get it disastrously wrong and we look like grubby, smelly prats. If you doubt me, I mention two words: nylon shirts.

I do not mind the clothing from the big stores, inasmuch as I buy anything. Their underwear does not chafe and their sweatshirts are good for at least a year. But I always pray that the designers and buyers will have done their job whilst sober. We have had far too many years when every garment has a logo printed on it somewhere and cannot be worn decently outside of a football stadium or tractor pull.

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The Lingerie Shop – Retail Clothing Part Eight

No man should ever enter a lingerie shop for any purpose. There is nothing he can do there that will produce a good result – even if he buys the perfect set of lace nothings for his light of love. Because his light will not appreciate them.

The thing that the man wants to see is not the thing that the light wants to wear. Indeed, if the man were to canvas the light for an honest answer – and get it – he would be shopping in the flannelette aisle of Big W. It is a sad thing to have one’s dreams shattered, but even sadder to have it done with a fire axe.

” But what of Victoria’s Secret? ” I hear you ask. Victoria doesn’t have  secret. She’s a tart and that’s all there is to it. The lingerie is a work-related expense, and a pretty poor value-for-money one at that. Compare the lifespan of the average lace step-in to that of a pair of Yakka overalls and see which one helps out with your bottom line. Fortunate indeed the working girl who can cater to her trade in denim and nylon straps. Though it does get a bit itchy around the edges.

Of course there is the question of size. You can get it right and you can get it wrong, but if you get it wrong by buying too large a garment, you ain’t gonna get it.

 

Army And Navy Surplus – Retail Clothing Part Seven

I was a child when there was Army and Navy Surplus that meant something. My father bought a bomber engine at an RCAF surplus auction in Airdrie, Alberta and ran it in our basement. He also bought lightweight drafting equipment from the RCAF that used to be on the navigator’s flight table. I aways wanted him to bring home the Fraser-Nash gun turret that was on sale as well, but my mother was a spoil-sport…

I mention this as a preface to gently prime you for a fact of life; there is no army and navy surplus any more. The bomber engine was left over from WW2. The army and navy now need all the stuff they have and are frequently engaged in horse trading amongst themselves to gather enough of it together in one place to operate on. They don’t have any spares to sell.

What is sold in the surplus stores is cheap imports from Pakistan, India, and worse places. If it can be made of bad cotton or brass – if it can be made crudely but with a certain brutal flair – if it can be sold as an aid to camping, or fishing, or genocide – the stores will get a sea container of it in and sell it. Whichever category it fits into and whatever it is, you can find one common thread – it will be overpriced.

Don’t avoid the surplus stores because of this. Go into them, by all means. Education is always expensive and shopping there is no exception. Set yourself a price limit that is painful but not horrifying, and go spend to that number. Who knows – you may need the fake ammunition box or the Pakistani exploding alcohol stove – or the Confederate flag or the 70 cm folding knife – for some legitimate purpose.

Just don’t ask for Fraser-Nash turrets…

The Big And Tall Shop – Retail Clothing Part Six

I do shop at the big and tall shop, even though I am not. However, other family members are, and the fact that you have to go to a special retail outlet to clothe them says something about the general clothing retailers. It says that they are basically stupid.

When customers have to go 5 miles out of the city to a specialist store to get the sizes they need, they are doing it because the major retailers will not supply them. In turn, when the customers go out there, they take their money with them and spend quite considerable amounts of it . Considerable amounts that do not go into the big store’s till.

Helloooo…Anyone there from the accountancy department? Anyone…?

Big tall people and big fat people do not fit into the tiny sizes that the major retailers order from the sweatshops of Southeast Asia. Yet they still want fashionable and decent clothing…which they can get from the big and tall shops. The wise management of the B&T have contracted with their sweatshops to make things on a bigger pattern – and charge more for it. If a major player store has more money to negotiate with than the little retailers they could do exactly the same thing but better and faster. But they don’t.

While they have been selling the populace the lie that everyone is either size 8 or else they don’t deserve to live, the buying public has been exceeding this number and saving their money. All they have to do is make bigger clothing and that money comes to them. Bugger fashion parades and the starved model. Build an empire on the need and wants of the actual customers – like Trump’s wall, they’ll help pay for it!

The Jeans Shop – Retail Clothing Part Five

If ever there was a tale of good taste manipulated, good sense circumvented, and good business pursued, it is told in the blue jeans business. Also add hype, mindless conformity, and slave labour to that last sentence.

I’ve seen blue jeans become jeans and progress from farm worker wear to kid wear to teen wear to mainstream trendy wear in my lifetime. I regret that I will not live long enough to watch the garment travel back down to the start of the circle and largely disappear from sight.

I do not decry the basic thing – but I have become mightily sick of the sales gimmickry that has accompanied each stage of the progression. It was like watching fake-wood plastic veneers take over every surface of every product in the 1960’s and 70’s. I long to see the denim become as rare as the walnut*.

Mind you, I do appreciate a good joke and more so when I can get it and the persons upon whom it is perpetrated remain ignorant. The ripped jeans sold from a shop – in some cases ripped beyond garment to rag – are one facet of this. The dull colour is another. The excessive studding a third. The list goes on, and you can be sure that if some garment worker has made a drunken bet that they can make an uglier design and sell it to the vapid, they will collect their money.

Note the garment that was given to me – a denim photographer’s jacket. Actually a very good idea, but unwearable in any dimension save the Alt-70’s.

*  I actually owned an air-powered dental unit made in Oregon in the 1970’s that was faced with stick-on wood veneer and aluminium knobs. In my defence, it was all I could afford…

The Tee Shirt Shop – Retail Clothing Part Four

If you are over 50, your tee shirt shop is called Target or Big W. Your colour is white or black and your size is immaterial – just get it big. No-one is looking and no-one cares. You can wear the thing inside your flannel shirt in the winter and be comfortable.

If you are younger, your tee shirt is a statement and where you buy it is important. The people who sell it to you want you to be happy – happy to advertise their shop or politics to others and happy to take your $ 50 for it. Go-on – make yourself poor and spread a little happiness.

You’ll find a surprisingly large number of stores willing to enter into this game – they’ll be up, down, and side-market venues and the staff will look happier than you do. No wonder – other people have been in before you and emptied their wallets and purses into the till and the staff know this.

If you wish to reflect on the fact that the only people who used to wear tee shirt were the old bastards up the top of the page…and that the shirt was a form of underwear…you may wonder how it came to be the defining garment of whatever generation you now occupy. This happened because they were originally cheap cotton things and people bought them for a purpose. Then the makers discovered that you could screen print Che Guevara on them and sell them to chardonnay socialists for $ 50. And away it, and you, went. In your case without your $ 50.

 

The Hatter – Retail Clothing Part Three

I like hatter’s shops. They seem such an old-fashioned place to be that I can relax and slow down as I browse. And hatter’s shops are not for the shallow or insensitive – they have surprisingly little to do with the modern youth – or that may be the other way round.

The feed-cap-with-a-baseball-team-on-it shop is another matter. That may be staffed and crowded with all forms of youth – golden, brassy, or plastic as the case may be. I would not know, not being the sort of man who wears a feed cap backwards.

But back to the proper hatters. There is a good one in the basement of the Flinders Street railway station in Melbourne and also one in the Strand Arcade in Sydney. They are small shops with a great deal of stock, but be aware that the stock may be seasonal – hot or cold weather – and priced accordingly. Treat yourself to a coffee at a stall before you call in, and take your time to review all the choices and fit before you decide to purchase. The Sydney shop has a good range of braces too.

Advice for someone buying a hat?

a. Do you need a hat for a protective purpose or is it to be fashion? You can get ones that will do a single or double duty.

b. Can you be a hat wearer? Some cannot. They are so self-conscious that they never seem to be able to actually put the hat on and wear it. They think everyone is looking at them and that this is a bad thing.

c. Do you know hat etiquette? When to cover and when to uncover?  How to do it – how to wear and how to carry – is an important social skill. One that can set you apart from hoi polloi in a very favourable way. There are numerous books that will help you to learn what to do.

d. Do you realise that hats are seasonal, and that you can own more than one? Try a straw for summer, a felt fedora for winter, and a good tweed cap for in between. Then, if you find you are comfortable with them, you can get many more to match your wardrobe choices.

e. If you wish to wear a ten-gallon Stetson hat, there are places where you may do so without incurring laughter. Texas, Calgary, and the outback stations of Australia come to mind. The ten-gallon is not a hat to wear in places where there are dudes.

f. If the hat you fancy makes you look younger, reject it. Likewise, if it makes you look like an English used-car salesman, an Amish elder, or Popov. Hats lend dignity, but withhold it if you make the wrong selection.

g. Do not wear a peaked cap unless you are commanding a regiment, ship, or air station. German railway drivers can get away with one, but then they are that sort of person. Führers to a man.

Note: if you are a service peaked cap wearer and they issue you with a side-cap or fatigue cap it is because they are going to make sure you are sidelined and fatigued. It is not a good cap and not a good sign.

h. Treat your hat well, but do not expect it to last more than a few seasons. Your sweaty head will see to that. If continuity of style is important, select a standard Akubra that has not changed since the days of Menzies and just buy another one when yours gets greasy and spotty.