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 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.

 

The Outlet Store – Retail Clothing Part One

Our city has a fairly new set of clothing stores located on industrial land adjacent to the domestic and international airport. Heck, it might be Commonwealth airport land that has been sold off or leased to the new occupiers.

In any case, they are a set of shops that bill themselves as direct outlets for fashion goods – clothing shoes, accessories, and probably a lot more. Their opening day was apparently grand – in the sense that the crowds going to visit blocked the highways around the airports and prevented people from getting to their planes on time. This also happened when a big Ukrainian cargo airplane came to visit Perth a couple of years ago. We’re sometimes starved for amusement of a weekend…

I am not one to decry initiative and hard work – nor to put a brake on trade. And I recognise that new clothing is a good thing. But looking into my clothes closet and set of drawers that hold more cloth than I could ever wear, were I to live to 100, tells me that shopping for more would be folly. And I wonder how many people are in the same boat? Not just old coots like me…young coots  as well. How many new shirts is enough?

If you are a profligate, the answer is ” too many “. If you are not given to washing and mending what you do own, you are going to be the natural prey of the retailer. Likewise if you have a mind that can be swayed and swooshed by every new fashion that the makers would like to be paid for…well, your wallet is open to their fingers.

And it doesn’t matter whether the clothes you buy are at a discount factory outlet or the twee-est boutique in town. You will still pay as much as you can for as long as you can whenever they apply the electrodes or air their advertisements.

What Font Are You?

I have a peculiar habit to confess. I go to book stores and look at things in the Graphic Designer section. Yet, I am not a graphic designer. Those of you who look at the heading images of this and other columns I write have discovered this a long time ago. I can cut and paste and assemble a billboard, but my taste in colours and letters is woeful.

Yet, there are people in the world who can do this design thing well. Their pages are a pleasure to look at – if sometimes a little painful to read – and they can make a living doing this for clients as well as themselves. Hats off to them.

But back to the fonts. You’ll have some in your computer or tablet – particularly if you’ve got a writing app or a photo-editing one. There is a standard Adobe and Apple font book with dozens of variations on the Roman letters and Arabic numbers that are our standard English symbols. You can buy the use of extra fonts and sometimes get them as downloads from directories. I’ve got Retro Font and  Script Font books that allow me dozens more choices. Sometimes the computer doesn’t like them and refuses to use them, but mostly it is clear sailing.

Does a favourite font tell us something about you? Can it tell you something you had not acknowledged? Deep psychological questions, indeed. You’ll have to dredge your own mental pond – I’ll show you my favourites:

You can make your judgements accordingly. I do use whatever the books or computer font store might suggest for specialized signs. There are enough variants that you can letter out decals for model airplanes in period style and make lots of faux-historical images.

Who Is Whizzing On Whom

A few days back a new Mini motorcar passed me in the Northbridge tunnel and slowed down – the brake lights came on. See the heading image – they were in the shape of part of the British Union Jack flag. Thank you to the chap who took that picture – I couldn’t get my camera out while driving.

I was instantly delighted – it was such a clever use of technology to tie this iconic symbol into the iconic car. But it gave me to think…

a. The car is not wholly British. it is made by a company that is firmly German – BMW – at plants in the UK and Holland. The design comes out of Bavaria. Leading to the question of whether or not it is a gentle piss-take.

b. Apparently it is associated with a wide-eyed ring of LED running lights up the front that make the car look permanently deranged. I did not see the front of the vehicle in the tunnel. But again, aus München…

c. In the past there have been any number of Issigonis and later Minis that have had the roof painted in a complete representation of a Union Jack.

d. Which leads to a cynical smirk at the proclivity of Brits to complain about Americans flying the Stars and Stripes or displaying it as a symbol. Be honest, Johnny Bulls – you’ve all sneered at the Yanks for their patriotism at some time or the other…and yet painted your national flag on the top of a tinny little motor car. Or in the case of the modern version, an expensive little German motor car.

All the same. I did admire the modern Morgan in the York Motor Museum…If you’re going to be crass for $ 92,300, you might as well do it big-time.

Yehudi

And I don’t actually mean the violin player…

You can wiki up the term ” Yehudi ” and get a fine ethnographic and biblical explanation of tribes of Israel and the evolution of the word into modern terms – both good and bad. Enjoy yourself.

I find it interesting that the term was applied to a  series of experiments in WWII that revolved around anti-submarine warfare. I was darned if I could think of a connection between this Hebrew word and the eventual wartime use. Then came the internet.

The Yehudi lights were lamps of variable brightness on the leading edges of aircraft wings, around the engines, and around the noses that were meant to make the dark aircraft silhouette blend in with a lighter sky. Our heading image is a Bristol Bolingbroke so equipped – though the black tyres spoil the illusion somewhat. The experiments found that they could reduce the distance at which an attacking Allied bomber was seen from the ocean’s surface from 5 miles to about 2.5 miles – a considerable advantage. Little use was made of them, however, past the experiments.

But it gets stranger. Yehudi Menuhin, the famous violin player, was a guest on many radio shows of the time. Apparently the comedy writers for the Bob Hope Show had a running gag where he was meant to arrive but didn’t – leading Jerry Colonna to put out the catchphrases ” Who’s Yehudi? “, and ” Where’s Yehudi? “. It became slang for a mysterious person who was never seen.

Perfect for RCAF and USAAF bombers over the grey Atlantic, sneaking up on U-boats.

But where does it leave us with the modern practice of putting rows of LED lights at the front of German prestige cars that light up in daytime. Are they sneaking up on us? Have they learned a valuable lesson?

Note For Today: It is officially Australian Federation Day today – the day in January 1901 when the disparate states and territories of Australia were drawn together as a nation. Dame Nellie Melba sang ” I’m A Little Teapot “, the Governor-General smashed a bottle of Tooheys on the prow of the HMAS CRIKEY as she slid down the ways at Dubbo, and the NBN was announced. A fine historic day for a new nation.