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.

 

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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.

The Air Force Haircut

Mickey Spillane – the novelist who wrote the Mike Hammer series of detective thrillers – was a man with a head – and his head grew hair. As he was not a violin player he had to get it cut frequently and he is reported to have favoured barbers located outside Air Force bases as they knew how to give their clients an Air Force haircut.

I think Mickey was a wise man – because every time I go to the barber these days I get a hairdresser. If I wanted to have my hair dressed, I would take up violin playing…

Thankfully, this week I discovered how to get what I – and Mickey  – wanted from the barber. When I was asked how I wished to have it cut I told him do it Air Force short. Further enquiry tried to specify a comb size so we did an experiment starting at a high number and racking it back until it looked like I wanted it to look. I appear to be a No. 2 comb – a little more hair than basic training but pretty even up there.

I do not imagine I will get the same barber next time – they seem to belong to a travelling trade – but I will remember the Air Force line and the No. 2 comb.

Damn You, World Leaders!

I used to have a pretty good corner on the local cynicism market when I worked behind a retail counter. I could size up a customer in four seconds and predict what would come out of their mouth…And make the rest of the staff laugh until they were ill into their paper lunch bags or the till.

Now you have blown this to pieces. No longer can I shock or amuse when you have topped nearly everything I ever did, and continue to do even worse each day. I cannot possibly compete with Trump and Trudeau, and now even Boris Johnson is doing it in his retirement.

Boris. A man burdened with the name of a cartoon Russian spy name, plus a body and  head of hair that was God’s gift to cartoonists, thinks the moslem burqua is a bad look. You couldn’t write this stuff and sell it to the Three Stooges – they’d turn it down as too slapstick.

I’m not in favour of the garment as such but then my objection is that it is too much confined to the one sex – if the males of the tribe were similarly swathed and hidden I would say fine. Or ditch the black lump look and substitute exotic and bright colours and designer patterns. If they must make themselves look like a bolt of cloth at least make it the fancy stuff.

But back to the world leaders. I think we miss out on a lot of good stuff by being Euro and American-centric in the news coverage. I’ll bet there are some wise and wonderful statesmen ( oops, statespeople. Sorry, Justin. ) in the various dictators, theocrats, plutocrats, autocrats, and kleptocrats of the other continents. We just need to have them on the telly regularly. And not just when they are being tried – before that, when they are reviewing the troops or beating the recalcitrants.

 

Headin’ South

I rarely ask people to pay attention to my underwear. They are rather private garments and normally there is room in them for one person only – me. Today is different. I think I could fit about four of you in here. The reason is I have tried to go a day too long – a waistband too far…and the elastic has given up the ghost. I have had a day of especial discomfort.

Those of you who have felt the elastic go at some stage of the game know exactly what I’m writing about. All of a sudden any movement whatsoever sends your nether garments heading for the nether regions and it doesn’t make any difference if you are on parade or lounging in your boudoir – nothing feels right. If you had obeyed your cautious instinct and discarded the pair of shorts or knickers this morning – and put on the fresh pair that was sitting there in the drawer – you could stride out with confidence and pride. As it is, most of your day will be split between grimacing and excusing yourself to go to the loo in an attempt to produce a workable wedgie.

As the day progresses the vicious garment gets worse and worse. You look at your ankles to see if it has reached there and is showing under the trousers. You are convinced that it is going to entangle your knees and throw you sideways into the path of oncoming traffic. And you are also convinced that everyone sees your plight and knows what is happening. The day gets longer and the hours drag more.

The only answer is retreat. Go home at the end of the day, if you can walk while clutching your knees together. Remove the offending article. Throw it in the bin. Put on your pyjamas and make a cup of tea and a soft-boiled egg. There is no more dignity in the world for you today, and you might as well retreat into the comforts of childhood.

Wait a minute. Could it be?

Is the elastic on the pyjama bottoms going too…?

 

Am I A Clubman? – Part Five

The last question that you need to ask yourself is the first question you should ask. If you don’t know the answer you can call a friend. If you haven’t got any friends, you have your answer already.

Some people are born clubmen or clubwomen. They are loud, make friends easily, are unruffled, take hearty exercise, eat breakfast, produce bowel movements every day ( frequently at the same time…), and are kind to animals. They can stand for office, scrutiny, the flag, or any other thing that the club needs. They are extroverts. indefatigable, ineffable, and impossible to have anything to do with. You’re soaking in one now…

Other folks are born to be recluses – hermits – loners – individuals  – eccentrics – etc. They are generally distinguishable by the simplest senses – silent to the hearing, invisible to the eye, clammy to the touch, and slightly odorous. No-one has as yet tasted one, and no-one is about to start…

And there’s a lot of people in between. Most of us have aspects of each of these types within if we would only see and admit to them. And most of us can choose a club or organisation to suit our real personality. It might not be a fashionable or distinguished society we move in, but if we find genuine correspondence in a group – that is the one we should join. Here’s a few checkpoints for you when trying to match yourself to others:

a. DO I ENJOY LOUD NOISE? If yes, take up shooting. If no, take up reading. Read about shooting if need be.

b. Do I enjoy working with my hands? If yes, carpentry, model making, and any number of crafting clubs are ready for you. If no, run out on a field and hit a ball somewhere with something.

c. Do I enjoy thinking? Yes? Literary and intellectual clubs, political parties, business clubs call. No? Singing and drinking, eating and dancing are for you, and there are people who will help you do it.

d. Am I artistic? Yes? Go to the art store, spend a week’s wage, take the resultant small paper bag to an art society, and ask for help. No? Gardening’s for you – Nature will make what you cannot, and you can eat some of it.

e. Am I an opinionated smart-arse who wants to best everyone in argument? Yes? Become a member of a debating team or get your own secret identity as a troll on internet forums. No? Have you thought of joining a religious order? Or the Asian version…a religious suggestion?

f. Do I love sports? If the answer is yes, join a sports club. If the answer is no, get a competent surgeon to tear your cruciate ligament for you. The cost of the year’s membership to the sporting club or the operation will be about the same and the hospital is quieter than the club rooms.

Le Coup – Quatrième Colonne

The social cut is so long-standing as to have gathered a set of rules governing its use. They are as useful today as they were in the 18th and 19th century – people may have cars, computers, and cash these days but they are basically the same inside as they always were. If you doubt this get an old copy of Gray’s Anatomy and a scalpel, but don’t blame me if the police intervene.

a. Le coup absolu is a direct confrontation between two people where one does not acknowledge the other in any way. It can be devastatingly insulting and if seen by others, socially demeaning.

b. This form of cut must be deliberate and obvious to the victim.

c. Gentlemen must never cut a lady.

d. Unmarried ladies are not to cut married ladies.

e. The social cut cannot be employed within military or naval circles. While this is not a rule adhered to entirely, the good of the service requires that all instances of it are either suppressed or addressed.

f. Hosts cannot cut their guests.

g. Cuts cannot be done indiscriminately or for light purpose. They could have serious consequences for both parties – if between equals the cut may provoke a challenge and if between disparate classes it might redound badly. Some social cuts destroy careers and marriages.

There is little enough general society these days – the class system having realigned itself around money rather than birth – and the population having grown so much as to diffuse contact and/or interest. People can get fame or notoriety, but it is rare that enough people focus upon them long enough to grant them real respectability. To get this, one must go into the smaller divisions of organisation – the social club, the hobby group, the sporting association. You might even need to go down as close as the family before you find respect or notice.

Thus the loss of social status that someone who was snubbed might have felt in 1850 does not generally exist now. It might still be operating for someone who has been suspected of a major crime but has escaped conviction – they may find themselves refused entry to the social scene they once frequented. People might avoid them in public. They might find that their careers are blighted. The curse of widespread modern communication and the free interchange of information might also mean that they cannot find rest or respect elsewhere. Mind you, Cain had his problems too…

But snubbing, cutting, and general exercise of hubris may backfire. The story of Beau Brummel’s snubbing by the Prince Regent is well documented in Wikipedia. It notes the reasons why it was done and his rather foolish reaction – judge for yourself when you read it. The Prince Regent was seen as abusing his power and Brummel had enough social steam to ride it out. Of course Brummel’s own lifestyle could never be sustained and he was lost to France and debt…but take it as a lesson to be careful who you cut and why. If you do it unnecessarily you do it wrong.