Clothes horse / clothes whore

Monday, June 2nd, 2003

I hate clothes shopping, hate it with a passion. And by 'clothes shopping' I don't mean the classic male aversion to following his partner around while she chooses between three identical trouser suits. I mean shopping for myself. I don't consider I have particularly good judgement when it comes to deciding whether I look good enough in clothes to justify coughing up for them. I'm particularly bad at judging whether shoes fit me or whether trousers are the right length.

I also don't like the idea that people are defined by the labels they wear. I hate clothes that flaunt their brand. I hate the Gap look, not because I don't like the clothes (I do, often) but because it's a created identity rather than one that's evolved. And every time I walk into a clothes shop with money burning a hole in my pocket (or more often, with it falling through one) I feel this pressure to make a statement by my choice of clothes. And the only statement I want to make is 'sell me something that will keep me warm and not make me look a tit'.

Instead I acquire clothes. If something wears out I replace it on an item-by-item basis. Shirts arrive by magnetic attraction – I get given them, or I pick up a t-shirt here and a polo shirt there when visiting tourist attractions or joining societies. Ties come from art gallery gift shops. Shoes are replaced when they develop holes that let the rain in.

But every few years I have to take direct action. Today was one of those days. A “see it – buy it” day. A day when normal caution was thrown to the wind.

And you know what? It was fun.

I bought shirts, five of them – three linen, two breathable for outdoor wear. I bought trousers – two outdoor pairs with multiple pockets, one pair of chinos. I bought sunglasses for the glare when driving in Iceland and I bought bootlaces for my hiking boots. I bought a preposterous amount of underwear and I bought a belt pouch for documents and stuff. I bought three lots of footwear – smart shoes, black boots and loafers – thus increasing the total pairs I own to four, apart from the hiking boots and the builders' steel toecap boots I use for archaeological digs and the allotment. I would have bought running shoes too but when I tried a pair on and took a few fast steps one fell off and I nearly fell flat on my face in the store. In short, I had a whale of a time.

I begin to understand why some people consider shopping to be a sport and an art form.

Last call for postcards from Iceland: Anyone who wants a postcard sent them from Iceland needs to e-mail me their address sharpish as we fly out tomorrow lunchtime.

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I'm Andy Darley. Sometimes I want to say things. This is where I do it.