Thirty Thousand Streets

Monday, October 31, 2005


Ah, shopping. Has it been so long? Well no actually, though as the year grinds on, Summer finally saunters off, and the 'imminence' of Christmas is revealed unto us in the form of miles of festive tat already appearing on Regent street and thereabouts, our thoughts once again turn to the accumulation of yet more things that we don't really need. Yes, already the streets thicken with the first protean stirrings of the years consumer festivities, and we must take again to the streets, jostling for space alongside the tourists, overpriced hot-dog stands, and men bearing 'golf sale' signs for our slice of the pie.

Don't get me wrong though, I subscribe as keenly to the cult of retail therapy as most, and am currently seething with jealously as one of my roomies has picked a rather fetching 60s leather jacket for a song in Wimbledon, having appeared to have tapped an untouched seam of charity-shop wealth thereabouts.

But some people take this stuff waay to seriously, as a brief stroll round Soho/Carnaby street will attest. I popped into Cinch the other day - the Levis flagship store, to find the following legend embazoned on the window:

'Levis recreates original GI clothing'

'For remembrance Sunday LEVI'S VINTAGE CLOTHING have created a GI style bag which includes a GI's wardrobe staples and tales from original GI's. This limited edition package is available for £300..'

What you get for your three hundred quid here is basically a pair of distessed jeans, a worn T-shirt, a Laundry bag, and some bits of paper printed with some pretty unconvincing script font. Now admittedly £30 of each sale goes to the Royal British Legion, but who's buying..? it's not even real vintage.

This pales into insignificace besides the Bathing Ape 'busy workshop' however, tucked away just behind Golden Square at the Regent Street end of Soho. A favoured haunt of fashion-hounds everywhere, this place seems particularly popular with Japanese kids on a style pilgrimage to London, and generic sportswear fetishists from all over, who clog the aisles gawping at the wares wondering if they actually dare ask how much any of it costs. Indeed some of these cats are dressed from head to toe in nothing other than this 'Holy Grail' of post Stussy brands, though to be honest they probably had to remortgage their carboard box in SE36 to get just one of the t-shirts, so attaing the full kit probably required something like auctioning all extraneous bodily organs on the black market.

An example of the genral silliness of all this would be an ocassion a fortnight ago, whilst I myself was in there (see, I love it!) when I overheard one of the shop 'assistants' telling a punter about a t-shirt they would shortly be selling at the Glade store two doors up for wait for it...£300. The T-shirt in question was for Nigo and Pharrell Williams' dubious 'Billionaire Boys Club' imprint, which, although it was going to be studded in Swarovski crystals, is clearly such a laughable purchase that you don't even need to leave the shop to get mugged for it.

What I find stupid about this is that these are brands obstensibly influenced by Hip Hop and skate culture. Both thrifty and durable irrespectively. In the first case Hip-Hop fashion was all about poor kids rocking these incredible styles on a shoestring, while going out and actually doing stuff like I dunno, dancing, painting, DJing and having sex, and secondly, I find the idea of any of these guys endangering their baggy ape jeans by actually doing anything as physical as skating improbable to say the least.


Another thing I ocasionally find bothersome about these places is the all pervasive aura of superiority that lingers everywhere. Indeed, a question directed at one of the 'experts' who work there, unless delivered with exactly the right intonation and inflexion will probably be met with a monosyllabic response and an icy stare that would stun a basilisk.

This isn't just restricted to clothes shops of course. I was in Sounds of the Universe in (yes) Soho, when I was lucky enough to hear this textbook of example of customer service:

Customer: Hi mate, alright if I have a listen to these (brandishing an admittedly large brace of records)

Shopkeeper: (Stares incredulously) You having a laugh mate? It's five records only in this place.

Customer: Oh sorry, maybe it'd be helpful if you put a sign up, I'm in town for the day from the country.

Shopkeeper: (archly) We don't believe in that kind of thing in here, this is London mate.

So you don't believe in 'that kind of thing' but do believe in being curt to the point of rudeness with your customers. Tsk. He might have even bought those tunes pal.

All this serves to remind me of 'Comic book guy' Jeff Albertson in the Simpsons, who similarly seems to belive that relative expertise and a career in retail are a license for offhand treatment of customers. This quote kind of sums it up.

"I must hurry back to my comic book store, where I dispense the insults rather than absorb them."

Anyway. Enough, I must be off to go and spend my hard earned. Happy shopping aye?

1 comment:

gridrunner said...

Anyone who ever says, "We don't believe in that kind of thing in here, this is London mate", might as well brand his forehead with the words: "I am categorically and unquestionably, beyond any hope, a complete and utter bell end."