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Sun, Sea, Sand...Shopping?

by Bryn Law
18 May 2012 11 Comments

Holiday romance? Forget it. Nothing compares to the rush of finding some stylish clothes in a far-away land for pennies.

Summer holidays may be about sun, sand, sea and sex for some, personally, these days I’ll be more than happy with 3 of the 4 but I’ve always actively sought out the 5th ‘s’- shopping.

It began with my first caravan treks to Southern France and Northern Spain. Somewhere around the age of 12, I dragged my parents round every sports shop in the Beziers region looking for a French football shirt to take home with me. The hunt may have ruined their holiday but I hit the jackpot, eventually-Saint Etienne! It eas A beautiful green Le Coq Sportif number with horizontal white pinstripes and ‘SuperTele’ written across the chest, still the greatest shirt I’ve ever seen. Nobody had one of those back home!

The following year, a Barcelona shirt with ‘Maradona‘ and the number 10 on the back was another prize souvenir of a trip to Catalonia. It was the summer when he’d arrived ahead of his short spell at Camp Nou.

On these missions to find something different, Football was always the theme, then the emphasis changed, from what was being worn on the pitch to what was being worn on the terraces.

So it was that in the summer of ’85, the caravan parked up somewhere in Northern France, en route to what was then Yugoslavia, we went for an evening stroll through some small town. There was a sports shop, an independent, not one of those soulless Intersport places.

Given the sportswear mania back home, I soon had my nose pressed against the window. My eye was drawn to a Tacchini polo shirt, pastel blue with very subtle pink and yellow horizontal stripes, an object of beauty made even more attractive by the ‘soldes’ tag, reduced!

The shop was shut so I was up early the next morning, francs in hand, waiting for them to open. This was perhaps the first time I experienced the adrenaline rush associated with finding a quality bit of gear. I was thrilled but I’ve only recently discovered that my Dad was fuming because I’d delayed departure on the next leg of our marathon pan-european trek, apologies, but it was well worth it.

That holiday was a crazy one. The campsite was full of Italians, it was weeks after Heysel, and I was wearing the same sort of clothes, sporting the same hairstyle, I’d seen on the Liverpool lads charging across that terrace on that dreadful night. I even had a pair of Lee semi-flares in my case.

“I dragged my parents round every sports shop in the Beziers region looking for a French football shirt. The hunt may have ruined their holiday but I hit the jackpot.”

I found rich pickings on that trip to what is now Croatia. I came home with a pair of dark brown suede Adidas trainers and, holy of holies, a pair of dark brown leather Adidas shoes, little metal trefoil on the side. I had never seen anything like them back home, they cost the dinar equivalent of £10. The lads in the lower sixth laughed when I wore the shoes to school, small Welsh village, see? No sense of style.

Both pairs were eventually lost to the jumble or something, I weep inwardly when I think what they’d have been worth today.
If that was the zenith, I’ve spent every foreign trip since searching out similar treasures. I’m 41 now but still indulging in the same search for something different. it’s the look not the label these days, mind, especially with a family of four to feed on every trip to Geant or E. Leclerc.

On that basis, i’ve switched the emphasis again. Now I enjoy checking out the French/European chain-store labels. This very morning I’ve discovered  ‘Cirio’ where I picked up a shirt, a jacket very similar to a Paul Smith one I recently reluctantly left on the rail, a lovely blue work shirt with a double button collar and a messenger bag which my wife is now coveting, all for less than 40€. A couple of days ago, it was a shop called Brice and a nice, short-sleeved linen shirt with a narrow button-down collar, looked very like the one Liam Gallagher was wearing on the front of the Sunday Times magazine recently, only that was his Pretty Green label, this one cost me. It’s ‘soldes’ all the way here as well, so the weakness of the pound’s been bolstered by 70% markdowns.

I did venture into a local Intersport despite my reservations, just to confirm it’s rubbishness. Loads of stock but nothing as interesting or competitively priced as they stock in that other French favourite, Decathlon.(Brilliant retailer by the way, not many in the UK, very good sportswear at very good prices.).

Interestingly, to me at least, at one time i’d spend a fortnight looking for somewhere that sold a French football shirt, Now there’s huge rails full of them, Marseille, Lyon, PSG, even Les Bleus. Given their embarrassing showing in South Africa, I thought they might have been giving those away to every customer but, no, still full price.

Still, the memory lingers on. I’ve spotted Chevignon t-shirts whilst I’ve been over here, once a sought-after label as I recall and I saw a shirt hanging in a shop window in town the other day with that little metal triangle logo on the left corner of the pocket.. Newman.

As a general observation, older French men are well turned out, deck shoes, decent pair of denims, cotton jacket or sweater over a polo shirt. Younger French blokes are a mess, all big baggy shorts, bad trainers with socks and, in far too many instances, PSG/Marseille/Lyon etc etc football shirts. Zut Alors! Mes Amis, sort it out, you’re starting to dress like the English!

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image descriptionCOMMENTS

Mr Patrick 4:32 pm, 28-Jul-2010

Cracking article.... this echos my own experiences. My first foreign holiday with my parents was a campsite near Venice in 1990, just after the world cup. I was 15 and didn't have a clue about fashion. Italian kids my own age were dressed to kill and were whizzing around on mopeds. They were so much cooler than my mates back home. I've had a life long love affair with travel and scmutter ever since.

Sir Stewart Wallace 4:33 am, 21-Aug-2010

Bryn, you're up North a lot, there's a Decathlon in Sheffield, just don't take your racquet there for a restringing, they're shite at it.

Bryn 8:29 am, 21-Aug-2010

The Decathlon in Sheffield's conveniently located a goal kick away from Bramall Lane.. I also turn up half an hour for a game and nip in. Came out with a pair of orange and silver running trainers, a pair of footy socks and a camping mat. The other one's on my route back to North Wales, just off the M60 in Stockport.. I have the knowledge! And I don't play tennis...

nifty 50 2:24 pm, 23-Aug-2010

Great article that reminded me of when i went to france with the school in 1981 and i picked up an adidas windsheeter in royal blue for about a tenner which was all the money i had on me and i had to ponce people's sannies for the rest of the day but it was worth it.

Scousedom 6:40 pm, 23-Sep-2010

First shirt i ever got as a kid was the St Etienne top with "supertele" on it. Still have it now & a minter. Will be one for my 1st born when he's 5 !!

Scousedom 10:51 am, 28-Sep-2010

Bryn, do you have a contact email for James Brown ? An old friend of his is trying to get in touch. You may know him from your days in Liverpool. If you could drop me a message on the above address & then forward the info on to James, that would be great. Cheers Dom

Sam Rowe 12:34 pm, 28-Sep-2010

Scousedom, if he emails we'll pass it on to James. Cheers

roverscasual 8:48 pm, 26-Nov-2010

New man thats a label from the summer of 86 used to buy T-shirts ,floral shirts and baggy canvas jeans with the metal badge , hair gelled back those were the days

roverscasual 8:49 pm, 26-Nov-2010

managed to get a shirt in Malta in a back street shop after an Englandfriendly back in 2000 , never seen it since

topppcat 8:07 pm, 17-Jun-2011

Great article, I too had the 'Super Tele' St. Etienne top. I got mine from the best shop in Bradford, Carters. Sports gear, Fishing rods, clothes, Air Rifles and Toys upstairs. Including Airfix, Scalectrix and model trains for the kids who bypassed the sports stuff. What a shop that was.

Bunny 4:33 pm, 19-May-2012

still got a New Man denim shirt plus a couple of Best Company sweats.

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