A Guide To Credit Crunch Clothes Shopping

I used to have a major shopping addiction but recently I've had to reign it in a bit. Here's how I'm managing to buy great clobber but still not break the bank.
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I used to have a major shopping addiction but recently I've had to reign it in a bit. Here's how I'm managing to buy great clobber but still not break the bank.

I’m going through a lean period, an undecidedly mean period. Recent personal events have prompted a mood of economic maturity. A time for reflection and fiscal temperance. I’m having a clothes amnesty. Sort of.

I’ve managed to develop clobber clutch control at fifteen pairs of shoes (and trainers). Over a dozen jackets/coats... I could go on. We all need our pleasures, but for me, I think the sales will provide the next proper fix. Its time to elongate that salivation before a new year rush of purchase frenzy. Maybe I should get a girlfriend, spend more quality time with the kids or get (another) hobby but it’s time to make do and mend. Get those shoes repaired, adjust the sleeves on the crombie. It’s time to develop a new perspective on matters sartorial.

I don’t necessarily need to whack out £300+ on a new winter coat, despite the fact that APC’s recent interpretation of the fishtail parker on Oi Polloi has prompted a nagging semi that’s going to take some shifting. I can just wear that Uniqlo number from 2006 and get my Grenson brogue boots repaired at the local cobblers, rather than the authentic reconditioning the makers suggest. The dry cleaners do decent adjustments. My existing wardrobe will suffice - but for a few winter staples of course.

These days, internet shopping is just a click or two away and it can eat into your finances like a burgeoning crack habit. Getting clobber delivered to your home (or workplace, it’s so much more convenient) is a borderline fetish. Once the industrially sealed courier packaging is dealt with - take your time, use a very sharp Stanley knife and don‘t hack away like an idiot, there‘s threads inside - you’re often treated to a process that can only be compared to negotiating expensive underwear on an early date. Tightly packed tissue paper. Ribbons. All sealed with a branded sticker that must be removed cleanly thank you very much. From your favourites to your wardrobe, all tracked and tidy. A minor modern miracle. And an addictive one.

However, internet shopping does have one screamingly obvious pitfall. It denies you the opportunity of actually trying the stuff on. But does this heighten the thrill of the slow unpeeling of tightly packed merch‘? The thought that it may not actually fit properly and you should have gone for a bigger/smaller size after all? Certainly, a mid transit panic followed by a snug fit upon arrival is a bonus, but ordering a ‘wrongun’ of any description is a horror. Never mind the returns policy. The entire tease has been ruined. It’s akin to unwrapping a frontal arrangement of near Rastafarian hirsuteness. It’s a swift descent. Like shit drugs.

However, internet shopping does have one screamingly obvious pitfall. It denies you the opportunity of actually trying the stuff on.

A fairly recent flurry brought to bear something of a white elephant that still hangs awkwardly in the wardrobe. Rather than lash out on a decent tailor to render the jacket’s arms less suitable for an orangutan I adopted the make do mantra and had the arms taken up at the local dry cleaners. They’re still frustratingly too long but I can live with it. Just. Certain sites, like the aforementioned Mancunian treasure trove, offer very useful size advice; slim fit, consider sizing up etc and nine times out of ten you get it right, and of course you can go through the laborious rigmarole of returns but all things considered I think it’s time to get back into the habit of real shopping. To think, I actually had a slight in-transit panic when I considered sizing up to a 42. That must have had arms like stretch Armstrong after an afternoon with an unusually strong child. No, it’s time to get a (Oyster diluted of course) one day travel card and get up town. Where this all began.

In my carefree teenage years I would think nothing of lashing out a week’s wages on an Armani jumper, or one of those chunky knits from Browns, a leather jacket from Take Six (where a mate worked and had a discount) or all manner from a Soho dive called Nick Nacks, which reeked of moth balls. But in these harsh times, there is no such shooting up the wall, and at the age of 43, it’s high time I grew up and after a wander round W1, here’s a few tips for supplementing the wardrobe without breaking the bank.

BENETTON

I used to nip to the Croydon branch as a cash rich 16 year-old back in 1983 - rugby tops, polos etc - and it still cuts the mustard as far as I’m concerned. It’s Italian for heaven’s sake. I purchased a ski jumper that’s just the right side of retro lary and a nice pair of (regular) cords for £70 - the pair!!. They have also got some really nice smart herringbone jackets for a ton.

UNIQLO

It’s that much sharper than GAP, and better quality than H&M. This is where my twelve year old son is developing a taste for clothes and he can’t go far wrong for decent clobber on a budget. It’s also arguable that the men's stuff is better than the women’s and you can’t say that in most high street shops.

MUJI

Always worth a look, especially the Oxford Street shop which seems to have the best range of clothes.

M&S

Their crew necks/v necks and long sleeve wool polos are as good as anyone’s. And the autograph range throws up the odd piece. While for those who work suited and booted, there is no better value for money.

Coupled with the perennially excellent Originals on offer in Clarks, I think I’m through with the big old purchases, unless there’s an immediate upturn in financial fortunes. It’s more fun being thrifty and addiction’s not a good thing, even if nieche designer clothing is better for you than Heroin.

But for the time being, I’m just saying No.

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