Retail Therapy


I’ve never been a big fan of clothes shopping as I find it tedious and time consuming and in days gone by when I went to buy clothes I’d usually go into the first store and find something I liked but not buy it, as I wanted “to see what everywhere else had going”. I’d then spend the next (let’s say) 2 hours traipsing around all the other clothes shops looking at near-identical items and comparing them to what I’d seen in the first shop and usually comparing unfavourably. Once I’d exhausted all the options – not to mention the patience of anyone with me and/or shop staff – I’d pretty much always end up back in the original shop buying what I’d seen when the odyssey began.

Since then my retail behaviour has evolved. When the children were young and time and attention spans were short (and not just the children’s I should add…) I adopted the approach so that if I wanted jeans, for instance, I’d go into just one shop and look at what was there, possibly try on a pair or two and if the feeling I got was “hmm, yeah, they’ll do”, I’d buy them and go home; but if it was more “hmm, nah, maybe not”, I’d quite often just call it a day and go home and save myself the bother. On a very rare occasion I might visit a second shop and repeat the above, but that would only be in exceptional circumstances (e.g. new clothes needed either because current ones had fallen apart or something was needed for a special occasion). I stuck with this approach for a fair amount of time until the last few years, when my approach evolved again to being simply going to the shop where I know I can get what I want and not have to bother fannying about considering where to go or even looking elsewhere. Which is why I get shirts from Pinks, suits from Sparks, jeans from Levi and rugby shirts from House of Fraser (Howick) – although it remains to be seen if these will survive the Mike Ashley takeover as they are/were the HoF own line. For anyone familiar with my sartorial style over the years, the above revelations will possibly provide some enlightenment along the lines of “Oh, right!. That’s why he was still wearing that”. In short, for me – and to misquote what Mark Twain once said about golf – shopping is a good walk spoilt.

So it came as something of a revelation to find myself at the Mission Viejo shopping mall – called The Shops at Mission Viejo (great work from the marketing team there) – and actually enjoying walking round, browsing shops, interacting with people and generally seeing what was available. I’m not entirely sure what brought this on, as it’s a huge place with about 160 shops including two branches of Macy’s department store and it being a Saturday afternoon, the place was mobbed – which incidentally are criteria usually at the top of my “avoid like the plague” list. I expect it could have been any or all of the following the feeling of space and – believe it or not – tranquillity as there was no muzak, but plenty of natural light; there were no screaming kids or groups of yoof barrelling along the concourse, comfortable seats to take a quick break in and a food court which served proper food. it was, it made the whole experience a great deal more enjoyable than I expected. 

I didn’t actually buy anything for myself but I did have some fun in the Tommy Bahama shop where they sell beach and leisure wear mostly bearing palm tree and coconut prints to a demographic whose identity I really struggle to identify. Now I admit to owning a loud shirt or two, which I bring out on special occasions, but I really struggle to see a big enough market for linen trousers adorned with multi-coloured palm trees paired with garish shirts printed with sandy beaches and pina coladas (wave rolling into shore also available) and all topped off by a pork-pie straw hat complete with beach umbrella motifs. As an ensemble, I can tell you now, it’s not a hot look and I know this as I tried them all on, all at the same time. I looked like a chameleon with impaired camouflaging skills and who having unexpectedly fetched up in the Caribbean was going with the “I know, I’ll make them laugh” approach to predator deterrent. Mind you, it was worth putting all that garb on for the crushed look on salesman’s face when I told him I’d changed my mind as he could see his commission on the $385 it would have cost floating away.

On the way out there was more fun to be had when I was stopped by a lady selling “beauty products for men”. She handed me a sachet of some jollop to make my hair either less something or possibly more something, I forget which, but I’m sure it’ll do whichever one I don’t need. She then proceeded to talk really quickly and at some length about how there were “excellent products for a guy like you these days to make your skin feel like your skin again”. Now I’ll be honest, I can’t quite recall ever thinking my skin felt like someone else’s, but I let it pass. During a brief gap in the sales patter, I told her it wasn’t really my thing to which she asked me what my current exfoliating regimen consisted of and I’m afraid I rather confused the poor lady as I’m guessing “peanuts and pale ale” is not a technique she either recognised or one that she had the products to help me. Anyway the stunned silence allowed me to make my escape.