I am not much for shopping for clothes, not because I am the sort who is comfortable looking scruffy, but because it is such a chore, and deliberately designed to be so by the fashion retailers.

Today I need a new jacket as the old one is looking increasingly threadbare in places. I need new shoes to replace the nice pair with their equally nice holes in the bottom, oh and a spare pair of trousers so I can have a bit of variety.

All this is for work, which limits the possibilities a little, but not too onerously.

Shoes should be easy. Department stores usually put all the shoes in one place. OK, they hide the price tags, so a thrifty person spends most of their time picking up nice shoes, turning them upside down and putting them back again in a hurry when the price tag is revealed.

Quite why they don’t put the price tags where they would be visible is a curiosity.

Of course, when I find a pair that are both nice, and the right price, then it’s a game of hunt-the-salesman, and when finally hooked on the line, the inevitable disappointment that my size is out of stock. They have other sizes, as if implying that my feet can expand or shrink at will.

Maybe yours can, but mine are resolutely fixed at one size, and one size shoe is all they will accept.

At least all the shoes are in the same place though — off to buy a jacket. Where’s the jacket section? There isn’t one, for the jackets are displayed by brandname of the designer label. If you want a jacket by a specific designer, great. But if you just want to buy a jacket that looks nice, then its ages spent wandering around cavernous shopping floors into each and every concession and brand-zone to see what is available.

The same for trousers.

Oddly, shoes are displayed by type — aka, all the shoes together. The same for underpants and socks. All together, and ties, hats, all manner of accessories — all put in one place. Although I’ve never quite understood why the socks and pants are together. I makes more sense to my mind to put the socks near to the shoes. New shoes sir? How about some nice new socks to go with them?

So, it is deemed that for some products, grouping them by product type is sensible, but for others, they have to be grouped by the name of the label on the inside of the jacket, or the lining of the trousers.

I don’t really care what the name of the designer is, I care about whether its a nice cut, a nice colour, is the right price, and most difficult of all, in the right size.

I would love to go into a shop, and find all the jackets in one place, where I can browse with my “jacket buying mode” activated, then wander to another place and activate my trouser buying mode, then elsewhere, the shoe buying mode.

But department stores don’t think like that.

So I really dislike clothes shopping.

But the sales were on, and in frugal times, a few bargains were eked out of the stores today. A pity that when I got home, I was also exhausted.



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  1. Kit Green says:

    Most women I know like the fragmentation into brand concession zones. They love wasting half a day browsing in an apparently random meandering manner.

    Most men I know just want to be in and out of the monstrous soulless shopping centres as fast as possible.

    Is there some equality law that states that shops must present their wares in the same manner to everyone? Probably not, so why are large stores so determined to make men stressed whilst shopping?

  2. Scots Lesley says:

    I hate the big stores too. But then I mostly shop in charity shops and supermarket clothes depts these days and they are mostly ok. But even Sainsburys has separated out their “fashion” range by Gok Wan from the normal run of clothes.

  3. annuca says:

    Not all women like shopping :D. One of the reasons I like TK Maxx is that items are grouped by type AND by size. So I don’t even have to look at jackets in the wrong size. Bliss!

  4. annie says:

    Hello Ian, many thanks for all your interesting posts.

    In return, here’s something I think I know about and can offer advice on… though I love shopping and clearly missed my vocation as a personal shopper, I appreciate not everyone enjoys it.

    If you don’t like shopping, and like to do lightning raids for essentials, a department store is not the right place. They’re designed (like Ikea) to keep you inside and browsing, not for swift exits.

    To make it less stressful, I’d suggest first researching online for men’s clothes shops with styles and prices you like. For example, you could check out Cos or French Connection (bit more expensive high street for smart work clothes) or Zara men, or Topman and H&M for less expensive high street menswear.

    Individual chain shops have everything (shoes, trousers, jackets of all variety) all in the same place in one shop, so you don’t spend hours wandering around looking for jackets, for example. When you see what you like online, you could ring the store to check they have your size and ask them to put it aside for you. Go in, try it on, pay, voila, done.

    I’d also recommend the King’s Road which may be a trek (depending on where you live) but has many of your basic clothes shops and is a million times less busy and hideous than Oxford Street.

  5. LadyBracknell says:

    None of this affects me much these days as I have started sewing the clothes I want to wear – a winter coat is in the planning stages. I no longer need shoes much beyond ballet flats and I rarely found a jacket, let alone trousers, that was a PROPER fit.

    Really a department store is not the place to go shopping for clothing or shoes. It’s best to go to a shoe shop or a chain/general clothing outlet such as M&S or BhS. You could, of course, save yourself a lot of money by going down the charity shop or vintage route.

  6. Catherine says:

    It may sound like your worst nightmare, but believe me a personal shopper is exactly what you need to counter this problem. Free in the big department stores (though you need to book), you tell them exactly what you want, they bring you a selection from across brands, you try on (with cup of tea) and only buy what you like. Free advice on your choices if you want it.

  7. LadyBracknell says:

    Personal shopping is fine if the shops actually sell the clothes you want to buy. I make my own because the ‘high street’ does not have the styles, colours or fabrics I like. The fit is also poor if you are not the standard bodyshape from which the pattern was derived.

  8. Simon says:

    Can fully sympathise – can’t stand it either. The only ways I’ve found to make it bearable are either to go on a weekday morning when you’ll have the shops to yourself, or have a very clear idea of what you’re after, and go straight for it, in and out all Ninja-like.

    And make sure you’ve a decent pub lined up on the route home!

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