Saturday 6 September 2008

How men shop

Every time I change jobs, I seem to need a new set of clothes. The job before last, I spent some of my time in the "office" wearing shorts, a T-shirt and bare feet (we were 50 feet underground, the air conditioning didn't work and no one ever visited us, so I could have gone nude if I was working alone). The last job was a mix between suit and tie sometimes, good casual at other times and hard Yakka and steel capped boots for the rest. I am now in yet another job, and this place is a kind of "suit, but without the jacket and tie" outfit.

So today was clothes shopping day - a day dreaded by most men, especially if they have bad memories of doing it with their mother. I suspect most men have memories like that, which is why they still hate doing it 30 years later. So I have unresolved issues - so what?

Luckily, I have found the perfect shop for me. Don't laugh, but it is a Ron Bennett store in Chatswood. Ron Bennett is a chain of "gentleman's outfitters" - they have a few stores in the CBD, plus more in the suburbs, and they specialise in putting a bloke into a suit. They don't seem to carry much in the way of high-end suits - you won't see many $3,000 Armani or Zegna suits in their shops, but they do sell what I would call comfortable, not too expensive, stylish kit. If I had to change a tyre on the way to work and wrecked a pair of pants that I bought from Ron Bennett, I would not be crying for the rest of the month.

I drove into the carpark at Chatswood at 10:21. I then had to negotiate a few levels of car park, find a spot, find the lifts, wait for the lifts, get out on the wrong floor, find the escalators to the right floor..... then I did my shopping... and I had my bags of clothes back in the car at 10:56, after finding the lifts, finding the car in the carpark etc.

Not bad for a trip that netted me 5 shirts and 3 pairs of pants, which have to be taken up of course.

Which is why I like this shop. They don't fart around with their sizes every season, so I never bother to try the shirts on. They know that I only wear 100% cotton business shirts, preferably with a normal cuff rather than a French cuff (but I will wear a French cuff if I particularly like the shirt), and they have my size on their computer. I tell them roughly what I am after (business attire with no tie) and they just go to the shirt shelves and start throwing shirts on a counter in front of me, allowing me to sift them into piles marked "definite", "maybe" and "no". I tried on the "maybe" shirt today, and moved it into the "definite" pile. They'll suggest colours and styles that they think are in this season, and see if I bite. But most of the time, I just get them to keep piling up the shirts until I have 4-6 that I like. I have to work hard at this point not to end up like the Mickey Rourke character in 9 1/2 weeks with a cupboard full of the same white shirts. I really could be that person if I wanted to.

The same with the trousers. Once I had tried on two pairs to firm up the size I wanted, they laid a swathe of them out in front of me and I selected three pairs, and that was that. The staff are all great salesmen - I think they knew this time not to try to push a tie onto me, since I told them up front that it was a "no tie" office. A suit jacket was out for the same reason. But they still got 8 articles of clothing out of me in about 20 minutes, which was nearly $1,200. I like the symetry of that - spending money at $1 per second.

It took me just as long again to go to the supermarket to buy some milk and washing up liquid.

I have blogged before about a great book by Paco Underhill called "Why we buy - the science of shopping", and he has some fantastic descriptions in it of the differences between how men and women shop. Men are on a mission when they are buying clothes - if you can get a man to walk into a change room with some clothes that fit, there is something like a 75% chance he will buy them. With women, it's like 10% (I'll have to find the book and confirm that number). Men go shopping for clothes when they have a need, and if it fits, it's theirs.

Which is why men get driven nuts when they go shopping with women. Men are sitting there going, "Like, does it fit?"


"Then let's get it and go."

"I'm not sure about the hemline."


I'm sure the divorce rate would be about half what it is now if wives never, ever took their husbands shopping with them.

1 comment:

missred said...

i must have a serious deficiency in estrogen. i am a goal shopper.. i know what i want and i look for it, hopefully find it, and if it fits (women's fashions are not as finite as men's), i buy it. if i don't find what i want, i go home.. or go to a pub a drink. i hate shopping.
i guess i am not a woman