19 September 2011

Off Season: Unsolicited Advice from a Know-It-All Stranger

Younger men might be generally a bunch of slobs, with a staunch few struggling to do better. But we need to help these guys, not disdain them, for it is their parents, if anyone, to blame for their complete social and sartorial ignorance. Here's a snarky story:
Pictured above is a pair of 1960s vintage real madras jackets, acquired last Saturday. They're dirty as hell, and one needs a button replaced, but honestly, two real madras jackets, in my size, in excellent plaids, in one day? Worth every bit of $14.98. But the jackets are immaterial. How I came by them is the real story.

A young fellow, early twenties, was in the thrift store with his mother, father and kid brother (18?) looking for a blazer. Mom kept trying to get him to buy orphaned suit coats. Dad kept telling him everything that fit was too small, and tried to coax him into two sizes too big. Kid brother just kept giving him a hard time, the only member of this family actually doing his job. At one point, he had on a perfectly serviceable navy blazer with sleeves a hair long, which mother told him would be impossible to alter. My ears were burning, but it was none of my business, and so I stayed out of it. So I turned away.

Then I hear father and brother really laying into him for how silly something looks, while big brother tries to defend his choice of something which clearly appeals to him on a real level. I look up to find the kid in a vintage Indian madras jacket, big plaid in burgundy, navy and gold, that fits him well. As he momentarily escapes the clutches of his parents' useless and misguided advice to find a mirror, I immediately dive on these other two.

The kid comes back and says to his parents something like " I don't care what you say, a cute girl just told me I look good in this jacket so I'm getting it." I smile. Mom and Dad are not happy, and I can hold my tongue no longer.

"You know," I said, " in another kind of store that jacket would sell for quite a lot of money. It's really something special you have there, a real Indian madras jacket. That cloth hasn't existed in a long time, and collector's would go mad over it. That's why I'm getting the other two. Good job."

"Really?" says mom.

"Really." says I.

"See, I knew this jacket was cool." says the kid.

Dad and younger brother are speechless.

Maybe I shouldn't have butted in, and I'm glad I didn't hand out a business card. But c'mon, this kid was feeling it, and he just needed some encouragement. If mom and dad, especially dad, wasn't willing to give it, I'd like to think, in my own demented way, I helped that kid down the road to dressing well.

The kid even said to his shocked parents " Let's keep looking for something more conservative, too. This is a fun jacket." There's hope for the future yet.

p.s. after a period of neglect, there are new items in the Shop, with Fall/Winter items beginning to trikle in. Have a look.


NCJack said...

Glad you were able to say something positive to the guy, as opposed to screaming at Mom, Dad, and brother that they were idiots. It's hard to listen to clueless people (usually wives)give dumb advice and say nothing.

Wil said...

I had nearly the same experience this weekend in my local Kohl's. A kid and his dad were looking at black suits for the kid's orchestra performance, and I could tell this was the first go-round for both of them. I was perusing the dress shirts and keeping an ear out. The kid was maybe 15, about 5-10 and probably 150 pounds. I wasn't really going to offer any unsolicited advice, but when I heard the dad say "why not try this 44 long?" I nearly passed out. I butted my way in with a little small talk about first suits and by the time it was over, the kid was hooked up in a slim-fit white shirt, a 38R, 2-button jacket and 29 inseam pants that had just a tiny bit of break. It was almost enough to make me want my own kid..... but not really.

Anonymous said...

This is a great story. The parents certainly should be old enough to know better. I wish somebody would do a similar intervention on the parents of that lad's female counterparts.

The other day I was in line at a Ralph Lauren outlet while my lady friend was informing a mother and her 20-ish daughter behind us that there was a Vineyard Vines store nearby. The girl's eyes lit up as she said, "There's a Vineyard Vines here!" Mom was also in a striped RL rugby she'd borrowed from the youngster. So there may be hope for us yet.

Giuseppe said...

When I worked at Simon's, it was a given that if I guy came shopping for clothes with his wife, you were to ignore him entirely and sell only to the wife, using the guy merely as a mennequin. Any guy who needs his wife's approval on everything he wears likely lets her pick out his clothes in the morning anyway.

It's the same consept as talking to Mom when she brings the boy out shopping.

Tobias said...

I wonder who's idea it was for the family to go to a thrift shop? The mothers I suppose. The fact they went as a family, with father included is outstanding.
I have only been thrifting for a few months and have been amazed at the dichotomy of people I see in thrift stores.
I suppose the stereotype is derelicts and poor people but it has been quite the contrary. I have seen plenty of cute women and well dressed families. One thrift store I frequent always has Mercedes, BMW's and Volvo's parked out front.

Unknown said...

The thrift spots I've hit up of late are ravaged by hipsters and buyers for consignment stores. I've yet to hit something really great.

But I DID find some fantastic rocks tumblers the other day. Set of three, of course. But perfect for an Old Fashioned on my own.

P.S. - Just finished a full archive crawl here. Thanks for all the great tips and story, Giuseppe! I just wish I could find the quality of thrifting you have here in Vancouver.

Ah, well. My mom's a mad thrifter, I should put her on the hunt in my home town. She knows how it's done.

Donald said...

You had a nice, class way of butting in.

bafe said...

Most thrift stores here are filled with hipster, the really smug ones. I was once scolded by one of them because I wanted to show him a pair of trousers that was much better than the one he was holding. Fortunately I often meet old people, that like to discuss and are open to advice.

Anonymous said...

Good job G. It takes a village.

Roger v.d. Velde said...

I always butt in, as politely as I can. I see no sense it letting them be led astray. Where's the good in letting people go through more misery and mistakes of money wasted on stuff they can't wear?

Well, apart from leaving more merchandise for myself.

Jho78 said...

I cause a minor kerfuffle on the Ask Andy forum a few months ago with a post about a similar situation titled "Should I Have Intervened?" It can be found here:


The consensus was that I was right to have kept my big yapper shut, but I'm still not sure.

Young Fogey said...

Cool story. It is possible to talk to strangers, even give them advice, without being seen as a buttinsky. You have more tact than you give yourself credit for, G.

Had I been as quick-witted and smooth-talking as you, I probably would have added something like, y'know, you had a really nice, well-fitting blazer on a minute ago--what happened to that? Then they might have gotten him the jacket that fit.

Anonymous said...

It's too bad that money was what it took to change their minds--finding out that the jacket their son had on was one for which people in another kind of store would pay a great deal more. But that was almost certainly the right line for you to pursue, G. Not many parents would take kindly to a stranger in a thrift store telling their teenaged son that the jacket he's wearing looks great on him.

2Stoics said...

What a nice story! Civility has deteriorated. Time was your response would have been the standard, not the exception.

I really appreciated this post.

iBoutiques said...

This is an interesting story. The kid really has a feel for something 'conservative'. Vintage clothing style is truly immortal. It has powerful feel to it when you wear it. Men seem to look elegant, brilliant, and powerful when they wear something 'conservative'. Vintage will continue to influence mens fashion in ages to come.

Sean said...

I often have the same problem, seeing people buying clothes that are way to large and small, shirts with collars 2 to 3 in to big, black shirts with black suits and black tie. I will admit, I love and do wear my black suit. but the all black look is horrendous, and so many people do not realize it. I do butt in occasion, but in such a way as to seem helpful, like a mother says, gee. is this shirt to big, i might make a suggestion. It is a travesty that the Baby boomers have done so much to destroy good taste. My grandfather was known as a stylish man (and a staunch Brooks-brothers and Jermyn Street customer until his untimely death in the early 90s when I was less than 2), and from the photos and stories of him I have been exposed to, he wore his clothes like a second skin. But you would never guess it from his sons, of whom their were 6, including my father. One would think, that at least being around members of the last well-dressed generation would have rubbed off, at least slightly. And more to point, my grandfather did not have his clothes bought for him. And really, men never look worse than when women shop for them. There is a reason men's and women's clothes are cut differently and made in different colors. Women, for better or worse, are, by western cultural standards, the colorful and daring ones, sartorially. There is a reason; it works, and it is far more pleasing to the eye. admittedly, there are exceptions, like my sister's x, who, after losing a significant amount of weight, did not think he needed to change his wardrobe. My sister tried, and he did end up buying 2 or 3 things that actually fit him.

Stu said...

I think that I would of butted in too, being 28, I'm annoyed at how people don't dress well. I was recently mocked for wearing a wonderful madras bow tie with my oxford, cords and sports jacket, but the last laugh was with myself, as they like lemmings all wore jeans and t-shirts. Don't be afraid to speak your mind and give more wannabe "good dressers" some support.

Charlie said...

Good story, but I'm more enamored by that jacket on the right. Good grief. Put that baby in the webstore.