The Scottish Hebrides. photo:internet
Reader Jakob writes:
My name is Jakob, I am a 22-year old student from Slovenia. At the moment I am studying abroad, in Edinburgh.
Seeing that I am in Scotland my first thought, in regard to this was that I should find some good tweed. And indeed, I have found them, at a much lower price that a new garment would cost me. But then I have found your blog and suddenly I was asking myself this question: Why are the shops here so much more expensive than what you're writing about? Is it a cultural thing or am I looking in all the wrong places? Just to give you some reference - a tweed jacket (in Harris Tweed or of similar quality) would cost one 30-40GBP. A shirt would be 6-15GBP (depending on the brand). The Scots seem much more quality and brand-conscious than what you seem to be experiencing in the States... Any idea why?
That's an interesting question, and it speaks to the fact that, simply put, no two thrift shops are the same. Each one will have a different assembly of hodge-podge items for sale, and location plays a big role in what you're likely to find there. For example, it shouldn't be surprising in the least that a Scottish thrift shop would have more tweed than a similar store elsewhere, any more than good cheese is more easily had in Paris.
Many thrift shops these days have caught on to the fact that they can selectively up-charge their better items when they find them, but in a thrift store anything is only worth what someone will pay. What winds up happening is the items that hold value with the customers will be singled out. In Scotland, I imagine, a good tweed is something still generally appreciated by most people.
Is it a cultural thing? Maybe. America has led the charge to a pyjamas-all-day-every-day lifestyle for generations, and we tend to dress more sloppy and casual than any other nation. Dressing in tailored clothing is largely a choice these days for those who care. As such, things like tweed jackets have less value on a broad level. Conversely, a commemorative World Series Red Sox jacket will get a high ticket. It's all about time and place.
He also writes:
there is a very old debate society here, at the university, and they meet in black tie. I am very interested in joining, and I'm asking you for some advice - how can I make black tie a bit more interesting? I mean, I know it's a fixed set of rules, and I don't mean to go there in a red tuxedo. I'm just wondering if you have any idea what some little touches can be, that could make it just that bit more interesting, so I don't turn up there dressed exactly the same every single time...
My best advice here is not to mess around too much. Simplicity is the essence of why black tie looks so good. You might look for a velvet jacket to swap out for the standard, or simply get a bow tie in your schools stripe or tartan, or a set in grey glen check, to wear instead of black. For a festive occasion, red socks could work, but even that might be pushing it, especially at an old club in the habit of wearing black tie. It can be a fun look to wear a tartan jacket or trousers with black tie, but I'd a void doing it in Scotland. You don't want to be the guy who's trying to hard to stand out. And no, don't show up in a red tuxedo.