Monday, 24 November 2014

The Staple: A Fresh Challenge

I do not wear shirts. Since being forced to iron them for school some years ago, and then forced to wear them while working at a job I despised in the City, I've been off the collar and cuffs look. Aside from weddings, funerals, posh parties, interviews and the occasional fashion week, they hang forlornly in my wardrobe, complementing the colour-coded system, but never used.

Wearing a tie is just not for me (hence my hilarious attempts to be sartorial in the recent Hackett #10Men1City campaign). I loathe ironing shirts. The air tie (or as one friend once commented many years ago "the emperor's new clothes of styling") thing is just not me. Above all, I am not good with authority (if my last post wasn't clear enough), and kowtowing to the shirted authority is something I have, in my own small way, attempted to rebel against.

However, I also realise that this may sound a little childish. I am lucky enough to own quite a few rather nice shirts from posho places like Prada, Miu Miu, Paul & Joe and Liberty. Somehow I even have a custom-made one from Savile Row's Norton & Sons. Strange for an eschewer of the form.

When I rebooted this blog a couple of months ago, I posted the following onto Facebook: "It's been a while but I'm kinda bringing The Staple back! Ish. Still working out what I might do with it... suggestions/ criticism/ LOLZ welcome".

Brilliantly, one of my friends loves this sort of thing. Catherine Sweeney is a woman I have known since I was about nine years old, and she's a part of my awesome group of nine of us that are still fantastic friends since school. Probably, in fact, my most important friends in the world - even though I don't see them that often. Ms Sweeney though, loves an adventure, and a challenge (and is currently in Kenya, sporadically - and BRILLIANTLY - blogging at Twendevso), so she read this as a challenge. Luckily for me, she didn't really set any parameters, so I'm setting them for myself.

So, I'm going take her up on the challenge, and start wearing shirts again. It might not sound like a big thing to anyone that doesn't know me, but to those that do: when was the last time you saw me in a shirt?! Anyway, I've just counted in my wardrobe, and I have 20 - though the spangly Prada one may have to wait. The aim will be to wear a different shirt every week, and see how it goes. Will I become a committed shirt-wearer, or leave them gladly behind? Will anyone aside from Catherine care?

Don't worry btw, this isn't for charity (I'm more of a believer in giving money regularly to charity); there's no participation required. I'm going to do a thing, and then write about it. Hopefully it'll be vaguely interesting...

A disclaimer: Apologies if you find this deathly dull. I'm sure there's plenty happening on Buzzfeed.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Staple: Mastering the Dark Arts* (of eBay)

Over the summer, I became a bit of an eBay addict. Nothing too serious, but like most people in fashion, I try and seek out something different to what everyone else is wearing. And like most people in fashion, eBay is my chosen arena for this search.

Now that vintage shops, and even charity shops, are basically the same price as Topman, and the high street's enormous turnover of cheaply-made garments aren't becoming less appealing for anyone looking for interesting clothes, it seems like the forum for buying good quality second-hand clothing at a reasonable price is rather necessary. In the same way that I wouldn't advise anyone buying nice second-hand furniture to buy it at a fancy boutique in any London area with 'Village' in its name, buying top quality vintage fashion in the capital is riddled with issues, namely price and quality.

On the other side, there's a delicious ease to eBay, and a simple naivete to it. Like Twitter, the listings process is a great leveller, equating Balenciaga couture with a pair of old H&M socks, and leaving it to anyone with a bit of nous to truffle out the prizes. And usually it'll be Mr Fury, um furiously, bidding on the couture, so watch out - he's a formidable buyer.

Does it take a bit of time? Well yes. But then so does going to the shops. Also, I can't go to the shops under my duvet, or at 2am. Is there a possibility that you might buy a fake? Well, yes, but like buying a stolen bike on Gumtree, it's pretty obvious once you've looked for more then ten minutes. If you know which labels to look out for then you'll be OK (top tip #1: cult boutiques and smaller labels; if they a massive catwalk show/perfume line/enormous shop on Bond St then you'll be wading through piles of crap). Is it a bit annoying sometimes? Well yes, but that just makes the wins all the sweeter.

But what to buy? It's the same as when that flashing cursor of Google blinks and all of human knowledge is at your fingertips: start with something you know and love. My latest bargain is right there at the top of this post: a pair of Strawberry Thief Liberty print Vans in exactly my size, purchased just the other week, at half the retail price. I tried on the ones they had in Liberty a few weeks ago, but the sizing wasn't quite right, and sixty quid for canvas daps is a bit steep. Cue eBay - these ones are from a few seasons ago, but in this much jollier print, and crucially for me, a UK 10.5. Apparently that's my size, I've been getting it wrong for years.

Anyway, a drunken bid (top tip #2: booze helps all purchases - eBay or not, as we saw from my recent Neil Barrett purchase) secured them for a perfectly reasonable price, and they arrived a few days later. Admittedly the box was knackered, but tbh they've barely been off my feet. Florals for winter - groundbreaking apparently. Just spray them with some sort of protector like the woefully-names but very effective Crep Protect and you'll be AOK.

A warning: like Tinder, eBay is a dangerously addictive way of spending time and money. With an app on your phone, a bit of booze and a few quid in your Paypal account, you can rapidly become obsessed with it. I'm gutted to have missed out on a few items recently (an Aquascutum camel cashmere parka and an Antipodium T back from the days when they did menswear), but this is only fuelling the fire of more purchasing.

There are of course pitfalls to avoid, and ways of scoring that bargain last-minute, but this isn't a blow-by-blow how-to guide. Dive in, make some mistakes and buy something inappropriate, it's *such fun*, I promise.

* why a 'Dark Art', you might ask? Well, eBay is very much the fashion insider's secret, like the Chiswick car boot sale (apparently). Everyone's at it, but no-one talks about it. If someone in fashion tells you they've never used it, eye them suspiciously and quiz them on the names of the staff on the second floor of DSM where that Limited Edition Alaia utility came from, and watch them crumble.