Why I Shop at High Street Menswear Chains

“I just came upon your blog and have been reading back posts with interest. you clearly have a great sense of style, but can I ask why you choose to mostly shop at UK high street menswear chains .. who seem to insist on make short, tight & shapeless jackets & tight low trousers these days.. I can see you are creating a classic look, but it must be terribly difficult when the products sold at these places are pushing a modern fashion type image?”

I have long lived by one simple mantra; ‘material is material – nothing more.’ The strange thing is, I used to believe in ‘names.’ That unless one was clothed in designer wares from head to foot, you could never look the part. I realised this was complete phooey when the monetary challenges of student life were pressing upon me. I learned the value of money and decided, halfway through my university years, that it was not wise to spend silly proportions of an allowance on a jumper or a new tie.

I had once restricted my sartorial purchases to designer sales and high end gentlemen clothiers like Ede & Ravenscroft. At university, I was forced to ‘find’ the value in less expensive places. The British high street, which was nowhere near the level it is now, was new ground to me – but ground that offered value for money.

To begin with, finding what I wanted at the price I was prepared to pay was tough. I was reluctant to keep visiting stores and I was also unprepared to try new names. Eventually, it was a lack of choice and style in familiar high street stores like Marks & Spencer and GAP that pushed me to have a look in what were then relative newcomers to the British high street, H&M and Zara.

For years, the numerous London outposts of these retailing behemoths have provided me with an access to material and style. And then came Uniqlo. Suddenly, I was a high-street junkie. Nearly every other weekend, I would find something new and the novelty drug worked it’s magic. However, I will admit that though the high street has improved considerably in the last 20 years, quality of material has declined and, yes, relevance of design has shifted.

It’s not easy to find things on the high street. It takes time and not a little effort, which I am willing to give. It is also fortunate that I live in central London, that so many of the nation’s greatest stores are but a walk away. It takes a lot of searching and repeat visits (particularly to stock-conveyor-belts like Zara). However, the most important thing is not to expect to find anything. Allow it to surprise you, don’t hope for it to fulfil.