Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Abercrombie

I did a number of errands in town this afternoon, one of which involved a trip to Jermyn Street Theatre. I didn't quite get there as I bumped into the person I wanted to see at at Piccadilly Circus. In an attempt to avoid the crowds on my way home, I found myself in the part of town west of Regent’s Street, where all the fancy clothing shops are found. I wandered aimlessly, peering into well-lit boutiquey windows, alternately wishing I had enough money to buy nice clothes before thinking "dear God, if I DID have money, I'd go nowhere near that place!"

I found myself walking past Abercrombie and Fitch; a cultural phenomenon I've been aware of for some time, but not yet explored. Something about the thrusting music they were playing dragged me inside but I knew from the moment I stepped into the foyer that I’d made an enormous mistake. The same terrible impulse that makes me stare at road crashes and facial deformities pulled me into the actual shop...

"Hey there. Come in. How’s it going?" said the grotesquely chirpy trio of models who are simply paid to welcome people in a kind of "we’re having an amazing party and the coke's on us" kind of way. I should have told them I was having a nervous breakdown when they asked how it was going, just to check whether they were programmed to listen to a response...

The shop is, of course, shiny and immaculate and it smells of an expensive aftershave that I recognised from the street outside. All the clothes are spot lit. Pouting models stand limply in every corner with seemingly nothing to do but sway their bony hips in time to the music. It reminded me a little of the old ladies they used to stick in every corner of art galleries and museums in communist Russia, except these Babooshka dolls weren't fat and gipping, they were malnourished, pale and covered in foundation (particularly the boys.)

There was nothing for me; not a single item I could ever have imagined wearing; the campy, chirpy models knew it, and yet every time I entered another room, in my desperate attempt to escape, another voice would ask "how you doing?" in that hideous “we’re buzzing like bees” kind of tone. Frankly, if I had wanted anything in the shop, these go-go girls would have sent me running for cover. The entire experience was soulless and grotesque and I realised, probably for the first time in my life, that I was too old to shop in a shop. I peered into one of the many mirrors lining the walls, and saw how my hair was thinning. I walked away with my tail very firmly planted between my legs and the words "have a great night" echoing in my careworn brain.
Pepys went to the theatre 350 years ago and saw Argalus and Parthenia, a new play by Henry Glapthorne. He was impressed, but added that it had been “wronged” by his “over great expectations, as all things else are.” I know the feeling, although I knew Abercrombie and Fitch was going to be shit!

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