We are at the point in our lives where we only have to go into the shops that we actually want to visit. Anything can easily be ordered online and shipped straight to you. Through this process of divesting ourselves from unwanted experiences we start to see the beauty of going into the shops we love.
These chosen boutique experiences offer an emotional experience. Getting a haircut, buying a new pair of shoes or having a shirt made all represent simple pleasures which add up to a happier existence.
With a year of virtual everything it became clear just how much good a physical environment can do for the human soul. The feeling when the trusted salesperson remembers you and your preferences. The smell of fine leather goods and the feeling of starting fresh with a new pair of shoes. The ability to feel exactly how a last will fit your foot without fear of return labels and exchanges. Granted sometimes it's nice to just order a pair of brogues in the middle of the night from anywhere in the world.
In the past year I was surprised how much I missed a Saturday wandering around New York without an agenda visiting shops, having a coffee and running into friends along the way. The chit chat and random exchanges feel more meaningful now than they did in 2019. The beauty of an established rapport at a shop or a cafe can't be overstated. The internet has its many advantages —which we don't need to get into— but there's nothing greater than being recognised as a regular in store.
One of the most vivid retail experiences I have ever had was in the Crockett & Jones shop on Jermyn Street.This iconic menswear destination was always a stop on my visits to London. I enjoyed the idea of dragging my wife along for me to buy some shoes. My how the tables have turned! A pair of brown Islay boots caught my eye and when the associate brought them over in my size he mentioned that these were actually on hold for Daniel Craig. Oh, well then. He reassured me that there was another pair down the road at the other shop. As we left, new boots in hand, I knew what it felt like to walk in James Bond's shoes if only for a moment. That sort of thing can only happen in real life.