There are some who say the golden age of bricks and mortar retail are over, and that the convenience of online shopping spells the death of good, old fashioned service. In fact, some naysayers have argued this for years. More fool them, I say.
It’s easy to forget – particularly after most countries have spent months under lockdown – that some things can only be achieved through a great physical shopping experience. Sure, online retail is convenient up to a point, but it certainly isn’t simple if you don’t know your size. In our world of well-made menswear and craft businesses, whether you’re shopping for tailoring or for shoes, experiencing the product in person is crucial to choosing the right garment and the right size.
To be able to size-up a pair of shoes in the flesh, or take a sports coat outside to see how the fabric changes in natural light has been a deal-maker for me in the past – in fact it’s a deal-maker almost every time I shop. And yes, many online stores offer free returns these days, but I try to avoid unnecessary shipping where I can, especially when environmental concerns are more important than ever.
Then of course there’s all the knowledge you’ll pick up from the staff in-store; and the pleasure of a personal interaction after months stuck at home on the couch. Certainly, at Crockett & Jones, the staff I’ve spoken to know the collection’s myriad of lasts like the backs of their hands – and experience like this is both valuable and hard to come by. The same applies to suit shopping; most of the great clothiers around the world will gladly assist in taking care of any alterations needed and take pride in fitting an investment piece properly to make sure it lasts in your wardrobe.
My own passion for tailored clothes was ignited by a lovely old-world store in my hometown of Gothenburg, and I probably learned more by chatting to the shop’s staff and owner than I ever did during my years at textile university. We’d sit over coffee several times a week and discuss everything from how different garments fit, to the performance characteristics of particular fabrics, and I was always smitten by what the staff chose to wear. It was a precious experience, and one I still cherish today.
As many countries in the world continue to navigate through COVID-19, and retail starts to open up, if you value interactions like these it’s more important than ever to take some time out to support the brands you love. Independent makers like C&J might not be able to match the lowest price point you’ll find online, but when you calculate for the experience and expertise on-hand when you stop in-store, you’re walking away with a bargain every time.