There’s something to be said for institutions that stand the test of time.
Perhaps not the most important, but certainly worth noting is the traditional clothing store. If you live in a metropolitan area, you probably are familiar with one, maybe more. They have common characteristics: they tend to be individually owned, sometimes by a family; they carry ‘preppy’ or traditional American clothing, usually for men but sometimes for men and women; and they are often located adjacent to Old Money neighborhoods or shopping areas.
Retail has gone online and many shopping malls are breathing their last breath. How does a brick and mortar clothing store survive, and even prosper? It’s not easy, that much is certain. But for a customer of a certain profile, there are important considerations. And traditional clothing stores haven’t forgotten or abandoned them.
If you’re and Old Money Guy or Gal, you want, most of all, quality products at a fair price. I didn’t say ‘cheap.’ It’s been said forever and remains true today that you get what you pay for: it remains true for apparel, regardless of where it’s made or how good it looks on a company’s website. The true test of quality clothing is how it looks, feels, and wears a year, two years, or five years later. Most likely, you’re going to pay for that quality.
But OMG’s will tell you in a heartbeat if something is too expensive, regardless of the quality. And they won’t buy it. Traditional clothing stores are keenly aware of this balancing act. They choose and price their goods accordingly. The style is not going out of style; the product is going to last; and it’s a good value over the long haul.
Another consideration is the experience of doing business with someone you know. With traditional clothing stores who supply OMG’s, it’s often someone that your father or grandfather purchased clothes from. There’s a warmth and camaraderie that drifts into a room when a customer can discuss weddings, work, or whatever with the proprietor. This experience doesn’t exist online. You won’t find it very often at a huge department store. You’ll have to take the time to locate your place, develop a relationship with the staff over time, and then enjoy the relationship that takes shape gradually.
This philosophy of buying from someone you know is the antithesis of globalization. It’s not a free market concept as much as it’s a local market concept. When you meet face to face and do business with a person you know, or can come to know, you preserve a part of humanity. You short-circuit technology and its distancing properties. You engage on a personal level.
Equally important, you support the people who work there. You thumb your nose at huge corporations who farm out their labor to factories overseas who, in turn, pay near-slave wages to workers in abusive conditions, and then pay celebrities ridiculous amounts of money to promote their goods. I’ve howled against sweatshops in previous posts, and we can’t all be moral policemen as we shop, but we can make economic choices that benefit our neighbors and our communities. That is to say, buy local and buy quality.
There’s a comfort that comes with being able to walk back into the place that you bought something and reasonable address any issues you had with the product. Customers will pay a premium for that sense of fairness. Local brick and mortar stores tend to have generous return, refund, and exchange policies. They also tend to have decision-makers in management or ownership on the premises: if you have a problem with a product, you can frequently speak to the owner of the store immediately to get it resolved.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule: Mercer and Sons shirts, Bill’s Khakis, Allen Edmonds shoes, all these quality vendors can be patronized without visiting a store. But overall, we often get the best products, at the best prices, and the best experience, when we buy traditional-styled clothing from a locally owned and operated store.
Please let me know your recommendations. Who do you purchase your quality clothing from in your area?