The last sports jacket I bought I had to ask the lady to put it aside for me while I ran home from her yard sale to find the 5 bucks. It’s wool and cashmere with a rich taupe colour, and you can barely see the cigarette burns unless you’re standing quite close to me, and why are you standing so close to me?
This is my alternate blazer. My go-to blazer is charcoal and goes with everything. I also own a well-worn micro-suede sports jacket that cost me 3 dollars in 2005 (that’s $3.71 in today’s dollars), and a green plaid Hugo Boss that has stood the test of time so well that my son recently borrowed it for a sports gala and made those wide lapels work!
Lately, though, I’ve been wanting to get a navy blue blazer, because sometimes a man just wants to feel pretty.
This past weekend, I found myself in Ogilvy’s in Montreal. To the best of my recollection, this was the first time I’d ever been in Ogilvy’s. I’ve never seen myself as an Ogilvy’s kind of guy. I’m more of a guy-outside-Ogilvy’s-playing-the-spoons kind of guy.
I ended up there while shopping with my brother- and sister-in-law and some of their clan. We were the kind of crowd that immediately puts security on alert. We definitely gave off a shenanigans vibe.
Ogilvy’s enters through revolving doors (we had fun with the revolving doors) into a hub of femininity, highlighted by the glamourous trifecta of perfumes, purses and watches. While the women browsed, the men stood about mispronouncing “Louis Vuitton” and debating the burning question: Emma Stone – hot or not?
Unlike most department stores where you can see unexplored consumer lands shimmering on the horizon, the first floor of Ogilvy’s is a self-contained, scented cell. One accesses other floors by disappearing down long corridors that give the impression that they may in fact be leading people like me directly to the exit and that the real access involves a secret handshake with a well-coiffed clerk named Siegfried.
But it did indeed bring us to the “escalier mécanique” and the women’s and men’s wear sections on the second floor. I had already decided the blazers at the Sears bankruptcy sale were a too pricey (I mean, they were no yard sale bargains), but for fun I decided to head to men’s to check out what was being worn these days by the posh man on the go.
When I shop, which is rare, I don’t want the sales clerks bothering me. “Can I help you?” they ask. That’s a loaded question. “Not for the moment,” I usually say. “Okie-doke! If you need anything I’ll be right here breathing in your ear. Hey, did you know there’s a cigarette burn on your jacket?”
But this was not an option at Ogilvy’s. No one offered to help. I received only the stares of the stern male clerks who looked like they’d been working there since my Hugo Boss was in style. To them, I was clearly beyond help.
It’s true I was wearing jeans and a shapeless, green sweatshirt, but that was only because it was cold outside; underneath I had a very nice cardigan in which there was only one tear. And, yes, my beard is not of the kempt variety, but how did they know this wasn’t some kind of Pretty Woman scenario and that I wasn’t coming back later with my monocle and opera spats to shout at them, “Big mistake! And Emma Stone is clearly attractive but not inherently hot!”
Unfazed, I went about feeling lapels and cuffs, making sure to do so only on the mannequins. One particular navy blazer caught my eye. So lightweight, so supple, so chained to the rack with a security cord. Then I turned over the price tag: $3750!
Now I understood that the store clerks weren’t ignoring me; they were simply keeping all eyes on my nephew carrying a doggy bag of greasy pizza.
But $3750 for a single piece of clothing! And that didn’t even include pants! Or a manservant!
I am not inherently against wealth; I would like some, please. But how can anyone justify spending that much money on a piece of clothing whose only practical benefit, at least for me, is to create the illusion of shoulders? That’s $1875 per shoulder!
It reminded me that our entire consumer system is built on illusion. Whether it’s a blazer, a pair of shoes or a painting that subsequently disappears into a covert shredder, we give items value because we decide they have value, not because of their tangible worth.
If I had boundless wealth, would I buy a $3750 blazer? Hypotheticals are hard to say, like “Louis Vuitton.” But I like to think that instead I would purchase 750 five-dollar blazers and keep the very real yard sale industry alive for always.