Most of my retail experience in New York was spent, whether inadvertently or … advertently? … browsing the sale side of the clothing rack. My entire haul at Uniqlo, for example, cost less than $80, and that included a pair of corduroy jeans and a merino wool sweater.
But I was also very conscious of what I had deprived myself – the items I had automatically put down because they were full price, the sections (or entire stores! – I’m talking about you, Paul Smith and Marc Jacobs) that I dared not enter lest I fall in love with a new arrival.
I found myself wandering around Soho, discouragedly ruminating on the road not taken, the Clothing Not Purchased. Suddenly it seemed like a waste to be in the shopping capital of the world and not seriously entertaining the notion of buying something amazing. Wasn’t I missing the opportunity of a lifetime?
So I was in a rather fragile state when I went into Ted Baker.
A quick jump back in time: On my first trip to Las Vegas, I found the most amazing pair of pants at the Ted Baker store at The Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace. They’re gray windowpane plaid, accented by minuscule lines of orchid and muted ultramarine that you wouldn’t notice unless I paired the pants with a matching shirt. People have asked me about them while I’ve been in line for bagels, shopping in stores, even on the street in New York. (I wore them with a black button-down for my incredibly expensive yet business-casual dinner.)
I love everything about those pants, and thus I am perhaps unduly fond of the Ted Baker line. It’s sort of like when I went on a date once at the now-closed Sol y Sombra – because it was an amazing date, for a long time I couldn’t think of that restaurant as anything but incredible. (Even though after a few too many returns, I realized all I really loved was that one-night experience [and the Chorizo Pinxo tapas].)
So I went in expecting to find a whole store of Ted Baker Trouser Love (dirty!), and true to form started out on the clearance racks. And despite what appeared to be half the store on clearance, I wasn’t having much luck. Any luck. So I expanded my search from “only things I love” to “things I think are OK, and fit.” Most of them were shirts and sweaters, but dammit, I wanted another pair of amazing pants.
I think I’d read one too many articles about how when you buy something great and wear it a lot the “cost per wearing” drops, and somewhere else there was a piece about how a garment’s value doesn’t necessarily equate with the cost … So when I finally found an amazing-enough pair of pants, I no longer cared that they were full price. I had had enough of depriving myself, dammit! I deserved something that wasn’t discount!
So I trotted them up to the counter with a (sale) shirt. While the sales associate rang it up I marveled at his neatly trimmed mustache and perfect, floppy hanks of forelocks. (He reminded me of one of the members of Army of Lovers [the one on the left here], only in an impeccable suit, and without the eyeliner, and I was completely in envy of his 24-year-old hairline.) Anyway, I signed the slip and had everything shipped home. The box arrived promptly – the same day as the Aedes box – and Mr. Brooks stood in the kitchen as I opened it.
“Wow,” he said. “Those are nice pants.”
“Did they charge you for shipping?”
“Yeah, but since they were being shipped out of state, they didn’t charge me sales tax. So that saved …” I looked at the packing receipt.
“I SPENT A HUNDRED AND NINETY DOLLARS ON PANTS?!” I said to nobody in particular. (Actually, I said it to myself, in disbelief.) “A single pair of pants?”
In my zonked-out state that day — I was hungry, I was soggy, I was getting desperate — I hadn’t peeked at the price tag. Just signed the display screen and never looked back … until my day of retail reckoning.
“They’re really nice pants,” Mr. Brooks said, trying to calm me down. “You’ll probably have them for a long time. In fact, if you factor out how much they cost over how many years you’ll have them–”
“Don’t try that,” I said. “I taught you that.”
They are beautiful, though. (Mine are the silver ones.)