Why I Shop at High Street Menswear Chains

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“I just came upon your blog and have been reading back posts with interest. you clearly have a great sense of style, but can I ask why you choose to mostly shop at UK high street menswear chains .. who seem to insist on make short, tight & shapeless jackets & tight low trousers these days.. I can see you are creating a classic look, but it must be terribly difficult when the products sold at these places are pushing a modern fashion type image?”

I have long lived by one simple mantra; ‘material is material – nothing more.’ The strange thing is, I used to believe in ‘names.’ That unless one was clothed in designer wares from head to foot, you could never look the part. I realised this was complete phooey when the monetary challenges of student life were pressing upon me. I learned the value of money and decided, halfway through my university years, that it was not wise to spend silly proportions of an allowance on a jumper or a new tie.

I had once restricted my sartorial purchases to designer sales and high end gentlemen clothiers like Ede & Ravenscroft. At university, I was forced to ‘find’ the value in less expensive places. The British high street, which was nowhere near the level it is now, was new ground to me – but ground that offered value for money.

To begin with, finding what I wanted at the price I was prepared to pay was tough. I was reluctant to keep visiting stores and I was also unprepared to try new names. Eventually, it was a lack of choice and style in familiar high street stores like Marks & Spencer and GAP that pushed me to have a look in what were then relative newcomers to the British high street, H&M and Zara.

For years, the numerous London outposts of these retailing behemoths have provided me with an access to material and style. And then came Uniqlo. Suddenly, I was a high-street junkie. Nearly every other weekend, I would find something new and the novelty drug worked it’s magic. However, I will admit that though the high street has improved considerably in the last 20 years, quality of material has declined and, yes, relevance of design has shifted.

It’s not easy to find things on the high street. It takes time and not a little effort, which I am willing to give. It is also fortunate that I live in central London, that so many of the nation’s greatest stores are but a walk away. It takes a lot of searching and repeat visits (particularly to stock-conveyor-belts like Zara). However, the most important thing is not to expect to find anything. Allow it to surprise you, don’t hope for it to fulfil.


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Winston Chesterfield is an amateur composer, fashion blogger, trained lawyer and style aficionado. He lives in Westminster, London and blogs at www.levraiwinston.com.

Comments

  1. Uniqlo lover says:

    I have to say I share your love of Uniqlo.
    The only thing I really miss about Oxford Street

  2. Uniqlo lover says:

    Also it’s good to see that you write about dressing well from high street shops as well as other higher end shops. So many of the mens style bloggers seem to write about bespoke Italian tailors that the average person could not have a sniff of being able to afford.
    Please keep up the good work

  3. Noelh says:

    I agree the the high street can be a great place to shop but only if you are prepared to spend lots the time browsing.

  4. AS says:

    Thanks for the article Winston. The old school mens style writers, im thinking flusser, boyers etc of the world here often argue that buying high quality is actually thrifty as the clothes (or shoes) will last longer both in terms of material, construction as well as transcend fashion trends. These items can also be repaired or clothing altered with the almost certain midriff expansion yet to come. An example frequently cited is Prince Charles who wears some very old suits and a pair of 25 year old Lobbs which have been patched up since buying (im sure having a good valet helps in keeping clothes & shoes in this good condition ofcourse. It may well be that this view is ‘defensive thriftiness’ in that men spending thousands on bespoke suits and handmade shoes may feel the need to justify the great expense by the logic expounded above.

    I think you make an interesting point on having to invest time behind finding items which may work well on the high street. I guess spending a LOT more money in exchange for saving time is something many well off men choose to do, bespoke tailoring being the other extreme on the spectrum to high street shops where you can have anything your imagination conjures up (this can ofcourse be a dangerous option if you have poor taste but then you hope a tailor could guide you towards better taste) and have access to things you may never find on the high street due to cost constraints. Items like heavier weight suits (anything over 8/9oz) are rare or extinct on the high street, even in most high end italian rtw, proper chalk stripe (or any pattern tbh) flannel suits which ive never seen either on the high street, trousers which lie at the natural waistline (not seen for decades on the high street), things like madder ties or knee legnth polo or loden over coats .. i could go on and on .. its a shame as most people are never going to be able to enjoy these pieces because highstreet menswear buyers are interested in pursuing fashion as well as having the constraint of tight budgets.

    A

  5. Bob says:

    Your correspondent has a point about the “short, tight & shapeless jackets”… if you know of a UK high street shop currently stocking a decent informal blazer which covers the buttocks, please let us know.