There is no doubt that I prefer the sole trader to the chain. While I am a strong supporter of the much improved stores of the high street, there is a price to pay for the efficiency and economy of the offerings of large chain stores. For one thing, it’s unlikely that you’ll find anything that isn’t designed to appeal to a broad range of chaps; certain shops valiantly seek to sell taste but generally speaking, they’ll sell what they know people will buy. Although this is a central aim of any trade enterprise, large or small, the smaller the trader, the more unusual the wares. The trouble with homogeny is that certain subtleties of manufacture are avoided; the tragedy of off-the-peg or ‘ready to wear’ is that it is often not ready to wear at all. The trousers are cut too long, the jacket too roomy. Adjustments are often needed to really attain the best value from the economic purchase.
Sadly, there are certain items which cannot be adjusted. Being of an awkward shoe size can be a bother in stores that do not stock half sizes, particularly if the shoes are of one’s taste and budget, but the really disappointing thing about the high street stores, including the large department stores – so grand in reputation and scale – is that I can rarely find a pair of leather gloves that actually fit me. “We’ve got small, medium and large, sir” said the courteous young American girl on a recent visit to a department store. I tried a pair of the small. They were certainly the right size for my palm but my fingers looked like sausages. “They’re not quite what I am looking for – my hands look huge” I said, startled by my reflection in the mirror. The gloves looked more like the sort of thing snowboarders wear; the delicate subtleties of the human hand lost in the mass of leather that engulfed the fingers. “I guess” said the young girl, folding the gloves and placing them back onto the table “most guys don’t really care about that.”
The problem is that only a few stores, none of which were known to any persons I spoke to, actually offered gloves in more of a range than the generic sizes of small, medium and large. My research on the topic led me to discover that many see the sizing of small, medium and large as an alternative to the sizing in inches (6 ½ , 7 etc), the Zavier Jouvin method devised in the 19th century, and not as a homogenisation of glove sizing. However, despite the fact that Dents gloves are made in good quality leather, in a variety of colours, when I wear them I look ridiculous. Having experimented with ladies gloves, I now know that the problem lies with the particular style of gloves available to men. Women’s gloves reflect the daintier appearance of the hands that wear them; they are too small for my hands as the fingers are far too short, restricting my hand movement, but the way the leather is finished on the fingers is far more elegant. There is a delicacy lacking on most of the glove models available to men; they seem not to be made for fingers but tree stumps.
I discovered an interesting website, Gaspar Gloves which offered, from what I could see, more elegant dress gloves for gentlemen. Priced at $85, Gaspar are quite proud of their strong connection with Hollywood; on their home page, Angelina Jolie is pictured in fine leather period-style gloves, clutching a receiver in her latest film ‘Changeling.’ Gaspar is certainly the sort of trader I warm to but I dream of such availability in the real world, and not merely the virtual. I am unwilling to purchase gloves without first trying them on. I imagine walking into an independent glove shop just off Regent Street; a huge range of materials and colours, racks and racks of sizes on oak shelving, a crackling fire and a Sinatra soundtrack. “Formal black gloves for the evening, and would sir like some chestnut driving gloves for the country?” Sadly, such a shop remains a dream. I think I was born in the wrong century.