talking shop

a place for shopping talk

I bought the strawberry Crocs that defined the summer among a very narrow subset of unironic kitsch for people who wear linen jumpsuits and can keep a tomato plant alive. I can’t keep linen clean or a tomato plant alive, and my Crocs didn’t arrive until Labor Day weekend, so I feel a little like a fraud. My therapist would tell you — if I let her get a word in edgewise — that feeling like a fraud about my footwear is the tip of the iceberg, but it’s easier to externalize the stuff above the surface. 

One of the reasons I love clothes is the opportunity to retrofit a larger identity based on my selections. The way browsing can feel like a personality quiz. I need something to cover my fleshy bits, but I wonder what it says about myself that I feel inexorably drawn to a certain item or color or collection. There’s a cultural context to all clothing and letting a self-serving curiosity about what to wear drive that exploration makes it feel more approachably lowbrow. 

I think you’re not supposed to say that. You’re supposed to say that getting dressed is an artistic expression, the clothes are the medium for saying something intrinsic about yourself that was there all along. (To not care at all is, of course, it’s own statement. As is conspicuously and intentionally curating a carefree look.) 

Picking the clothes before the personality makes me a poser, I fear sometimes, or at least performative. But I notice I’ve started saying that word a lot lately: performative. Everything I do these days feels performative. Rather than clarify my innate point of view, too much time alone with my thoughts has, in practice, become too much time with twitter, and now I perceive even my own thoughts as performative. Am I genuinely troubled by [oh my god the range of things that could go here stands to derail this whole newsletters if I stop to think too long] or am I just “virtue signaling” myself? That doesn't even make sense! 

The isolation of this pandemic year has created an artificially stark line between private and public life. No one notices anything about me except what I create specifically for consumption. I don’t react to the people around me (because there’s no one around me usually!) and they (the lack of people) don’t react to me unless I call them up on a pre scheduled zoom. I forget what it feels like to be effortlessly around anyone, to not be so achingly aware of each action and how it will be perceived. 

Is wanting to start a newsletter necessarily distinct from my professional writing performative? Is wondering within it whether shopping is too silly a subject performative? What about whether I’m sufficiently stylish? The answer to all these things is: Yes! But I don’t know when or why we decided performing the values we wish to be known for is pejorative-worthy and not just literally what it’s like to be alive and self-aware in a social society. 

How incredibly ironic and perfectly dystopian that we (or, uh, at least I) have managed to become cripplingly self-conscious about how authentic we are (I am.) 

This is both clearer and simpler with clothes — an inherent performance, but one in which the stakes are so low and the options so necessary yet interchangeable in their utility that there’s something freeing about recognizing without pretense that what I’m choosing is an honest reflection of how I want to be seen. 

Other than the Crocs themselves, I try to shop exclusively sustainable (whether that’s second-hand or by selecting brands that have made that part of their model). Saving whatever is still salvageable about this planet is important to me, and something I like being able to manifest publicly in a medium that’s important to me. 

The Crocs, though. The people who notice my clothes would say I’m known for chunky, utilitarian footwear. I’m a sucker for cool-seeming un-fashion. The print seems pop art-y and not girlish, which is hopefully because I’ve successfully dismantled some of my internalized misogyny towards feminine design and because style at large has moved away from judgemental gender assignments. The combination, in an affordable shoe that doesn’t make a mockery of my current lifestyle or lack thereof, seemed almost too obvious, too easy. But when everything else is so fucking hard, why not just buy the strawberry-print Crocs? 

(Or, since those are now sold out, LOBSTER print Crocs 😱) 

What am I wearing strawberry-print Crocs with? Well, literally everything as they have replaced my beat up Fila slides as the shoes that live next to my bed. Inside the house they serve as summer slippers that save me from having to confront the fact that I should probably vacuum more, but then also I go outside in them. Is this gross? Almost certainly. My excuse is that Crocs are easily washable — an interesting, if personally irrelevant, fun fact. But ok, what am I wearing them with that feels like an intentional-but-not-too-intentional Look? 

First of all: Red and white gym shorts from Tracksmith that I bought off eBay.

I bought the sweatshirt from a stranger on Instagram, a phenomenon that deserves its own dissertation.

Years ago I bought a pair of Nike basketball shorts from a vintage store in Boston (I’ll try to figure out exactly which one) that has an amazing selection of super specific and cool vintage sports apparel. These shorts were not that — I picked them because they were so simple. Black and green reversible drawstring mesh nearly knee-length shorts with a Nike swoosh and no other embellishment. Now that I have no need to wear anything nicer than that, I set out to expand my selection of simple vintage gym shorts that don’t read as a costume and don’t mock me if I’m not exercising in them. Unfortunately: the perfect pair of actually vintage gym shorts is tough to find on-demand. Fortunately: the market for cutting to the chase has kept up. Which brings us to Tracksmith, a brand I discovered via a Man Repeller article about styling gym shorts, that listed them alongside Only NY (another extremely My Brand brand) as “unisex and mens’ athletic shorts” that consistently nail the silhouette. It is a very racing-centric company for people who run more than just a single Prospect Park loop at a time but, with apologies to all their performance technology, the aesthetic is also exactly the level of effortlessly retro I aspire to. Since I ideologically prefer to buy things second-hand and am also appropriately ashamed about the amount of money I spend on looking like I didn’t try, I turned to eBay where I found a maroon pair with white piping and the two-toned pair that I prefer to any colorways on their website currently anyway. In person, I love the style even more than I thought I would. The fit makes me a little too self-aware that I am not built like a long distance runner (would it kill a mesh running short to come in a high rise?) so I save them for days when I’m truly feeling myself. 

There’s not a ton happening on eBay in terms of Tracksmith right now, but if I was a medium man, I would definitely buy these gold short shorts

A very belated second of all: White cotton-cashmere-blend joggers from Naadam, a brand that specializes in “affordable,” “sustainable,” knitwear (they specialize in a $75 cashmere sweater that seems Fine but not my style). I don’t feel compelled to promote a particular brand’s mission statement or qualified yet to independently critique it, but Naadam gets a Good (4 out of 5) from a rating system I trust and it also fills a niche that allows me to not shop at Everlane (for reasons). Shopping second hand is a sometimes tedious passion so I went a little crazy this summer when I found a place where I could add anything I wanted to the cart, especially when everything went on super sale right around Labor Day. I got these Everyday Joggers in white (on sale then for $67.50) as part of that spree. Hopefully it will boost my credibility to say that these are not as sexy as I thought they might be, which requires admitting that I bought sweatpants expecting them to be sexy. Since I don’t think that fact is actually affecting how much action I’m getting these days, I’m thrilled with the purchase. 

On top: Any one of my almost cartoonishly consistent selection of white t-shirts cut into crop tops. Some favorites include the Katz Deli one and the gnocchi/Gucci one from Bar Busa’s apparel brand that seems to have ceased to exist??? but you can get something similar on Etsy if you’re more in it for the pun than the support of restaurants in a pandemic. 

Going to have to write a book so I can make this my author photo.
April 25, 2020

Someone should buy this “Sorry, we are closed!” T-shirt from a Montreal brand Fermé, which was started during the pandemic specifically to raise money for relief organizations. When you buy anything from them, you can decide if the proceeds will go to Feeding America, Red Cross Canada, Cruz Roja Mexico, or a combination. When I put it like that, in conjunction with my aforementioned commitment to owning every possible iteration of a white t-shirt with something printed on it, that someone will probably be me. But you should buy the hat

I’m eyeing everything on the Instagram account of Frankie, a London-based French designer who upcycles denim jackets and woven tapestries together for an inherently sustainable and super unique look.

I don’t usually love overly-adorned or colorful “pretty” things, but I need one of these to scratch the itch created by being kind over the cropped acid wash (yes really) denim jacket I thrifted a few years ago and not finding anything else special enough to pull the trigger and replace it yet. Currently kicking myself for not acting quickly enough to get the flamingo one, it just seemed a liiiitttle too pricey to buy from across the ocean when it was still 90 degrees out. But now none of the other options look quite as perfect. 

I didn’t make this newsletter an introduction to this newsletter (blog: blogpost :: newsletter: newsletter, unfortunately) because that feels like committing to keeping it going and makes the structure seem more intentional than it was. I don’t have a schedule in mind or an overarching purpose. But I do have a pandemic’s worth of purchases to talk about and, apparently, too many thoughts to keep to myself.