I have the unfortunate condition of being married to a man that absolutely hates shopping. Well, that's not entirely true - he abhors shopping for anything other than golf equipment, golf accessories, and electronics. He gets edgy and jumpy and visibly uncomfortable; put him in a mall and he will break out into a cold sweat, begin hyperventilating, and run for the nearest exit. I consider shopping as necessary to my spirit as breathing, so after 12 years of marriage we have reached a point where I have taken over nearly all shopping excursions. Husband has no black socks? Kids are growing out of their sneakers? It's time for a teacher appreciation gift? I'm your girl.
However, in the course of my life I've met plenty of guys who loved to go shopping. In high school I dated a man who enjoyed hanging out at the Ralph Lauren store, trying on bespoke shirts and tailored blazers. My college boyfriend loved browsing through Barney's, ogling sharply tailored suits and polished black shoes. And I have friends whose husbands absolutely relish any kind of shopping, whether for cologne or Merino wool sweaters or cashmere overcoats.
A recent article by Christina Brinkley in the Wall Street Journal explores the differences in shopping styles between the sexes. Based on interviews with designers, salesmen and shop owners, Brinkley argues why she believes men are the superior shoppers. Women, she argues, have been encouraged to favor "fast fashion" by the faddish womenswear clothing industry, which has "trained generations to seek out throwaway styles" of clothing that are of lesser quality. Many women I know bypass the opportunity to try on a garment in the store before buying, assuming that because the brand is established, the fit will be flattering. Sophisticated men, on the other hand, are meticulous when considering a purchase, and deathly focused on tailoring and comfort. According to Brinkley, when they go shopping, they peer inside the garment inspecting for loose stitching and soft seams. They are patient and thorough when trying on clothes, stretching and moving to check for puckering and gaping buttons. And they put much less focus on the brand. Men will not compromise tailoring and utility for trendy uncomfortable clothing. Unfortunately, most women will.
I must agree with the theory that men shop differently than women, though not necessarily for the reasons Brinkley mentions. I believe most men shop like they're smartbombs dropped from F-22's. They're tactical. They have lists. If they walk into a mall, they usually know exactly where they're going and what they're buying. They are concerned with durability and comfort because if the item lasts, they can shop less often. They don't pay attention to what's trendy. They don't go from store to store to store. They don't wander aimlessly. They want to get in, buy what they need, and get out. That's it.
While men might be more utilitarian and focused when shopping, there is no doubt that women have much, much more fun. We enjoy buying, owning, exchanging, and trying on dozens of items before making a decision. We love the thrill of locating the perfect shoe and the greatest bargain. We research, we consult our friends, we spend afternoon reading fashion magazines - all for the glory of feeling attractive.
I suppose my shopping style utilizes techniques from both sexes. While I enjoy browsing from store to store, and keeping up on fashion trends, I also put much more weight on how a garment fits and whether it's something that reflects my individual sense of style than its popularity or brand. I believe in trying things on and taking the time to examine for defects. And if it's too tight, it stays in the store, no matter what the price.
What's your shopping style? Do you believe women have been trained to compromise fit and quality for "fast fashion" and throwaway styles?