PEOPLE with too much time on their hands irritate me. Tourists, window shoppers and tyre kickers have the annoying knack of getting under the feet of the busy people around them, some of whom are unfairly judged as being prickly.
But when I’m on holiday and in a new city, the rules change. Sue me.
Waiting for a family member at a nearby hipster barber shop, I impatiently skulked outside a funky menswear store in what I assessed to be the heart of Auckland’s fashion district.
When the light rain which had been drizzling for much of the day began to fall more heavily, I entered the oddly named Strangely Normal store for a look. The store’s facade and colourful window display could easily have been the New Zealand bricks and mortar version of the J Peterman (of “Seinfeld” fame) fashion catalogue.
It was a cross between the result of someone getting over excited at a Peter Allen garage sale and the type of menswear store from my childhood where it was mandatory to display plastic male mannequin torsos encased in the iconic jockey brand of mens underwear. Thankfully I was not in the market for underwear that wet Wednesday in Auckland. My “boys” didn’t need “a house”.
Once inside this Aladin’s cave of haute couture (tho it may have just been funky fashion bazaar) my attention was immediately drawn to a large wall of hats. The impressive and comprehensive range of lids included straw, felt, woollen, high, low, square and peaked – suprisingly though, not a single Urban Sombrero in sight. Suprising because it was the type of men’s fashion store in which you’d half expect to spot the odd puffy shirt, and possibly the fabled Manssierre or Bro on proud display. Nor were there any velour tracksuits or belt-less trench coats for that matter. As I stood drinking in this colourful catalogue I spotted in my periphery a man of similar age to myself but vastly more flamboyantly attired. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
I was ready with the universally accepted response, “No thanks, just looking” to the anticipated, “Can I help you sir?”.
Instead, he began a long, slow, judgemental scan down my person beginning at the faded black woollen beanie, featuring the East Berlin traffic light walk symbol Amplemann. He continued through my burnt-orange Kathmandu windbreak-with rain-hood and six generous pockets, my battleship-grey but extremely functional backpacked mid section, down my beige Vinnies sourced Country Road chinos. He finished with a scowl at the Vans Sports (black suede and again picked up at an Op shop) on my feet. I was speechless. I had no speech.
At this point he rolled his eyes superciliously and spat out something which may have been “bloody tourists” but was more likely “how could you possibly think we would stock anything the likes of you could afford or appreciate?”.
No service for you. He was a fashion nazi. A dictator of dapperness.
He then dramatically returned his focus to the chunky mahogany counter and the keyboard on which he was furiously tapping, one finger at a time, when I unwittingly entered his hallowed and tasteful turf, savagely assaulting his sartorial sensitivities.
It was a form of discrimination to which I had not been subjected before. I’ve weathered society’s cruel intolerance to short, Tasmanian, collapsed Catholic, recovered bed wetters, but to be judged on my fashion sense, in a menswear shop, was beyond the pale.
I “sarcastically” apologised and left the store. I could have gone harder but- given I was on holiday- my comeback locker was bereft of zingers apart from “the jerk store rang”.
I could have also pulled a “Vivian” from “Pretty Woman” and slipped around the corner, purchased an expensive hat and popped my head back into Mr Snooty’s den to show him he’d made “a big mistake”.
On reflection, at the very least I should have flounced out the door with a dramatic “well, I never” swirling in my wake, but the truth is I don’t flounce. No flounce.
Clearly this fashion nazi is years behind the edgy, “almost homeless, semi-retired over 60s Op shop loiterer with precious few fucks left to give” wave. I’ll wager he will one day kick his own arse when he twigs his dismissive and uppity behaviour cost him a ground floor fashion advantage offered by an authentic and visionary vintage trendsetter. Big mistake.
Later that day, my faith in the humans of Auckland was fully restored. Leaving a bar, heavy rain still falling, a man entering handed me the cheap black umbrella he was collapsing and shaking with a friendly: “You’ll need this”. The only caveat was: “If you’re still standing here when I finish my pint I’ll have it back”.
He may well have been taking pity on a homeless person loitering at the front of a bar for loose change, but I’d much rather believe he was a kind soul looking out for a fellow traveller.
And the day took a major upturn later with a high-grade celebrity spot. The Australian actress Rachel Griffiths was out doing a spot of shopping. I have no doubt if the stylish star of the Aussie classic “Muriel’s Wedding” and director of current hit “Rides Like a Girl” popped into crusty old mate’s gentleman’s emporium, he’d be gushing like the geysers at Rotorua for a month.