Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Londoner's Diary

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Londoner's Diary

Article excerpt

Idler Tom Hodgkinson on how laziness and poverty turned him green, and the trouble with charity shops

To the Soho tailor John Pearse for a pair of braces and to collect my velvet-collared coat, which he's been fixing up.

When it comes to clothes shopping, there are two ways to be green. One is to go for the very best, and the other is to go second-hand. The first option is a rare pleasure - rather than buying mountains of rubbish which you throw away every few months, buy one beautiful thing that will last forever.

Now, John Pearse is a proper tailor, by which I mean that he himself works in his shop and it is he himself who will greet you when you enter. Not for him the seductions of global branding or expansion, just very good clothes and very good service. He makes, he mends. Entering his shop is always a pleasure. There is time for a chat. There is a sofa. A fire. You really don't want to leave. But a John Pearse item is a treat.

Normally I go for second-hand, and that means charity shops.

My usual destination is Traid, a charity shop on Shepherd's Bush Green. Here I've bought jeans for a pound and also a rather fetching pink shirt, taken apart and resewn and with a Sex Pistols print on the back. But most recently I popped in and found a great pink shirt from Liberty and a dark green corduroy jacket from Joseph.

I was feeling very pleased with myself for snapping up these bargains, but it was only later I realised that in actual fact I'd spent rather a lot. The shirt had cost [pounds sterling]10 and the jacket a whopping [pounds sterling]40. But across the road in Peacocks a couple of months previously, I'd bought a shirt for just [pounds sterling]8. Mass production is leading to ridiculously low prices for our consumer objects. So with charity shops now more expensive than new shops, I can see a situation in future where it will be seen as a badge of high status to buy your clothes second-hand, and if you mention that your jacket was from Traid, someone else in the pub will pipe up, 'Oh, I can't afford to buy from charity shops.' So I came to being what you might call 'green', then, not through any sense of duty to mother earth, but more through what has turned out to be a judicious combination of poverty and laziness. It is easier and cheaper to bake six loaves of bread at home than to drive to Tesco. It is easier and cheaper to grow your own cabbages than to drive to Tesco. It is easier and cheaper to buy meat at the local butcher.

What's more, all these ways of shopping are more enjoyable and the produce is of far better quality than what's on offer from the supermarket. 'I came in for the special offer, guaranteed personality,' as The Clash had it.

There is nothing worse than the lonely soul-death of supermarket shopping, those pleasure-free zones of zombie-like consumption. …

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