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October 31, 2008

Traveling to Buy Stuff

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

So here I am in San Francisco, typing away from about three blocks distant from its Post Street / Union Square glitz-shopping epicenter.

Want some usual suspects? Try Neiman-Marcus, Saks, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Ferragamo and Tiffany. And there's more. This morning I saw for the first time a store devoted exclusively to UGG boots and their other products.

That's exceptional, actually.

The UGG thing. Those other stores I named can be found in many major cities these days, so it's not that big a deal to stumble across them. But it wasn't always so.

I can remember the times when if you wanted to shop at Brooks Brothers, there was no option other than going to New York City and roaming Madison Avenue in the 40s till you found the place. A few blocks south of Tripler's if I recall correctly.

Even in the 1970s it could be a treat to visit New York, Chicago, San Francisco and a few other towns to shop famous stores. Maybe that's why my present visit to San Francisco is nothing special; I strolled the streets hoping for new and interesting places to check out and didn't find much of interest other than a store selling Barbour jackets from England along with nice sweaters and other togs. (Not that I actually buy much, mind you; window shopping and people watching are two of my top priorities when in flaneur mode.)

No question (to me, al least) that it's nice to have the treasures of the world at one's fingertips. The price of this convenience is that one of the elements of enjoying travel is diminished.



posted by Donald at October 31, 2008


Fashion is odd. Barbour jackets became suddenly fashionable for Londoners about twenty-five years ago. But I'm a country boy and remember the things ponging gently in the back porches of rural houses. Hey ho.

Posted by: dearieme on October 31, 2008 3:26 PM

Happy Birthday!

Posted by: AP on October 31, 2008 3:33 PM

No question (to me, al least) that it's nice to have the treasures of the world at one's fingertips. The price of this convenience is that one of the elements of enjoying travel is diminished.

Up to a point. There are still shops that are sort of niche interests that aren't likely to travel much. My favourite origami shop in the world is in central Tokyo, near the Ochanomizu station -- I got some fantastic thin folding paper there a few years ago. I tried to get some the last time I was in Tokyo, but alas, they weren't carrying it any more (although they did have some very nice papers). I haven't seen a comparably good origami shop here in the US.

And for clothing and goods, there's still personalised tailoring. I have some fine shirts from a Seoul tailor, and it's not like they're a global Brooks Brothers type of concern. And I've a suit from a Hong Kong tailor, who is -- likewise -- unlikely to go global. These kinds of personalised goods are something you can't get in the US unless you're willing to shell out thousands and thousands of dollars, so it remains a kind of treat when you go to a country where there's still enough of a market for it (and where labour costs are still low enough) for the service to remain economical in an affordable price range.

Posted by: Taeyoung on October 31, 2008 6:00 PM

Well, I just hope to god you went to Mo's for a burger!

Posted by: Sister Wolf on November 2, 2008 11:37 PM

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