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Sneaking by the Salespeople

Words of Warning: "Don't even try it."

What to wear while shopping for what to wear

By Heidi Pollock

Holiday shopping is intolerable, and salespeople, by and large, only serve to make it worse. For every good salesperson there is a veritable bargain basement of the accursed. There are the haughty ones who glare at you as if you are about to steal something. There are incredibly hip ones to whom you are worth less attention than last season's look. And then there are the enthusiastic salespeople who want only to befriend you through the sheer force of perkiness.

The greatest of holiday challenges is getting these salespeople to keep away from you until you need them. In order to communicate the ambivilent message necessary for the task you will need to speak to them in a language that they understand. In a language of superficial signs. In the language of clothes.


Test the Theory at:

Restaurant, office and art supply stores and
the Hayes Valley Block Party.
The boutique/gallery Virgin 69 on Mission Street.
Or avoid it all with online shopping.


The Boring Look

Being boring is an all-purpose method of keeping salespeople from hassling you. Everyone has a boring outfit lurking somewhere in their closet. If you don't recognize it, that's just because you haven't learned to accessorize it properly. The correct way to accessorize the Boring Look is: Don't. Wear only identifiable separates in two or three of the following colors: black, white, brown, khaki or navy. Dress in dull pants of indistinct tailoring, sturdy shoes and button shirts. If you don't have a banal shirt, wear a turtleneck. If you don't have a turtleneck, wear a sweater. Anything that looks as if the Gap knocked it off is good to go.

Like all looks, the key to the Boring Look is the hair. It's not easy to describe boring hair except to say what it isn't. It isn't dirty. It isn't flowing. It's combed but not slick, purposeful but not coifed. And, yes Virginia, it can be blue. If you think that the color of your hair is making you an interesting person you are sorely mistaken. Blue hair is rather commonplace these days and it certainly isn't standing between you and the Boring Look.

The Aberrant Look

If you already live the Boring Look, my condolences. Be advised that salespeople will sense this and try to trick you into purchasing needlessly expensive items under the auspices of making your life more exciting. You might as well have a target painted on that J Crew jacket. Why not try out the Aberrant Look? One good, decadent piece of leather is pretty much all you need. Leather skirts and pants are the quickest route to achieving the Abberant Look. Only aging rock stars or desperate singles wear leather pants, and even salespeople like to avoid them. Avoidance is of course exactly what you're after here. Shoot for a needlessly accessorized look in atrocious color combinations, ill-fitting thrift store "finds" and loud jewelry. Anything that screams, "I have hopelesly bad taste which I am willing to defend unto the death" should instill the proper amount of fear and respect in the average sales assistant.

The Rich Look

If you're up to it, you might give the Rich Look a whirl. Used judiciously it will theoretically bring you everything your heart desires. Unfortunately, I've never been very clear on how the Rich Look differs from the Boring Look or the Aberrant Look. I think it has to do with wrinkles. Or rather, a lack thereof. Ironed shirts, pressed pants, smooth hair, lint-free coats, and of course, crisp, clean spanking new bills in large denominations. The problem with this look is that it is virtually impossible to achieve in the midst of, say, MUNI.

When all else fails, wear dark glasses. Enthusiastic salespeople will think you're too aloof to befriend. Haughty sales people will think you're trying to look rich while the hip salespeople will think you're trying to look cool. Believing they've seen through your act, they will judge you totally pathetic and treat you gently with the patronizing sympathy usually given to slow learners. And even if they don't treat you well, at least the glasses will help diffuse that awful fluorescent lighting.

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From the December 1997 issue of the Metropolitan.

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