I hate clear shopping bags. I hate shopping, really, but clear shopping bags represent all that’s truly annoying about buying stuff. This weekend when the salesgirl handed me my new Levi’s in a clear bag, I rolled it up and stuffed it in my own bag. Why would I want other people to see what I’ve bought? Talk about conspicuous consumption. I prefer that other people think I’ve had something a really long time (“What, this old thing?”) rather than observe my purchases as I walk by on the street. Besides, I could never afford to look trendy, so clear bags only reveal the fact that I’m broke. No, it’s not Diesel, or Helmut Lang, or Prada. It’s Levi’s.
Perhaps in an effort to seduce the fickle young denim crowds, Levi’s has constructed this enormous high-design flagship store on Union Square. Which brings me to my second complaint: who designs fitting rooms? Wanting to try on my pair of jeans, I asked for a fitting room and was led to a corner of the store to something that could only resemble an outdoor shower; I literally drew a rubber curtain around me in a circle. That, a mirror, and a couple of high-design hooks. No place to sit down. I bent over and unlaced my boots, balancing on one foot, hoping I wouldn’t topple over and roll back out on the salesfloor. I hear Levi’s isn’t doing so well.
I can’t remember when I stopped keeping up on trends. I think it was when I met the Ex and began the five-year relationship. Not only was I a struggling artist type, but marriage took the pressure off. It may be a cliché, but it’s true. Besides, one of the advantages of being gay is that you can wear each other’s clothes. Well, I could. He couldn’t really fit into mine. Emerging from the rubble of that relationship, I was suddenly aware that I had fewer clothes, and what I had was very, uh, pedestrian.
People began making less-than-subtle comments about the amount of flannel and plaid in my wardrobe. And this was in a 12-step meeting, not the first place one thinks of when you hear “couture”. What can I say? I’m from the Midwest. I like dogs, Bruce Springsteen, and the idea of one primary relationship. In other words, I’m a lesbian. One friend jokes frequently about giving me a makeover. So I could look like every other fag in the Castro, I assume.
Actually, San Francisco has several types. In fact, I have never seen a city whose gay population sticks so closely to certain uniforms. You got your Leather Guys, of course, with the closely-related Bear and Blue Collar groups rounding out what I think of as the old-guard school. You do, of course, have Drag Queens, but these are mostly weekend affairs. There’s the slim Fashionistas, with expensive clothes and spiky hair. There are the circuit boys decked out in foot-to-toe Aberzombie, and indie waif boys with really small t-shirts. And queer gutter punk types with lots of piercings and baggy jeans. To be fair, though, there are individuals here.
I suppose it’s a challenge in any city to be unique, and I’d question the value of emphasizing the physical look of individuality rather than the internal. I can’t say I’m particularly unique looking. When I was walking around downtown this weekend, surrounded by people dressed better than me, I realized that I would never be able to keep up with trends anymore, financially or emotionally. Which is a relief. I can spend more time now with seashell and macramé projects. Or take up clogging.