England as a Bargain Shopping Destination? Yup

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 7/31/2009 07:04:00 AM
"Don't you think the trousers are a bit too...narrow?" In retrospect, I posed the wrong question while trying on a suit to my skinny Hugo Boss salesman with a hairdo worn by Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes circa 1984 wearing a fashionable "slim fit" suit and matching two-inch-wide tie. As someone who thinks he has better things to do than read men's magazines, I was only dimly aware of the current trend for "slim fit" suits. Understandably, he shot me a skeptical look that suggested: "Whaddya want to look like, MC Hammer?" In the end, I bought the suit anyway, a nice-looking Rossellini Movie model for a bargain price of £300 that originally retailed for £500. Suit shoppers know the quality of woolen fabric is graded on the fineness of micron counts. This one was a Super 100--pretty good material for the money if not the best available. Hugo Boss is also a good brand if a bit long on marketing hype and not in the top leagues of off-the-rack names like Ermenegildo Zegna or Brioni. From the picture, I'm sure you'll agree that the style of the cut is pretty good. And, the price simply cannot be beat--especially for England of all places.

What the Yanks call "European cut" suits are more tapered in a way that's supposed to flatter the male figure, with broad shoulders and a slim waist in contrast to the standard American "sack suit" designed to hide, er, generous rolls of flab at the waist. Not having bought a suit in five years, it was an interesting shopping experience.

With the dear pound of recent years, London has not been an affordable destination, to put it mildly. Even now, the city is still the 16th dearest city in the world to live in. However, with a full-blown UK retail slump in place coupled with a currency of diminished value, I was surprised to find real deals like this one during my most recent visit.

This particular suit I bought at the Hugo Boss store at Bluewater. For those who haven't heard of the place, it's a giant shopping complex about thirty minutes away from Canary Wharf modeled after the discount outlets in America like Woodbury Commons in New York. From what I've noticed, though, Bluewater features less deals on items with imperfections or minor flaws. As I discovered, the "Anglo-Saxon" model doesn't only apply to economics but also to the fit of menswear. As expected, I had no trouble fitting into a 42 regular. However, the accompanying 36 waist pants were far too large.

Now, Americans are infamously portly people even by their own admission--probably the fattest people in the world save the Tongans. Unfortunately, the English are not far behind in the blubber department, ranking among the fattest of Europeans. (Overconsumption often pertains to food intake as well.) Hence, I could not easily redo the size 36 trousers to fit me. Helpfully, Nick Rhodes was alright with my suggestion to mix and match the trousers with a smaller size. And so I found myself swapping them with size 32 pants in the same charcoal grey. As mentioned above, I initially thought that the newer pants were too thin, but since slimmer fits are more in fashion, even this renowned curmudgeon is happy. It's "European cut" without quite being "slim fit."

Don't take my word for the "bargain" part: the best price I've found among US-based discount retailers is $500 from Suitupp.com for the same suit which goes for $800 retail. The selling price of the Rossellini Movie in the UK was £500. This model has been sold for a few years now, so it's easy to imagine it originally retailing for nearly the equivalent of $1,000 when the pound still commanded two dollars. Now, I bought it for £300 x $1.64/£1=$492. Remember that you would still have to wait while buying online and pay for shipping (another $22 bringing it up to $522). Add in that Nick Rhodes wouldn't be there to help you swap the trousers to a smaller size and I am indeed pleased with my purchase.

London as a shopping bargain destination? You better believe it, friends. Retailers across Blighty are discounting like there's no tomorrow. Plus, the selection is unparalleled: London is the world's top destination for retailers. And if you're shopping for a good deal on a suit, do visit Nick Rhodes at the Hugo Boss outlet in Bluewater. Tell him I sent you.

UPDATE: Kindred over at IPE@UNC makes this an anecdote of the perils of deflation I'm not quite sure I, ah, buy.