6/13: Fashion

I still remember this childhood friend’s wedding in November 2009. Now, that particular wedding is memorable for several reasons, but I especially remember the reaction of some of my other school friends. “You surely have a girlfriend now”, was their refrain, for apparently they had never seen me so well dressed.

Pinky still makes fun of the way I looked on the day I met her. I was wearing a blue polo T-shirt over khaki cargoes. On one occasion when I bent down to tie my shoelaces, she saw my blue socks and couldn’t stop laughing that I had such poor fashion sense to wear them with my khaki pants and white sneakers. I’d told her that I’d worn those socks to match my T-shirt, to which she continued laughing further. A couple of months later, she’d started her efforts to “improve” the way I look.

Since early 2010, she’s been conducting regular “clothes audits” for me, where clothes that don’t look good on me are discarded or put away. She keeps track of the trends for me, so that I don’t end up looking like an old fogey. She’s occasionally critical, but largely encouraging, and never fails to tell me that I look good (when I look that way).

Back in the late 2000s, I had a penchant for wearing loose clothes, which made my then heavy frame look even heavier. I liked wearing colourful shirts (I once turned up at a friend’s wedding in a bright purple shirt), and loose fitting jeans (Lee Chicago being my favourite fit). I would seldom be seen with my shirt untucked (speaking of which, have you heard about this company that’s now supposed to be the hot thing in the startup world?).

Pinky changed all that. She taught me how a white shirt can be so versatile that I shouldn’t reserve it for official use. She made me understand how better fitting clothes can make me look so much better. She made me realise how I look so much younger without my spectacles (which I wore daily since I was 7 until 2010 when I started wearing contact lenses). She carefully selected perfumes and aftershaves for me. I stopped wearing sneakers wherever I went (like I used to). Perhaps the only thing in which she’s not been able to make an impact on is my receding hairline!

It’s over seven years since Pinky started her “project” to make me look good, and I continue to look up to her when it comes to fashion. I continually pester her to accompany me on my clothes shopping trips, often driving her insane. Recently she cried how she’s herself been unable to shop because all our such trips end up being hijacked by me, asking for her opinion on one thing or the other. I admit my fashion sense has improved, and I decide better on what clothes I want to wear. Yet, I constantly seek her approval!

PS: I’m writing this wearing a floral print shirt

1/13: Leaving home

2/13: Motherhood statements

3/13: Stockings

4/13: HM

5/13: Cookers

Levi’s Price Discrimination

So I’ve never managed to buy jeans on discount. Let me explain. Unlike most other people (if you go by what the store assistants tell you), I don’t like to wear faded jeans. It is perhaps an inherited hangover since my father used to consider jeans to be inherently dirty and would make me discard jeans as soon as they faded a little bit. It could also be more practical – since I sometimes like to wear jeans to official meetings, I want to wear jeans that look neat.

Now I’ve managed to drive my wife crazy with my shopping (and we’ve known each other for barely four years, shopped together for three maybe). She thinks I’m way too fussy about clothes, and can’t make up my mind easily. I’ve explained earlier on this blog why I take a long time over shoes (my sandals are now wearing out, so I’m getting ready for another ordeal). But the more fundamental differences that my wife and I have is with respect to jeans.

The problem is that we fundamentally disagree on what purpose jeans serve. I have traditionally looked at jeans as comfort wear. Trousers I’m absolutely comfortable in (I sometimes even sleep in my jeans), which I don’t need to wash too frequently, and which can be worn even after they get torn in non-strategic places. I’ve always bought “comfort fit” jeans, and after I graduated to branded jeans towards the end of my teens, my staple had been the comfort-fit Lee Chicago.

The problem is that my wife thinks of jeans as fashion-wear – things you need to necessarily look good in. Some of the jeans she owns are so skinny that sometimes she takes a really long time to change. She looks great in them, no doubt, but the problem is that she expects that I too wear such jeans. And so after some ten years, I have given up my loyalty towards Lee Chicago, and instead have to try out various skinny fits (as things stand now, I own only one pair of Lee Chicago, bought in 2009).

Ok all this is besides the point of this post (and the point of another post which I never wrote). Coming back to the point of this post, the deal is that nowadays I find it extremely hard to shop for jeans. Of course it doesn’t help that I don’t live in Kathriguppe (with its dozens of factory outlets) any more, and that in my part of town (Malleswaram-Rajajinagar) the only place you can find decent branded clothes is in malls, which are a pain. The bigger problem, though, is that it is very hard to find stores that stock my kind of jeans.

In the last couple of years, our strategy for shopping clothes has been to visit a multi-brand outlet in one of the two malls near our place, so that we have a wide variety of choice. Except that I have no choice. Because stores such as Lifestyle or Shopper’s Stop or Westside (which now mostly stocks private labels) or Central don’t stock my kind of jeans. At all. If you happen to locate a store clerk and ask him for “mid blue straight cut non-faded jeans” he will look at you as if you have just landed from another planet. He can be excused for giving you those looks, for his store simply doesn’t stock non-faded jeans, because of which he has never sold them!

So I happened to be on Brigade road over the weekend, and I had a small gap of about half an hour between two meetings, and thought I should visit the Levi’s flagship store there. I must mention that the salespeople there were definitely significantly more polite than I’ve ever seen at a multi=brand store. However, as soon as I repeated my mantra (mid blue straight cut non-faded jeans), the first thing the salesperson who approached me told me  was “oh Sir, but there’s not discount on that!”.

It’s clever price discrimination by Levi’s, to not sell non-faded jeans on discount. For they know that people who buy non-faded jeans tend to be older (hey I’m only thirty), or will be buying them for office wear, and they are less price elastic than the typical college kid who buys faded stuff. So while the college kid needs discounts to be attracted during the “discount season”, the “formal jeans” buyer needs no such attractions, and will pay full price for his stuff.

It is interesting to note, however, that companies that make formal clothes (not Levi’s) also offer massive discounts during the “discount seassons” (one of which is on now). That, though, can be explained by the fact that most people need a few sets of formal clothes (even those that normally wear faded jeans), and discounts are necessary to attract customers.

Now I’m beginning to think that the market for “formal jeans” in India is extremely niche, and if I”m acting above my age because I prefer such jeans. I half-expect my wife to call me an “uncle” be cause of this.

Staggered surprises

When you have a number of things to surprise someone with, you can either flood them with that, or present it to them in a staggered manner. And based on recent experience with both forms, on both ends of the divide, I get the feeling that staggered surprises are superior and more effective than flooded surprises.

A year and half back, for my then girlfriend’s (now wife) birthday, I had got a bunch of things. There were clothes, food, a collage and even this laptop I’m writing this post on. And as soon as I entered the girlfriend’s house that day, I started producing these one by one. Before she could react to any of the gifts, I had produced another, and there was a flood. In hindsight, I thought the value of some of the things I’d got her were lost because I didn’t give her enough time to appreciate them while she was still surprised.

She played it differently at my birthday yesterday. Again, there was a bunch of things she had lined up. So at midnight yesterday, she says happy birthday and hands me a kurta. I try it out, and as soon as I’ve finished appreciating it (took a while) she makes me take it off, and gives me another. This way, over the course of the next ten minutes, she gives me five kurtas. And then a leather bag. And a box of tea. And some fancy paper to scribble on.

Giving gifts in a trickle, I think, works because of the expectations it sets. When Pinky produced the first Kurta, the natural thought in my head was, “oh she’s got me a kurta for my birthday”. I had expected one kurta. And when she slowly produced the next, I was surprised. You don’t generally expect someone to get you five kurtas, so each one she produced was met with a fair bit of surprise. The trickle had set my expectations low, and so the degree of surprise was high.

Pinky wasn’t done yet. She had solicited “happy birthday videos” from a number of my friends, from various stages of my life. Due to a personal tragedy (her grandfather passed away on Saturday) she hadn’t had time to put them together in a montage, but that helped her stagger-surprise me again. She first played videos from relatives, and after I had thought that was all to it, she played videos from friends. One by one. Not pushing expectations too high, and continually surprising me.

It was to play out similarly at the surprise party she had organized for me last night (after all the gifts and video messages, the last thing I had expected was a party). I had been told we’d be going out for dinner, when two of my oldest friends (I’ve known them for 25 years now) arrived. “Maybe she’s called my oldest friends to join us for dinner”, I thought. After a while they were followed by a friend from college who lives in the US now. I was truly shocked. He and his wife had dropped in while on their way to a wedding, I was told. I had no idea a party was on.

And then some quizzing friends appeared. And then some most recent colleagues (remember I don’t have any “current” colleagues). And Pinky, who had disappeared a while back, materialized with a cake. Soon enormous quantities of food appeared. I was already drinking by then and it was surreal. The best birthday ever, for sure. No, really! I don’t know if I would have been as happy had the surprises not been staggered.

PS: Ashwin and Vyshnavi responded to Pinky’s call for “happy birthday videos” with this one. It’s total kickass.

Expense Troubles

Sometimes corporate expense accounts work in strange ways. For example, there is a clause in our policy that for a trip of over a week, you are permitted to get your clothes laundered at the hotel “within reasonable limits”.

Given that this is a long trip and that I ran out of jocks, I got some laundered here, paying six dollars to launder each jock (on company expense, of course).

Noble policy; this is all good. There is only one issue here. The jocks that I spent six dollars for getting laundered cost me about three dollars each. Actually for six dollars, I can get pretty good quality jocks at the Century 21 store nearby.

And if it were my six dollars (rather than the firm’s) I would rather spend it on buying new jocks than getting old depreciated jocks laundered. But alas, company policy doesn’t let me expense the purchase of new jocks.

Sometimes corporate expense accounts work in strange ways.

Happy Birthday

This blog celebrates its first birthday today. It was on the 22nd of July 2008 that I wrote my first ever post on this site (prior to that I’d  been blogging on livejournal). Exactly a year back, I wrote:

The concept of NED has existed as long as mankind. Maybe even longer. If you have read Christian Theology you would have read that God took six days to create the world, and then took rest on the seventh day (Sunday). The truth is that God wanted to create even more and wonderful creatures, and give them even more wonderful features. He just happened to put NED. Since at the time that the Bible was written no one had quantified the concept of NED, the writers decided to take the easy way out by saying that God took rest on Sunday.

NED, for the uninitiated, stands for No Enthu Da. I don’t know how to explain it. In fact, no accurate explanation exists for this in English, for if it did, I wouldn’t have bothered inventing this phrase. By sacrificing some bit of accuracy I can say that NED is a state of mind where you don’t feel like doing anything. You just want to do nothing, and you don’t even have the enthusiasm to do nothing. Yes, if that confused you, you need to remember that there is no perfect explanation for NED in English.

I really don’t know how to celebrate the blog’s first birthday. I seem to be tending towards the trivial solution that Sanjeev suggested to me on facebook yesterday – to just put NED. If you have any bright ideas as to how to celebrate this, please let me know.

One blog fan has suggested that I get the blog a “new set of clothes”. That sounds like a good idea. If you can suggest any good 3-column wordpress theme (widget enabled, with sidebars on both sides), I’d be grateful.