Sean Moncrieff: Men who buy their own clothes are a bit weird. Right?
Men often don’t know what clothes to wear – much easier to let herself do the buying. Preferably when you’re not there
Suits you sir: now where did he get the buying advice?
I was having a big manly pint with a fella my own age when, in the course of chatting, he said to me: “You buy your own clothes?”, sounding a bit shocked.
He delivered the question in a slightly hushed, trying-not-to-sound appalled tone: as if I told him I was planning to join Fianna Fáil or take up pole dancing. In fairness to him, he quickly swallowed this flash of prejudice and set out to present his lack of shoppingness as a flaw on his part; a basic life skill that he had, to his shame, never managed to master. But it was unconvincing.
His wife bought his clothes for him, and he thought that was okay. More than that: he thought men who buy their own clothes were a bit weird. Once another couple of big manly pints had been sunk, he portrayed shopping as a tyranny that he had finally managed to escape.
Time for a generalisation. Men don’t like shopping for long periods of time. I have some science on my side. A survey carried out in the UK in 2013 found that, on average, a man will grow bored with shopping after 26 minutes, while it took women two hours. Nearly half of the men reported that shopping trips ended with a row.
Middle-aged men often don’t know what clothes to wear. The imperatives have changed. The possibility of looking cool is long gone, and anyway, now they are dressing to hide or accommodate certain parts of the body: particularly the swollen gut courtesy of all those big manly pints. They have to dress a bit more for comfort, but they don’t want to dress like their dads: they’re not that old.
Much easier to let herself do the buying. Preferably when you’re not there. Remember that survey: nearly 50 per cent of shopping trips end with a row, and not because you disagree on whether “salmon” is an actual colour. Men and women shop in different ways.
Many anthropologists reckon the gender-shopping divide may be more than social conditioning: it may be encoded into us from when we were hunter-gatherers
Men, is this familiar? You’re walking down the street, perhaps near the end of your shopping tour of duty, so you pick up the pace a little. You’re chatting away when you realise your partner is no longer by your side. She’s silently disappeared, and only after a physical search and/or a phone call do you discover that she’s peeled off into some shop, magnetically drawn by the siren call of shoes or gloss paint or organic carrots. And the thing is: she does this all the time.
I have science to back up my sexist piggery. Many anthropologists reckon the gender-shopping divide may be more than social conditioning: it may be encoded into us from when we were hunter-gatherers.
Or more correctly: gatherer-hunters. Ten thousand years ago, women, who did the gathering, provided 80-90 per cent of the food. Men made up the rest with the occasional slayed beast. But these two tasks were carried out in vastly different ways. The women would spend hours wandering around forests and bushes looking for the best picks, while the men had to be more singular: find an animal, kill it and bring it home quickly before it started to rot in the heat.
The parallels in shopping are obvious. Women like to browse. Men like to get in and out quickly. But these are generalisations. I’m a man and I like shopping. I like shopping in TK Maxx which, given its serendipitous nature, is uber-shopping.
But I do it in a manly way. I have a mission. I get in there. I quickly zoom through the rows of clothes until I find what I want. And if you get in my way, I’ll probably shoot you.