A Varietal Demand


I’m in the second dressing room of the day compiling a large pile of rejected jeans in the corner, semi-neatly folding them. I haven’t shopped for clothing like this in years, and there’s a reason why. I’m apologizing for every other piece that I’m rejecting. I dislike the decision-making requirements of the experience, and occasionally default into some state of guilt about living in the first world, disgusting by just how many options and sizes and varieties are presented (and designed and sewn and shipped and labeled and sorted and folded) and with a new-found sense of awe (perhaps incredulous and misplaced) that a store can even offer forty percent off. None of the jeans I try on work — a fact I can usually tell before my first foot reaches the bottom of the pantleg. I pull my clothes back — they all seemed just fine before I ente4red the dressing room but now seem smell and are thin and dirty, something about fitting overly correctly on my body and being familiar is someone off-putting.

I ponder aloud, distractedly thinking about conversion rates and if they apply here, and ask rhetorically “I wonder how many times something is tried on before its bought. Like, on average, how many times do jeans get tried on before they’re purchased. How many times have these jeans been tried on?”

It’s probably like 1.2 times. But maybe less. Less than one? Or maybe much, much more. 2.3? Six times, perhaps, on average?

Retail, like everything else, seems like a total scam or a magic act when you begin to investigate but don’t have much information — just enough to ask weird questions.

The only textiles I buy are the fourth version of a warm thermal type shirt I own in three other shades, this one only a fair bit more cranberry, so deeply discounted that the salesperson has to use her phone to calculate the final price before ringing me up — the point of sale system unable to handle such a low dollar transaction.

I am also of a weird conservative line of thinking that jeans should only just cost twenty dollars, because that’s how much they cost when I was a kid. And yet, despite having on average paid much more than that as an adult, and the only intact pair of jeans I wear cost ten times that amount, and in the long course of our relationship the value proposition of the jeans are just finally evening out, this twenty dollar valuation still is lodged in the dressing-room section of my brain.

It’s often too many choices, or too few. I try on a dozen shoes, after having dismissed hundreds of others, wondering who in fact buys all of them? Should I be more discerning, or less critical?

This retail shock-inducing therapy reached a silent apex in a surf shop, with a cityscape aisle of illuminated cases of sunglasses, floor to ceiling, claustrophobically bouncing betweens brands. How could there possibly be quite such a varietal demand?

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