The Yankees hat was the jumping off point for the conversation with the man and his wife who came to register 1 yesterday afternoon as I asked about his desire to visit the new stadium in the upcoming weeks. They were an older couple, maybe in their 60s, with gray hair, the man informing me that the hat was from his son’s collection of pristine ball caps from over the years. The son is a big collector. What’s the point of having all those hats if you don’t wear them? I asked. Clothing, as simple a need as it is, is devoid of any value if it isn’t just embraced for its basic use, I thought. The man chuckled in agreement, evidenced by his purloined hatwear. “I’m a Mets fan anyway,” he said.
The nice weather day had sent them to Williamsburg earlier to Beacon’s Closet, a pretty reliable (if expensive) and well-organized Brooklyn vintage clothier. They were selling some of their old items to the store, which will then turn around, wash the clothes in double-irony pressed cleanser, and pump them back into the streets on the backs of Animal Collective fans.
“Oh,” I said. “I actually shop there sometimes.”
“Yeah, they have great stuff there. Great costume jewelery, some good jackets,” the man said. “We sell stuff to them all the time.”
Oh, I said again. “Uh, that means maybe I’ve, uh, bought some of your clothes before.” A thin chill of awkwardness crept up the back of my Peter Gabriel 1982 tour tee underneath my work shirt.
The man paid for his groceries and turned to his wife. “All the money we made selling our clothes there we just spent here.”
And then that’s money that comes back to me, that I go spend on clothes at Beacon’s Closet, I said. And the economy keeps right on chugging along.
“There you go!” he said. “That’s probably exactly what Obama had in mind!” (NOTE: it wasn’t)
Then I remembered another customer from earlier in the day. He was wearing the exact same button-down Western-style shirt I have in my closet at home. I told him this. “Oh, yeah? I got this at Beacon’s Closet.”
I couldn’t remember exactly where I bought the shirt, but I was pretty sure the words “good” and “will” were involved and that I navigated through a sea of Spanish-speaking families and bleach-stained golf pants to get to it. I don’t particularly even like the shirt, and rarely wear it. I think it’s even a (gasp!) name brand shirt too, like a discarded American Eagle fashion or something. I wouldn’t have spent more than $5 on it.
“Well, I can guarantee I paid less for it than you did,” I said, trying to joke, before realizing I had just sounded like a catty bitch. The guy didn’t smile, and shuffled out quickly. At Beacon, the lowest the shirt would have gone for is at least $25, maybe.
I felt bad about pointing this out to the guy. Then I realized, I didn’t, at all.