The High Street or High Priced Debate

I am constantly at war with myself. As a student I am stereotypical; my diet is lacking in any sort of decency, I spend vast amounts of time sleeping, an hour and a half lecture is justification for 3 hours ‘napping’, I experience productive rushes at silly times of the night and my level of disposable income is disappointingly small. What’s more, the little I do have is more often than not spent on cider – on this note I would like to point out that I am a country boy, so I only drink cider and only the good stuff, so it is expensive. But being a chap with a keen interest in fashion and striving to dress as the archetypal stylish gent would, this leaves an almost laughably small amount of money with which to purchase desirable new threads. Thus is the question raised; should you wander down the high street or should you spend that little bit more?

As you are most likely an eager, fashionable gent, who is intent on looking good, it would be fair to say that the dilemma of choosing a suitable shopping establishment is not one restricted to me alone. I would in fact go as far as to say that it is one of the most important considerations when constructing that perfect wardrobe; so it is imperative that you get it right. I am also quite sure that given the adequate funding, we would all completely forgo the high street and dash off to the nearest Selfridges – or in my case Savile Row – but unfortunately, this is not the case and thus the issue remains.

The Argument For The High Street

Price is undeniably the high street stores greatest weapon. If price is the biggest influence on our choice of shopping establishment, then for the majority, the result must be obvious – you go for high street. A £7.99 polo from H&M becomes a very attractive prospect when you consider the Ralph Lauren equivalent can be anything up to £70. When you have very little money it suddenly becomes a clear cut choice; you get more clothes for your money. As the majority of fashion consumers are typically the younger generation (an often cash strapped consumer base), making the most of your money is the key to any shopping success. And with stores in almost every major town and city these companies offer great availability, flexible pricing and a huge amount of choice right on their doorstep.

In a world where individuality is the name of the game, variety certainly is the spice of life and variety is something high street stores have in spades; from basic tees to knitwear, shoes to accessories, they offer almost everything. They mix up their styles, colours and material to create unique lines that appeal directly to the target audience, reflecting the independent and experimental nature of fashion. They focus much more on the current trends and have a very strong connection to the catwalks and high fashion; meaning their collections have a very progressive nature, once again giving a younger generation that wants to play around with their style a lot to work with.

An interesting point to also consider is the actual layout of the store itself. Many high street brands focus on maximum stock, minimal design – all helping to allow variety – but the higher end stores appear more interested in the architectural appearance of their shop floors with a great deal of focus on placement and presentation, which begs the question – how much does it affect our attitude? Or how much should it affect our attitude?

Branding is also very much a player in this choice and it is closely linked to the issues surrounding fashion snobbery or stereotyping. As I have discussed before in my article on brand association, whom or what we associate a particular brand with has a very big influence on whether we decide to invest in them. Putting aside the age old adages, it can be as simple as people who shop in Primark etc stereotyping those that shop in higher end stores or vice versa or because you don’t like the brand itself, the way it is run or it’s company values.

In this instance my pet hate is the Abercrombie & Fitch family, but I am less concerned with the people than the actual company itself, which I find appalling, and the clothes it produces, which (personal opinion) are hideous, mostly because of the overbearing logos. This can easily be avoided by sticking to brands like Topman, H&M and River Island because they offer fairly anonymous clothing that shy away from any particular branding or logo – very important if you wish your outfit or wardrobe to remain neutral and timeless.

High Street Focus:
  • Red Stripe Polo Shirt
  • 2 Button Jacket
  • Indigo Cotton Carrot Chinos
  • River Island Jogger Chinos
  • Skinny True Blue Jeans
  • Mustard Chino Short
  • ASOS Chino Shorts
  • Navy Belted 3/4 Trench Coat
  • River Island Washed Leather Brogues
  • River Island Suede Desert Chukka Boots
  • Leather Boat Shoe
  • Leather Chelsea Boots
The Argument Against The High Street

However, there are of course downsides to these high street shops and they are nearly all directly linked to the things that make them an attractive choice. First and foremost there is the issue of quality. The saying ‘you get what you pay for’ certainly rings true. It would naïve to think that the brand name didn’t have an impact of the price of an item (just look at apple) but even so the quality of your clothing is closely linked to the amount you spend. A cheap polo from any of the high street names will be made of cheaper material, using less refined production techniques and subsequently won’t last as long as one from Fred Perry for example.

Now, whether quality is of particular consequence is entirely up to you but it is worth bearing in mind that a cheaper polo will look and feel remarkably different to a more expensive one; the fit won’t be as good, colours may fade quicker, they will be more prone to shrinkage (or lose their shape) and this could ultimately make a big difference to the overall look of an outfit.

High street brands are very popular, there is no getting away from that and we can see from the reasons explained above why that might be, but this popularity does come with its problems. Certainly, they offer a great deal of variety but because so many people use them, overlaps do occur. Because places like Topman and H&M are so focused on trends and selling the latest items, they create an environment where a lot of people will buy the same clothes. Everyone knows the Topman stereotype and has probably raised their eyebrows at the number of people they see that dress in exactly the same way, a problem exacerbated by high street stores.

This is not to say that the higher end stores don’t suffer from a similar problem, despite their price or image differences they will produce similar items to those available on the high street – but because of the slight differences in design and the improved quality they will stand out. This focus on trends could also lead to a lack of high quality, timeless and classic items because they are pushed out by the need for new designs and the next big thing.

Designer Focus:
  • Polo Ralph Lauren White Classic Fit Tee
  • PAUL SMITH - JEANS 284A-P4215 Sleeping Zebra Grey T-Shirt
  • Fred Perry Slim Fit Twin Tipped Polo Top
  • Bowery L/s Shirt
  • Nelson Crew
  • Lanvin Classic Merino Wool Cardigan
  • Edge Chino
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Navy Classic Fit Chinos
  • Alexander McQueen Classic Straight Leg Jeans
  • LYLE & SCOTT MY722-V08 Light Grey Marl Knit
  • Margaret Howell MHL Relaxed Fit Cotton Shorts
  • A.P.C. Blue Seersucker Summer Shorts
  • Burberry London Gibson Wool Blend Pea Coat
  • Scotch & Soda Drop Crotch Chinos
  • Grenson Chocolate Suede Brogued Toe Cap Tom Shoes
  • Loake Dark Brown Suede Kempton Chukka Boot
  • Quoddy Leather Boat Shoes

It is clear then that there are strong arguments for either side of this issue. High street stores offer shoppers a great many things; variety, low price, a strong affinity with trends and the catwalks and the avoidance of branding, but they also suffer from problems stemming from exactly those things. In the end the choice is subjective, you must decide what you look for in your clothes, what you wish to achieve with them and what would suit your style best.

Personally I feel that my style, or what I aspire to, is best served by investment in timeless and classic key items so I tend to stick to higher end stores (hence why I spend more time wandering around rather than buying). I look for quality and cut rather than quantity and choice, looking to create a capsule wardrobe that will provide stylish looks for years to come.

But now it is time for your opinion:

  • Where do you shop and why?
  • Do you agree with the arguments I have made in this article? Can you think of any others?
  • What do you believe to be the most important factor in choosing where to shop?
  • Are certain pieces of clothing more important to spend good money on than others?
  • Should your choice of shop make a difference to an outfit?
  • Do you believe that the choice of brand does make a difference to an outfit?

Let me know in the comments below.