Friday 12 February 2016

My Pretty Woman Moment: Trouser Shopping in LA

Pretty woman, walking down the street
Pretty woman, the kind I like to meet
Pretty woman
Roy Orbison clearly wasn't singing about me, nor did Julia Roberts base her performance as Vivian Ward in the movie Pretty Woman on my life.

But aside from me not being pretty, nor a woman, nor a high-class prostitute, our shopping experiences in Los Angeles are uncannily similar.

Let me explain.

On my recent trip to the USA, I did something I never usually do - I packed an old pair of casual trousers (cargo pants, in fact).

Because I travel so light, I'm usually very disciplined about this. I'll make a point of buying a brand-new pair of casual trousers to be packed alongside one more formal pair, because I don't want to deal with them falling apart while I'm on the road.

This is for two main reasons:
  1. I'm usually travelling on a packed itinerary, making it hard to carve out shopping time;
  2. I'm a big guy who usually needs to buy clothing from specialised larger-size clothing stores.
So. On my second day in LA, I lent over to do up my shoelaces and heard an ominous rip. The cargo pants had reached their use-by date. Now what?

I put on the more formal pair of "good" trousers, of course, but I couldn't go the entire three-week trip wearing those. From time to time I'd need to do laundry, and the thought of standing in a laundromat wearing bathers (my only other option) while the trousers were in the machine was not appealing.

I'd have to buy new trousers. But where? The only free time I had was after visiting a new Australian-run cafe in the Fairfax district near West Hollywood, so I needed a shop in that part of the city. And it had to be one that definitely stocked large sizes.

I searched Google Maps, and it came up with one obvious option: a specialist menswear store in Beverly Hills.

Gulp. Beverly Hills?

For those not aware, Beverly Hills is home to Rodeo Drive, one of LA's most expensive and exclusive shopping areas.

So I inspected the cafe, then caught an Uber car to Beverly Hills.

This is where it started to go Julia Roberts. The efficient attendant at the menswear store, alerted to my preference for simple casual trousers, started bringing out jeans. Simple jeans. Faded jeans. Jeans pushing $200.

So I swallowed my pride and asked for a pair of the least expensive casual trousers in the shop. I swear the temperature in the shop dropped a distinct number of degrees at that point.

It was sort of a reverse Julia Roberts, now I think of it, as my initial rating as a wealthy customer had now been downgraded a few notches.

The attendant followed my bidding, however, and I ended up with a comfortable pair of black cotton Ralph Lauren trousers for a bit over $100.

That was way more than I'd usually pay for casual wear. But I must say though, you get what you pay for. They are extremely comfy.

So that was my Pretty Woman moment. May you ever be spared a similar ordeal.

Take it away, Roy:

Disclosure: I stayed in LA as a guest of the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board, though I paid for my own airfare to the USA.

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