OP SHOP journey.

Walking Exercise Conducted Saturday 21st of April 2012

  1. Walk to an op-shop
  2. Buy the cheapest or brightest shirt.
  3. Wear it and walk to the next op shop.
  4. Repeat step 2 and 3 seven times then return home.

(Purchased items may be carried. Cost is not the aim.)

I have recorded my walk in many ways, a time line which I created at the time of walk, pictures of me in the op-shops with my shirts on, an info graphic to show where I went and most importantly I have kept the shirts that I bought and went with me on my walk.

The walk that I did on Saturday morning raised a few different topics to be analyzed. These were, Consumption, consumerism, patterns, socialisation, value, quality, awkwardness, sense of belonging and of course a happening.
I am a qualified consumer if one would call oneself that and I don’t like it. Over the years I have tried to shake this wasteful time consuming habit but find myself always walking back to the shops for the one final purchase for the season. This is probably because I like to have quality clothes that fit and look good and make me feel good.  I have shopped at op-shops before for clothes that I aim to wear and also ones that I believe are good value but not good taste for example a Marino wool jumper for $10.  These objects are often bought worn a couple of times then returned back to a charity for use by someone else. I don’t feel guilty when purchasing these items because I am recycling and fulfilling my urge to consume at the same time. I’m effectively hitting two birds with one stone.

What I realised on my 3 hour journey which I knew already that being a savvy consumer e.g. looking for bargains, best fitting and best looking clothes is a lot of hard work. By the third op-shop I felt myself wearing out considerably and had to look for a place to eat rest and recoup my energy and stock up on cash. This is necessary because most op-shops have a minimum of $10 EFTPOS and in an exercise such as this it can be rather costly.
By the forth shop and certainly by the seventh you start to see patterns emerge. The patterns that I noticed were as followed:

  • The most major pattern in the op-shops that became clear and obvious was I. By the time I had reached the final op-shop I had been noticed by another group of shoppers from a previous store. Conversation began. The older lady that was shopping with her daughter noticed me from a previous shop only when I had given advice on the location of other op-shops to a fellow shopper. She noticed that I had been wearing another coloured shirt. At this moment I felt like the project was successful. I was searching for some point in which others would notice the culmination of my activity.  I then began to explain what I was doing and told the ladies that they were no involved in the happening. They were delighted. My willfulness to be open to the matter created a relaxed atmosphere between the shoppers and we all talk together as a group. I even got a compliment on the shirt I was wearing.  This was a feedback loop where I was able to discuss what I had done to the shop assistants and explain my project to others that had seen me previously.
  • The smaller the shop the more welcoming it was. Eg the staff were friendlier more relaxed and therefor had more time for you. The larger the shop the busier it became the more over worked the shop assistants were and the less time they had for you. The shops that had the best or most unique items were the ones with no direct access to parking for example on main roads where only pedestrians would wander in.
  • The clothes in each shop are also often the same. I refer only to the men’s clothing, as that is all I was paying attention to.  The items that I found were often brown striped, purple, pink and collared. This is a sign of society’s or more precisely men’s dislike to be seen in such colours that are either non-flattering or a direct attack on their masculinity. These items end up in the op-shops and stay there for a long time until a participant of a dress up party requires one for his costume. I actually purchased a shirt, which I had seen in a shop about a month earlier hanging on the same rack in the same position. It is a white collared shirt with mauve stripes.

Value is subjective. Op shopping is a testament to this fact. One mans trash is another mans treasure. Items that I personally valued the most were obviously the best looking but also the ones, which were the most unique. The long sleeved striped shirt pictured here is an absolute classic. The colours are striking and the upper chest decals of cowboy boots would be hard to find anywhere else. I feel like its one of a kind and therefor is of higher value to me. This is evident by the smile on my face. See figure 1.

Most items that I tried on were of quality. However I found some items in the shops that were heavily stained and even moldy. Once or twice I found myself returning shirts to the racks due to the low quality of presentation. I like to think of myself as a shopper that prides himself in finding items of high quality durability and functionality. The items that I purchased were of a good quality and would apart from aesthetics work well as a part of my own wardrobe.

The act of wearing the brightly coloured clothes was sometimes humiliating. The Cowboy long sleeved shirt discussed earlier figure 1 received some awkward stares. The bright red shirt, which I picked up in op shop 5 was over sized and extremely bright. This too was humiliating to wear. All shirts had some level of fashion taboos tied into their appearance. When walking public streets I was making a statement about my fashion sense and me as a personality.


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