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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

On buying new clothes and L.L.Bean

The yellow window-pane check shirt is a bit brighter than I'm showing.

I keep my clothes for a long time -- a very long time. For instance, I'm still wearing a cotton shirt purchased from Beaver Canoe more than a decade ago. It simply refuses to die. I'm on the edge of tossing a similar Royal Robbins cotton shirt. Like the Beaver Canoe shirt, it isn't frayed but it has a stain. My wife is soaking it in OxyClean. We'll see how that works. And I have an Eddie Bauer plaid shirt that in my opinion is as good today as when new.

Still, my supply of shirts is getting thin. It is time to go on a buying spree. I wandered the malls, I hit the box stores, I came up almost empty. The style of stuff I buy does not seem to be found in the London stores.

I turned to L.L.Bean -- the American retailer specializing in mail-order. My wife bought a few things from them in the past and that put us on their mailing list. We get catalogs and we get offers. A few weeks back we got a great offer. It promised 20 percent off everything ordered.

I went online. I quickly found six suitable shirts. Nice. I ordered a yellow shirt with a small, window-pane check, three shirts in solid colours -- white, forest green and light blue -- an Oxford cloth shirt with soft blue stripes and a bright red shirt in a cotton twill.

The prices were amazing. Despite some of the shirts being on sale, the catalog discount code was still honoured. The discounts more than paid the duty. And shipping was free . . . as was the guilt.

I prefer buying locally. I used to buy from a small store downtown called Muskox. It's gone. Eatons? Also gone. Eddie Bauer is an American chain but there were two stores in London: One downtown and another in the large mall in the north end of the city. Both stores are now gone.

It is a new world. As a boy I bought from a clothing store just a couple of blocks from my home. A locally owned store named Robert Holmes, as I recall. It carried beautiful stuff with most items made in Canada -- like shirts from Forsyth. The John Forsyth Shirt Company was born in Waterloo, Ontario, in 1903. The company was sold in the '70s and after some more changes of ownership it closed for good earlier this year.

The same story is attached to almost every brand of shirt, sweater or pants that I bought as a boy. If the brand is available at all, the clothing is now made in Bangladesh, China, Pakistan or elsewhere, as long as elsewhere is not in Canada.

I bought my newest shirts from a store in Maine. I got some for less than $30. Some are wrinkle resistant. They are all 100 percent cotton. I feel bad about leaving Canada to buy my clothes but L.L.Bean seems to be a good company. If I can't buy from Robert Holmes, I'll make do buying from L.L.Bean.

One caveat: If you do decide to order from L.L.Bean, don't order a size larger in order to take shrinkage into account. Nothing my wife and I have ordered from L.L.Bean has ever shrunk. The material is good quality and the descriptions in the catalog are dead-on.

I placed my order Sunday night and the shirts were delivered to my London, Ontario, home late Wednesday afternoon. I immediately tried them on. All fit perfectly as expected. I guess those Peruvians make good shirts. That's right, some L.L.Bean shirts are made in Peru --- in South America -- that's a long way from Waterloo, Ontario.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Heritage districts: Often illusions

This Wednesday evening the London public has been invited to a meeting at the Convention Centre: Our Move Forward - Downtown Master Plan Community Consultation. I have mixed feelings about the approach being taken. With ReThink London still on the go, may I be so bold as to suggest that it is time for Londoners to rethink our historical districts and the preservation that such districts demand.

For an interesting take on the North American longing for lost heritage, read Ada Louise Huxtable's The Unreal America: Architecture and Illusion. When I read the posted piece, the first chapter of Huxtable's book, the talk of Colonial Williamsburg brought to mind Lower Town in Old Quebec City. I am old enough to recall when many of the present "heritage" structures were not there. Many of these buildings were not restored but recreated. Much of the area's 18th century ambiance so loved by tourists is faux.

At this point I had planned on blogging about the importance of thinking about cities in their entirety, of the advantage gained by respecting all city neighbourhoods and not just those designated heritage districts. I will get to that blog in time. But I have been sidetracked by a growing interest in the late Ada Louise Huxtable. The woman was amazing and her writing well worth our time.

If you love cities and architecture, click the link: Rereading Ada Louise Huxtable: 5 Essential Pieces.

Another heritage building was lost in downtown London. The usual folk are mourning the loss. I wish the city planners and the heritage lovers would get with the game -- and the game is not simply saving all the remaining old buildings

The following is a scene from Old Quebec. The top view is a photo from early in the last century. Note the tall hotel on the left. It was relatively new at the time. Older images do not show the large hotel but they do show some of the structure, the bottom two floors, before they were incorporated into the expanded structure.

The lower photo is from Google StreetViews. Note how the upper floors of the old hotel were removed and the streetscape "returned", I use the word loosely, to its proper heritage appearance.