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.


  1. The Sears outlet store is a dollar stretcher at Wonderland and Oxford. $9.72 is the magic number for a good selection of shirts, sweaters and stuff. Yes ugly and weird to get past but normal lurks under the oddities that didn't sell in the 111 stores left.

  2. Thanks for the tip. I'm only five minutes from that store. I'll check out the selection. I cannot understand Sears closing five locations in Ontario, and all in absolutely prime retail space. They are staying in Westmount and closing Masonville. Too weird!

  3. Umm. Not sure about Robert Holmes, but Roberts Holmes was a bookstore on Dundas Street in London. It closed in 1996.

  4. When I first moved to London, I used to buy stuff from Roberts Holmes Stationery on Dundas Street. I bought books at that store. It's now gone and the last time I ordered a special book I discovered I had to do it online. I was looking for a French text from my high school days and Chapters said it was not the kind of item they were interested in handling. I found a company online that was glad to help me. More and more I am finding that my neighbourhood stores are as close as my computer.