The Ballad of the J. Crew Catalog

Many moons ago, when the wind blew sweeter and I was just a child, it was a time before the internet had been created.

And there existed a wondrous and shiny marvel that would arrive in your home with which you could happily while away the hours. They exist today and are called by the same name but in a simpler era when television and computers did not consume all of your hours, the catalog was king.

Thick, heavy, solid, with luscious colors and a bold sheen on every page. Inside would be the very creme de la creme of artistic photography. The products for sale depended on which catalog you were reading but the graphic design team would lavish them in loving detail, creating a beautiful, endlessly perfect world in which they existed.

I live in this world!

The clothes catalogs were some of my favorites, in particular one for the J. Crew company. Its been a while since I’ve been in America but today I felicitously discovered that they still exist and have a website. But in the time of which I speak, this was before the internet, and the static pages of the catalog told the story – the story of the J. Crew world.

If you’re an American, perhaps you know what I mean. If you’re not quite so familiar with it, go and have a look at their online catalog. It’s a world of simple stylishness. It’s a world of tastefully matched accessories. It’s a world of ease, of confidence, of being relaxed. Look at the faces of the models for they are chosen with great care to convey an artistic message. Are they sad? No. It’s being comfortable with oneself, with feeling great about the way you look. It’s not just a pleasure for you to wear the clothes but for others to see you walk by wearing them.

They have (or at least had) actual “brick and mortar” stores and I’ve been in them many times, the majority of which in the company of a young woman who was quite enthusiastic to be shopping there. I will (partially) confess that there was once even an unfortunate incident of shoplifting involving such a companion. But the rest of the time, we were there to buy and look. Whatever was actually purchased was chosen with care. The rest of the time was a kind of interactive field expedition in the quest of a kind of visual/tactile porn experience by being around that many nice clothes, shoes and accessories.

But I’m not a “J. Crew guy”, whatever that might mean. I wasn’t when I really didn’t have the money and I’m not now when I do. I’m just a breed apart and that’s all there is to it. But it truly is a pleasure, even if it is just briefly, to immerse yourself in that world.

And then I visited Romania and I was sitting at an outdoor cafe, sipping on a coffee on a beautiful spring day. After about 10 minutes I realized what I was witnessing was not an anomaly and that too bad so sad for Ponce de Leon and all the shit he was looking for but for me there’s no question. I’ve arrived.

Romania, or at least Cluj-Napoca where I live, is blessed with a truly four-season climate. There’s a nice long, hot summer, a gentle slide into autumn (where we are now), a snowy winter and then a joyous spring. Last night I saw light gently streaming out of the busy cafes and shops in Piatra Unirii fall onto the leaf-strewn sidewalks, couples clutching hands as they walked through the chilly air.

And guess what? Everyone is dressed like in a catalog. I mean the light, the leaves, the fashionable jackets and coats, the dainty scarf, the cute knit hat, the elegant shoes, are you fucking kidding me? J. Crew photographers would kill for such a shot. And here comes wave after wave after another wave of well-dressed people. Okay it’s not all in the style of J. Crew but city-dwelling Romanians dress nice. Some of them dress fantastically nice. Others are just “so-so” but even the mediocre ones are usually quite good.

That’s not just for pretty young ladies or handsome young men either. I see elderly people dressed incredibly well all the time too. Today I saw what had to be about a 12-year-old girl placidly walking down the street, kitted out in the most stylish ensemble, right down to the pink knit gloves and a cute white knit hat. Unbelievable!

Everywhere you go, in every street, in every business, in every corner of the city there are just hordes of incredibly well-dressed people. That’s the first thing people from France and Italy (you know, the world headquarters of fashion) always tell me – wow! People here sure are dressed nice. Damn right! It is just incredibly refreshing and enjoyable and satisfying to see it. Sometimes I can barely resist the urge to congratulate people on their choice of outfits. It’s like I’m a judge on some talent show and I want to give practically everyone a 10 on their clothing choice.

There really is just something nice about being around people around who look good in their clothes. So from the bottom of my heart to each and every one of you – thank you. Even if no one else does, *I* appreciate it.

2 thoughts on “The Ballad of the J. Crew Catalog

  1. Interesting, I thought this was the norm in Romania. Dressing nicely n all. The few friends I have as well as all of the blog I read say the same thing. May be Unicorn City is a Crew hood?


  2. Da, romanii (mai ales generatia tanara) sunt morti dupa tot ce este “la moda” si mai ales cand vine vorba de haine sunt in stare sa-si cheltuiasca ultimii bani pe toale de firma, aparatura moderna etc (asta pt ca multi simt ceea ce se cheama peers’ pressure). Nici nu ma mira ca in Romania boarfele sunt mai scumpe ca in America. Comerciantii speculeaza tendintele.

    Ai facut o referire candva la asta intr-un post in care nu era nici urma de admiratie: – si ma tem ca aveai dreptate.

    Acum, dimpotriva ne feliciti….Pana la urma unde te situezi?


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