This article was submitted by Aidan Silitch in February for the 5th Edition of the Blotter. It was published posthumously by the Blotter staff. Click here to read our article “Remembering Aidan Silitch.”
I take time to admire a pair of loose brown pajama pants. I turn the price tag over: $410!! I pull my hand away, for fear that I damaged them and would have to pay. I walk away flabbergasted; I didn’t know you could feel culture shock from a boutique. At first, I am surprised, but then I remember: THIS IS BARNEY’S FREAKING DEPARTMENT STORE. This is where Kardashians go to get dressed up for galas, and where Rockefellers wipe their butts with Prada handbags. I immediately feel out of place. Now, I feel like the salesmen might take one look and throw my raggedy ass out of there. My worn down Patagonia jacket and tattered La Sportiva shoes just don’t seem to cut it when compared to the rows of Italian fur jackets and shiny stiletto heels. This feeling of inadequacy only intensifies as I walk past a plain, white t-shirt that costs more than my computer.
While looking at the facade of Barney’s, one can’t help but feel a little afraid. It’s an imposing building that looks to be ten stories tall and is composed of black marble and a gold lined revolving door. The interior is brightly lit and smells like money. Honestly, I only came here because I felt that observing crazy people would be an interesting use of a rainy day.
If you do decide to venture to Barney’s, I recommend going to the ninth floor, it’s bizarre. While on the ninth floor, I see a nine-year-old boy dressed head to toe in red Ralph Lauren merchandise. I hear him ask, “Mom, can I get these Yeezy’s?” She responds, “Oui, bien sur!” which in French means, “Yes, of course!”
After hearing this, I start to notice that Barney’s attracts different types of clientele. The main ones being the oldies who are here to buy frilly hats and to relive the pastel paradise of the ’60s, and the youngsters, here to waste their parents’ money on acid washed denim and expensive shoes (ex. The Yeezys). One thing they have in common: they’re all pretty weird.
I make my way past the sea of fancy neck ties and Ralph Lauren jumpsuits and sit myself near the display case of Gucci handbags. I see a man, dressed all in black, point to a pair of sandals and remark to his girlfriend, “These wouldn’t be for walking.” Suddenly, my eye catches a jacket very much like my own. Curious, I walk over to try it on. It’s blue, has magnetic buttons, and leaves a weird film on my fingers when I touch it. I look at the price tag. It’s 1,700 dollars, nearly ten times the price of my current puffy. As I walk over to a mirror, I knock over the display of handbags; I can hear the nine-year-old French boy snicker (no, I am not exaggerating. That little piece of garbage had the temerity to laugh at me). I walk it off, thinking they might discuss this with their butler when they get home.
It’s easy to crap all over the people who shop there. But that becomes more and more difficult when I start to notice a third type of person around the store. I stand next to a young man, no older than 22, trying on suits and ties. He is tall, with short hair and a slender frame. I follow him around, hoping him to be further validation for my hatred of the department store. But he is not the typical rich kid who goes here only to piss on his new clothes when he gets home. He looks around the suit department carefully and thoroughly examines the material of each piece. As I follow him around, and the nervous look in his eye becomes more and more visible. I hear him mention to a salesman that he is preparing for a presentation. Obviously, he is petrified at the thought of talking in front of his superiors. I start to see why he is at Barney’s; he came here to find self-confidence.
I start to imagine who else might come looking for themselves here. There might be someone here who was bullied as a child and searches for self-assurance in fancy clothes. I soon realize that someone out there might actually want to buy those $410 pants to make a lasting impression on a first date. Someone might actually bring home that $1,700 jacket to call their own, maybe because they really need to feel like they belong. Don’t get me wrong, a majority of the people here are nuts, but while it’s absurdly expensive, it provides people with the self-confidence they lack.
I sit down in my secluded Gucci lair and find myself empathizing (I’m as shocked as you are) with the third type of people who shop at Barney’s. They come here for a sense of importance, which is something every human being strives for (Barney’s, if you’re reading this, I just wrote your new tagline. You’re welcome).
I walk out of Barney’s and immediately want to go back, feeling like I’ve just left my five-year-old kid home alone for the first time. My mind is put at ease when I remember the 22-year-old man. “He’ll watch over them; I have to believe that,” I think to myself. In the 30 minutes I’ve been there, I’ve started to like the nutjobs who shop there. Not in the way you like your friends or acquaintances, but in the way you like your uncle at Thanksgiving who gives a 30-minute speech after his fifth glass of scotch. They may be very annoying and may irk you after a while, but they’re really hilarious.