Now you won’t find me in Selfridges very often but occasionally the misfortune befalls me. It’s a funny old place. Full of people with cash to burn—or at least a credit card or some space in the overdraft—it’s a consumer’s dreamland, a temple to fashion, style, class, status and the superficial sense of self our world exalts; a church to the predominating values that more than ever define our times.
You can easily tell the Selfridges congregation apart from the rest of society’s rabble: As the hare krishna crew are conspicuous in their orange robes, the Selfridges devotees are instantly recognisable by the auspicious shiny yellow bags they proudly sport as they walk the streets of central London. ‘Ah!’, you might exclaim, ‘They have been to worship in the temple of Selfridges. They have been to pray at the feet of the god of money’.
Well as I found myself in this very temple the other week, I noticed some rather strange things as I walked the sacred aisles.
First came the seduction, my eyes feasting on the gorgeous array of shiny and loud digital goods, stylish tailored garments crafted by poor people in crappy countries with expensive cloth, and attractive over-groomed staff who spoke to me as if I was actually important. Like a kid in a candy shop who’d just stolen some money from mum’s purse, I desired all I saw.
Then came the sense of inadequacy as my false sense of self took over and I realised that if only I bought some of this shit I would somehow be a better person—more attractive to girls, envied by my friends, and admired by all who spot my shiny yellow bag. ‘Ah!’, they might exclaim, ‘This man has made it, for he has been to worship in the temple of Selfridges’.
Then came the reprieve as some sense finally kicked in and I somehow revived myself from this wild and crazy stupor. That false sense of self will always be lurking somewhere, I realised—my sense of inadequacy will not be vanquished by a new cardigan. It will take more than a fancy new pair of boxer shorts to displace the feeling that I hate myself and I’m just not good enough.
And this is the crux of our modern problem. While it’s great to dress well and look good, in a world saturated with adverts and pop culture that glorifies the superficial and unattainable, it’s all too easy to get swept away in waves of inadequacy. For those of us with a shaky sense of self, temptations lie in wait that serve only to further estrange us from the essence of who we really are.
What Selfridges appeals to is that part of us that wants to be whole, liked, and comfortable in our own skin. While clothes, gadgets and stuff can provide the temporary perception of such comforts for a while, in the end they only serve to distance us from the part of us that is always complete.
Dress well, look good, but beware the traps that lie all around. Your real friends don’t care what you look like.