My name is Hugh, and I am rubbish at shopping for clothes. And the fact is, I'm not alone. Many men do themselves no favours in terms of style not because they're inherently unfashionable, but because they're bad shoppers.
We get flustered by excessive choice, intimidated by trendy (or pretty) assistants, and confused by shapes and sizes. In a nutshell, we need to adopt some of the shopping skills that women have been honing for generations. Because if we shop better, we'll look better. Here's our guide to becoming a more confident, nimble and successful shopper.
If you have neither the time nor inclination to browse the high street and try on lots of clothes, you can always do your research before you even leave the house. The internet is your friend. Log onto all the major names and see what they have in store. Get a feel for the style of the season.
Of course, you could always buy online too, but that's fraught with danger. Are you prepared to wrap it up and send it back if it's not quite the right size or colour, or will you decide you can't be bothered and keep it anyway? If the latter, research on the net, but buy at the shops.
Don't forget magazines, too. "Do a little research before you go check out some magazines GQ
are a good start, as they often translate trends into wearable looks," says Sarah Gilfillan, founder of www.sartorialab.co.uk, a British personal shopping and wardrobe management service for men.
About money. Work out how much you have to spend and stick to it. That will help stop the dreaded payment panic (more on that below), and the sinking feeling that comes with knowing you've spent more than you should.
Take your time
Many men operate a grab and go policy when it comes to clothes shopping. Lacking confidence, they decide roughly what they're after and where they'll find it, and get in and out in the shortest time possible.
Women tend to take a more considered approach. They browse for better alternatives, try on more than one item and go home empty handed saving the cash for another day if they haven't found exactly what they want.
You can tell which strategy is more likely to end in a happy result, right?
Have a coffee
Shopping can be exciting, tiring and stressful. That's why they invented coffee shops. Have a break and then get back to it refreshed and ready to find the good stuff.
Don't buy the first thing you like
Shop at any major complex and the jumper you tried on and liked isn't going anywhere. There'll be five more just like it in the stockroom. And by running to the till with something you like, on the pretence that if you don't buy it now it might have gone when you come to buy it later, you could be missing out on something you love.
Hog an assistant
"Remember that shop assistants are there to 'assist' you! Don't be intimidated by their sometimes impossibly trendy facade," says Sarah.
"Choose a shop assistant whose style you like, and ask them for help. If you've found a pair of trousers or shirt you like, ask their advice on what they suggest wearing it with. They know how it's meant to be styled and are also likely to have seen it tried on so will have a good idea of fit."
And Sarah adds an insider tip: "Try not to shop at weekends when sales targets are higher and there's more pressure to keep the tills ringing."
Hog the changing room
So a queue has developed for the changing room, and the annoying assistant is buzzing around asking if everything is all right. Resist the urge to get out of there as quickly as possible.
If you're thinking of spending $150 on a pair of jeans, they owe you a few minutes in the changing room. Check out the look from all angles. Open the door, step back a few paces from the mirror and check that view too. Take your time. If the fit's not quite right, ask the annoying bloke to get you the next size up or down.
And the golden rule? If they're not quite right, don't buy them. You don't owe them anything for their time or the use of their facilities.
Break your rut
If you always buy the same clothes, Sarah advises challenging yourself just a little.
"Making one small change could make a big difference," she says. "If you normally buy a classic v-neck sweater in black, grey or navy try a more adventurous colour."
Oh, and when you head for the fitting room with a couple of items, add a 'wild card' something you wouldn't normally wear. No harm in trying it on.
Deny the doubts
If you've rushed into town and grabbed the first thing off the shelf in the only shop you ever seem to buy clothes in, you've every right to get an anxiety attack as you stand in the queue preparing to hand over your hard-earned cash.
Is it really worth that? Is it a waste of money? Should you put it back?
If you've taken time over your decision, checked out alternatives and spent plenty of time in the changing room, banish those doubts. You might still get the till-time wobbles, but meet them head on. You know it's worth it, because you've shopped properly. Buy it and enjoy.
So there you have it. Follow those tips and the days of expensive mistakes, cheap clangers and the same old outfits could be over for good.
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