Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Black Friday blues...

How many coats does one man need?

I write a column for an alpine club newsletter each month and thought I'd share my latest missive here on Views From The Bike Shed too.  

November reflections

Last week, when moving my motorbike in the garage its handlebars caught in the pocket of a jacket hanging nearby. Moments later, the sound of ripping fabric confirmed that my latest Gortex waterproof would now be sporting an extra-large vent across its front. After a few choice expletives, I put the bike on its stand and proceeded to remove all the coats from the rack.

Can you guess how many there were?

I’ll not tell you exactly, but let’s just say it was well into double figures. Which isn’t so bad, I reasoned, because, first of all, there are the seasons to consider: winter storm wear, summer showerproofs and autumn or spring mid-weights that double for trips to the pub. Then there’s that retro Scandinavian one, made of what we used to call poly-cotton but now some fancy pants equivalent. And lastly, there are a few that these days fit a bit snugly round the middle but I’m holding onto out of hope.

What's more, these are just my walking coats. There’s also the cycling kit, and the kayaking paraphernalia (a whole different world, believe me) — not to mention the ski gear or the various duvet jackets and the body warmers and the pack-a-macs and ponchos… Did I mention fleeces…? Honestly, the marketing guys must rub their hands when they see me coming!

But let me admit a little secret.

For all the kit that I own, the jacket I use the most is a twenty-five-year-old anorak that sports fraying seams, questionable grease stains and pockets full of sand. It’s much the same with footwear (another sad story, but we’ll not go there) for which, despite having every possible variation, I’ll most days opt for my handy pair of slip-on jungle mocs.

In fact, when I think about it, almost everything I reach for first is more battered than beautiful. My climbing gear is housed in a forty-year-old rucksack; my hat of choice came with me to Wales (so three decades ago) and I use the same pair of track pants that I did when I ran the Cardiff half-marathon in the Nineties.

Actually, they really could do with replacing…

But this year, as all those Black Friday offers come flooding in, I’m determined… indeed, I’m resolved, steadfast, hell-bent and adamant… that I won’t buy anything which isn’t absolutely necessary or an unmissable bargain (of course) or would boost my confidence or make me look slimmer or fill that gap between autumn and winter when the weather’s not quite one thing or the other…

Those marketing guys won’t be rubbing their hands quite so gleefully now, will they?

Have a great December.


  1. We so get you...we got back from Greece to a house that Mr B had been in possession of for about 5 months to find a double wardrobe full of sailing outfits. Full. Then there is the motorcycling gear, paddleboarding, diving, skiing, cycling, camping.... After a darned good cull session we still have a side loft cupboard along one side the the main bedroom full of boxes of sorted, categorized and labelled of sports clothing and equipment. (And the full double wardrobe of course - no touching that.)

  2. The closet my husband keeps his hunting-wear in is arranged like a jenga game with his pants, shirts, thermal underwear, boots...I don't know what. And there's another closet with mostly coats and jackets of all weights and materials.
    And they say women are clothes crazy.

  3. "Gear" for various outdoor/athletic pursuits always accumulates like crazy. That's why I mainly just walk. No fancy clothes for that. :)

  4. A little story. My daughter is a manager in an animal charity. Good district in Manchester and they make good money out of things such as your coats. Last Black Friday, phone call from a young retailer in the afternoon, can we give you several hundred caps to sell at £1 each. Good publicity stunt, the caps all went in an hour, queues around the corner. It was of course a publicity stunt, with the 'F' word in front of Black Friday. Do not be tempted to buy! there is plenty of wear in those coats.

  5. Somehow there is always room for one more coat. Only when you have to put an addition on to the house to accommodate clothing/gear does it seem over-the-top. Enjoy.

  6. That is a lot of coats. I had to look up anorak because I didn't know what it was, turns out I've been wearing one for years:)

  7. It makes sense that one always goes for the old and battered garments. After all, how did they get to be so well worn? Because they happened to be comfortable and perfectly fit for purpose (or, probably, for a range of purposes). I have clothes I've worn for decades and continue to use, but every now and then a nearly new item gets taken to the Oxfam shop. Another pattern I've noted is that there is almost zero correlation between the usefulness of an item of clothing and the amount of time I spent in choosing it. Some of my best loved garments have been emergency purchases on holiday, for example.
    Cheers! Gail.

  8. Look up Camrose, Alberta, Canada. I didn't know there was a Camrose in the US or the UK.

  9. You sound like me. I have lots of coats and hats. Some for working in and some for walking.

  10. In the boot room I have a gardening jacket (about 20 years old), a mild weather jacket, a cold weather jacket, a raincoat, etc. etc. My husband and daughter have a similar array all hanging alongside. Not forgetting Rick's (the dog) bright red rain jacket. My bike stuff and posh coats are kept elsewhere.

  11. OMG Mark, you must be my Bob's secret twin! Not so much sportswear other than Boston Rex Sox caps, but a closet full of jackets for every occasion and then some. He did hang on to his safari clothing, though I doubt we'll never be riding a Range Rover through the Kenyan bush or Botswana's awesome Okavango Delta ever again (the aging thing!). He has a serious hoarding problem when it comes to shirts, also shoes and socks. Thankfully he's tidy - or very good at hiding - and he now agrees that he never needs to buy, or be gifted with, a single piece of clothing or footwear. Sorry mens' department salesmen - don't wait for my old man - he's not shopping any longer.
    Then of course there's my own closet. . . . . . .but I won't even go there now. Just know I still love clothes and fashion, enough said!
    Great post - sending good wishes for the holiday season to you and your family.
    Mary -

  12. In our little town we have The Walking Shop. Nothing there is cheap. Everything there is top quality. I have a friend on the side of the country who cannot resist it and comes over reguarly for something he 'needs' We all have our little foibles. Oh and by the way - if you ever want those tight jackets to fit again - stay off the chocolate.

  13. It sounds as though, if your closet could talk, it could tell the tale of your life and your passions. I am also guilty of too many clothes but I'm female. My husband insists on wearing the same old thing over and over in spite of having an adequate supply of respectable clothing, untouched for the most part, in his closet. But since he spends most of his time in the garden getting sweaty and dirty, I suppose I should be grateful. Love your writing, glad I found your blog.

  14. When we lived in Seattle, WA we rode most of the year, even through the wet, miserable, but not too cold winters. We had our cycling gear calibrated in 10F degree increments so that we'd know what to wear at what temperature and degree of wet. Your collection of jackets seems entirely reasonable to me.