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How to shop at the Strip's latest Swedish fast-fashion conglomerate
by Juan Martinez | posted December 15, 2010
You may have been at the grand opening of the world's largest H&M at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace Dec. 11, and if so -- and if you are a dude -- I'm assuming there's a good chance that you were (a) trim, (b) Asian, (c) already sharply dressed, (d) 15 years old, (e) were singing along to the VERY LOUD MUSIC pumping through the store, because you knew all the lyrics, or (f) all of the above. If you were there and were (g) none of the above, then you were likely the other slightly befuddled person in his mid-thirties thinking he was way too old be in there.
Well, you're not. Swedish conglomerate H&M, like the two other major fast-fashion retailers Forever 21 (an American conglomerate!) and Zara (Spanish!), has a great deal to offer anyone interested in looking good and in not paying an awful lot for it, though there are a couple of general rules to keep in mind. Mind you, these are pretty good rules to keep in mind anywhere, but they're essential when it comes to fast fashion, where high-end design meets lowest-bidder workmanship.
Rule 1: Buy one thing, or two, or three, but do not buy an outfit. H&M makes fun jackets and beautifully fitted dress shirts, and some pretty wonderful scarves -- all for less than you'd pay for all three elsewhere. So you'll want all three. Resist. Do yourself a favor and avoid looking like someone who was put together by a Swedish conglomerate, because you will not look Swedish. You will look like a refugee from a post-apocalyptic movie from the '80s. Because that is how half the kids at H&M looked like this weekend. They can pull this off! They are 15! You are not.
Rule 2: Avoid black. Nothing wrong with black. Black is awesome. But H&M black looks pale and cheap after the first or second wash, and even when brand new it tends to lack a certain necessary saturation.
Rule 3: Avoid shoes. They're cheaply constructed, so unless you're in the market for summer jute-sole espadrilles, you're better off finding them elsewhere and springing the $200-plus minimum that a decent pair of shoes usually requires.
Rule 4: (a) Try everything on, (b) inspect all stitching. Sizing is remarkable at H&M in that it tends to favor the slim and the small-framed, though their range is decent. You should be able to find something that fits you. But you need to try it on. You need to be sure. And then, once you find it, be ready to inspect the item. You will likely find some loose threads. Go back through the racks, find your size again, then re-inspect. Eventually, you'll find a shirt or a jacket that won't come apart. It's time well spent.
[Read Juan Martinez's tips on holiday style, whether it's a family get-together or a more formal gathering.]
Of course, if you are 15, and if you were out there this weekend, you should totally disregard all this advice, because your awesomeness is not to be denied. All of you young kids had curious hair in the best of ways, and some of you were the last great hurrah of the faux-hawk -- this last great phalanx of undeniable fierceness. You may one day regret some of your style choices. You shouldn't. You look awesome.
For the rest of us, here are a few choice items well worth seeking out.
Blazer in blue herringbone tweed ($129). If you can forgive the excessively professorial suede elbow patches, this jacket does a nice job of conversing with this season's tweed-crazy trend without going all gray (though gray is available, and nice, should you choose to capitulate). Just don't pair it with corduroy or you'll be forced to give a lecture asking young souls to seize the day and to stand on their desks and all that crap.
Lanvin for H&M peacoat ($249) (pictured at right). This gorgeous peacoat works through the necessary nautical heritage but does so playfully: both the elongated silhouette and the worn brass buttons feel just a tad on the steampunk/"City of Lost Children" side, the future by way of turn-of-the-19th-century London.
Organic cotton navy blazer with white piping ($69.95). The proper setting for this sort of British schoolboy standby is a boat club, though apparently you'd only wear it for boat club dinners and presumably not on boats. But this jacket goes with practically anything, and Patrick McGoohan wore a version for the trippy TV show "The Prisoner."
Any dress shirt ($5-$39.95). I am not kidding. Their shirts are buckets of fun, and surprisingly affordable. Just be sure to inspect them carefully for loose stitching.
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