Years ago, I was favoured and blessed enough to have my shirt collection in Selfridges Oxford Street. This was before they moved the department upstairs and began a relentless pursuit of international luxury brands and positioned themselves ever and ever higher. They asked me to come in and do a ‘meet the designer’ event, along with a number of other brands and suppliers throughout the store. It was great fun. I sold lots of shirts-and cufflinks- and met many interesting and enthusiastic customers. The whole evening was amiably lubricated by a generous drinks sponsor.
Just before the evening ended I was debating whether I could get away with another glass of freebie booze when two young men in sports gear came up to my stand and began carefully going through the range. It became clear that they were ushers at a wedding and needed two matching shirts.
As any salesperson knows, common ground is the best way to start a conversation, and conversations lead to sales. I broke the ice by asking them what sport they played. ‘Ice hockey’, came the reply, and we chatted along those lines for a while. Then I mentioned that I play croquet, and was hoping to be selected to play for England up. We then spent the next half an hour discussing our respective sports.
Finally, they bought their shirts and cufflinks, and turned to go. As they did, one paused and asked me, ‘If you could be the best in the world at croquet, or the best in the world at shirts, which would it be?’
It was an excellent and profoundly though provoking question which took me a while to answer.
I was reminded of that question again yesterday as I was Captain of Dulwich Croquet Club, and my team was playing the final of the National Inter Club Championship. Yesterday was also the first full day of trading at my new store in Brighton. Needless to say, I was checking my phone at every available opportunity. Fortunately, we won the championship and Brighton had an excellent first Saturday.
But the fact that I was playing a final in Woking, rather than welcoming customers to my new store, probably tells you what my answer was to that sharp minded young man in Selfridges.
Is that bad? I don’t think so. We all work so hard, and unless we have passions and interests outside menswear, we will become very dull, and lose sight of the old adage that we’re meant to work to live, and not the other way round.
And I didn’t get picked for England. In case you were wondering.