The words “Do you want to charge that?” brought me out of my distant spell as the blonde Amazonian sales girl peered into my eyes.
I was about to do it again. Charge my credit card for an unnecessary pair of Adidas high tops and Rag and Bone jeans at Barney’s. Granted, all my items were on sale, but I already have a closet full of denim and shoes.
“Yes” I said sheepishly and handed her my credit card. I watched as she swiped it at her register and gave it back to me in near light speed. Before I knew it, I was staggering down the street with three large shopping bags, knocking innocent walkers left and right with them.
I had been in Barney’s buying a cobalt colored 31-hour Philip Lim bag and had tossed in a pair of jeans and sneakers. This wasn’t a special occasion, a “treat yo self” kind of moment. This was a random Wednesday. And by the way, I already own a 31-hour Philip Lim bag in a lovely aubergine color.
This is what I do at least 3 -– 4 times a week; unintentionally shop.
Starting to see a picture now? Hi, my name is Jared Michael Lowe and I’m a compulsive shopper. I'm also a fashion journalist and blogger, which makes self-restraint even more difficult.
There’s no end to my shopping. I do it whenever I get the urge, which happens several times a day. If I am depressed, I shop. If I’m happy, I shop. If I’m indifferent, I shop. Even when I’m not physically near a retail location, I shop online, keeping at least three tabs open on my computer at all times. Presently, I have the homepages for Opening Ceremony, Net – A – Porter and Urban Outfitters open on my desktop.
According to a 2006 study from Stanford University, about 6% of women and 5.5% of men are compulsive buyers. Yet you don’t have to necessarily buy to have Oniomania, the technical term for compulsive shopping addiction. Considered an impulse control disorder, compulsive shopping is any over-preoccupation with shopping that causes distress or impairment.
My first taste of this addiction happened when I was in high school. I wasn’t like the other guys that went to my predominately African American Catholic high school in the West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I didn’t have a zest for sports –- I can barely dribble a basketball now –- nor did I care much for the then-hottest rapper’s mixtape.
Rather, I spent my evenings cataloging what supermodels wore in Vogue and reading Teen People, and I went to an after-school film camp deep in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. It was just a matter of time before I was ostracized and bashed into a locker.
I chose our high school’s first dance of the year to attempt to show the male population of my school just how “down” I could be. I coerced my father to pay $300 for a Guess denim jack and jean set (the hottest trend at the time). As I walked into the school’s dance, people -– specifically the guys –- noticed and complimented me on my outfit.
Yes, the same gentlemen who threatened to bash my skull in via a metal locker. That evening a sense of euphoria ran through my body that I had never experienced before. It was a sense of belonging.
This carried over into college. By this time, my insatiable desire to appease people with my outer appearance elevated into an image control issue; one that I’m still battling with. I have an irrepressible desire to consistently look my best at all times. It can literally take me 2 hours and countless outfit changes every time I leave the house.
My parents didn’t want to support my habit and as a result I took odd jobs to fund my extravagances. I babysat on the weekends; worked at the local Macy’s whenever I went back home and even did experimental neurology exams at my school to earn extra cash. In one semester, I blew close to $3,000 of my financial aid tax refund shopping at Urban Outfitters.
At one point, I even considered becoming an escort to make extra money, calling up an escort service to get more information. Fortunately, I did not carry through. The thought of turning to prostitution to fund my addiction stopped me in my tracks. I just couldn’t imagine busting it wide for a pair of Prada wingtips.
It wasn’t until I began my fashion writing career, when I cashed out on a shitload of discounted in-season Alexander Wang on my first credit card, that I had a “come to Jesus” moment after receiving my first bill and looking at the staggering total of charges. Was it possible for one person to buy all this? How was I going to pay it off?
At that point, I sought to change my lifestyle. With the help of my parents, I worked out a monthly budget and worked on the art of self-discipline.
Rather, I’m still working on the art of self-discipline.
It’s an ongoing battle. Along with my image control issues, I feel the pressure for my style to stay up to date; especially in the competitive world of fashion blogging. As innovative and sartorially creative as the BryanBoys and Manrepellers of the Internet are, it’s daunting to keep one’s style on the cutting edge of fashion when compared to them.
And as my recent cash-out at Barney’s can attest, I still have a ways to go.