How to Get the Shopkeeper Look

Now you’d think that running a shop would not present too much of a sartorial challenge. Shopkeepers wear overalls, right? Arkwright style. Or at least pinnies. And sensible shoes.
Well unless you work on cosmetics, in which case think perma-tan, terrfying talons, precipitous lashes, and killer heels, all pencil skirt and cleavage, with plenty of bling. Yes, we’ve worked in a department store too.
Actually, if you work in a big shop, the whole thing’s a doddle: there will probably be a dress code, which you can then choose to shout or flout. End of.
But for the small shopkeeper the issue is far more complex. We don’t actually live in overalls. We might look like a sack of potatoes, or appear to be in camouflage, or to have shares in tweed, but in fact quite a lot of time and effort goes into the contemplation of one’s daily attire. We have to look business like, without seeming unapproachable. We have to be workmanlike without looking like a scruffball. We have to look clean and presentable. Our clothes need to say “This is our emporium!”, as well as declaring “We are of the people and are at you service!”. Sometimes our outfit needs to say “We’re the guvn’r; there’s the door,” whilst at other times it needs to imply, “We’re pussycats and couldn’t possibly overcharge you”. It’s a tough call, make no mistake. The whole Mr. Benn thing was surely written by a frustrated shopkeeper who wanted a bigger dressing up box.
Now you are going to say that everyone goes through this dilemma on a daily basis. It is true: when you dress you are, albeit in many cases sub-consciously, trying to sell yourself. But the shopkeeper has to take it to the next level, because he has to persuade his customers not only to buy his image, but to buy from him as well.
AND there are also practical considerations. Quite apart from the peril of varicose veins from being constantly on one’s feet, price-gun trigger finger, and shelf-stacker’s hip (we might have invented some of those). Anyone who has ever worked in a shop will be able to tell you about ‘the nail’. There is one in every establishment. It is a protuberance that catches and claws at your clothes every time you walk past it, so that all your trousers/sleeves/tights end up with a hole in the same place. BUT IT IS ALSO A NAIL THAT SOMEHOW NO-ONE EVER THINKS TO FIX.
And then there is the sexist thing. This particular shopkeeper loves wearing skirts (*see below for spoiler) as it makes her feel all girlie. But it also renders her incapable or lifting a box or climbing a ladder. Trouble is, girls in skirts still sell more stuff. Oh don’t get all high horsey: yes, of course it’s not right. But it’s a fact.
What all this comes down to is very clean jeans and a smart t-shirt. Maybe a bit like these ones. Clean trainers or shoes (NEVER SANDALS). An apron is good. SO far so very ordinary, huh? Well (and this is the finishing touch that you’ve all been waiting for, the Gok-ism of the retail world) if you really want to look like a shopkeeper, it’s all in the accessories, dahling. A pro shopkeeper always has a little bit of blutak in his pocket (to bodge repair things that are falling down), along with some string (for things that have gone beyond the blutak stage), a bit of rag (if you don’t dust it when you notice it needs dusting it won’t get done for another month), the shop’s telephone (always cordless, so that he can keep an eye on punters and talk at the same time), a stub of pencil and some till-roll-improvised-as-paper (on which to record items to reorder). A real shopkeeper always has one knee of his trousers worn away more than the other (this from stocking shelves near the floor), ink on his hands from fixing the bloody price gun/till, and little bits of price label in his hair/beard. And lots of things on chains around his neck -pens, keys, glasses – as he knows from experience that if he puts something down in the shop, he won’t find it again for anther week.
So there you’ve got it. It ain’t going to set the catwalks alight. But it works for us.
*I am actually a girl, alright. Sorry to spoil the image you had built there.

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