Having done most of my growing up on the outskirts of Cambridge, it’s safe to say I was exposed to classicism from a pretty early age.
I went to an inherently elitist secondary school. The majority of my peers were from tiny, picturesque villages I wasn’t aware existed outside of Enid Blyton stories and general folklore. Townies like myself were categorically frowned upon, naturally.
One of the earliest instances (in my memory) of being sniffed at for where I chose to shop came in year seven, courtesy of a girl in my form. We were talking clothes, and Jack Wills was the thing in those days.
(“What do you mean you don’t carry your P.E. kit around in a coveted fabulously British pink-and-blue-striped-bag? Don’t you want everyone to know how faux-rich you are?!”)
I remember asking where Jack Wills (or, Jack Willis as I naively inquired) was located within the city centre. I was greeted with an eye-roll, a sigh and a highly dismissive “next to Maccies”. At some point during this conversation, however, I registered a feeble attempt on this girl’s part to try and make me feel as if this conversation wasn’t solely created on a bragging basis, at which point she asked me where I bought my clothes. “Primark, mostly”. An instantly regrettable remark on my part. This girl gave me a look, almost as if I’d declared myself bankrupt, rolled out a canvas tent and outstretched a begging jar right in front of her eyes. She then gave me a sympathetic “oh”.
But it’s bullshit, isn’t it, really? The idea that Primarni-branded gear is only ever purchased by chavs and the “financially challenged”, that the clothing is inherently low-quality and therefore anyone caught wearing so much as Primark socks should be immediately ostracised by everyone for the rest of their lives is incredibly idiotic. But because of this, I shunned the oh-so affordable shop for the rest of my school life. However, by the time I’d begun my first year of uni, my love for Primark experienced a resurgence. This leads me to what I call “The Primark Paradox“…
The Primark Paradox is a way of life for every self-deprecating student in the UK.
It was introduced to me by a friend of mine at the time, who worked in our Cambridge store. Every time I’d go shopping with her, the intention would be something like “I need some new pairs of jeans” or “It’s my sister’s birthday so I’m buying her a few new tops” and so on. Long story short, I’d end up spending two hours plodding away behind her as she’d scan every single shelf on all four floors. She’d then come away having spent a ball-park range of £100-200.
It’s a disease. A disease of the brain. Almost like an addiction. I went in there last week for summer clothes; came away spending over eighty pounds on merch I didn’t even need. Who needs a new blanket in this weather?! I do. Well, I didn’t. But Primark is so damn affordable.
There is no cure for the Primark Paradox. Only acceptance.