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Essay: Broke Boy Joy

The following is an essay from Reparations: Style + Soul, a coffee table book available in stores everywhere books are sold. The project is written, styled, and curated by journalist James R. Sanders.



Dear God, please let this order go through. If you work it out, I promise to stop getting tipsy down to the church house from taking extra shots of wine during communion. Jesus, be an approved transaction.


“I’m sorry, your card was declined.”



No matter how nice the cashier was, I took it personally because she was the only thing standing between me and the color I needed to put in for the concert that was supposed to be happening that same night. Meanwhile, Jenny from the hair store up the block told me and my declined Green Dot not to show my face at the storefront after I told her that the problem wasn’t the card.


“The problem is ya spaced out teeth that looked like keys on a grand piano.”


I immediately break into monologue.


“Anh-Anh! It was declined? Absolutely not! Run it again sis. I just got paid and my check was supposed to post to my account. Somebody lying!”


And guess what – the person lying was me!


No deposits had made in a month of Sundays and my card was overdrawn in real life.


People in line behind me were in a hurry as always, and they didn’t appreciate having to listen to me go through the motions, not when some of them gave the same monologue on a different day in a different store.


“I’m callin’ the bank. Don’t give my stuff away. I’ll be right back.”


I leave.


I don’t come back.


No one expects me to.


Nann nigga. #BrokeBoyJoy



Having money makes everything different and can give a person a sense of confidence that’s sometimes interchangeable with arrogance. As a child, I felt different every time I got my allowance. In the late 80s and early 90s, that $10 every Friday hit different and made me extra cute – like cuter than I usually was. Having extra money can make a newly financially stable person do crazy things like call their boss and tell them that they quit but not before telling them to kiss their ass. Or popping someone who has been working your last nerve because you have the extra bail money. Or springing for the special cheese dipping sauce at Chick-fil-A except on Sundays when they’re closed.


Having money made me feel like a new nigga – each and every time.


I see clothes on runways months before they hit stores. It isn’t out of the ordinary for designers to make changes to samples before garments go into full production. What’s seen in stores is a mass-produced, polished (most times) version of a concept shown during fashion and market weeks.


Keeping this in mind, I keep my shopping philosophy simple:


SPLURGE ON THE CLASSICS AND BUY TREND ITEMS EVERY NOW AND THEN.


I usually spend weeks obsessing over a garment and I love a good backstory. I want to know how it’s made, how it’s being marketed, and if it can be integrated into my pre-existing wardrobe in an effortless and beautiful way. I’ll pay a higher price for higher quality, but the number has to make sense.


There’s a department store in New York that I live for; and like a battered spouse, the nastier they are, the more I obsess. Their windows, the sales team, even the smell all add to me not just wanting the fashion but coveting the lifestyle. It’s fashion heaven with floors paved in ivory with gold accent, organized by department (Couture, Ready to Wear, Intimates, etc.), the lighting is flattering even when the sales associates are unforgiving. The fragrance department is on the first floor, no doubt another brilliant marketing element to confront the senses with the smell of luxury.


I want everything always and forever.


Last season I was obsessed with a sweater that fell into the one-size category which meant that it was cut to fit most body types. The look of the garment would of course change depending on the shape of the person wearing it—a fact I had taken into consideration long before deciding to finally make the purchase.


The sweater was from a pre-fall collection, making it wearable in more than one season. Operating like a cape of sorts, it was burgundy with blue thread intertwined to function like pinstripes. Sometimes I would visit the store just to try it on. It felt like lotion on the body when you first get out of the shower. Buttery, soft, and supple. It took more than a few pay periods of putting money to the side to ensure that I wasn’t at my favorite department store praying and monologuing again.


The sales team always seemed busy when I had a question but never too preoccupied to follow

me throughout the store.


selective customer service se·lec·tive cus·tom·er serv·ice

noun


The unofficial retail standard. This customer service focuses on minorities – with preference for men and women of African descent. The purpose is to avoid shoplifting by focusing on customers who look like criminals. It involves following the customer throughout the store without lending assistance even when assistance is requested.


synonyms: black watch, following



Example: Welcome aboard. I’m sure you’ll do well here. I think it goes without saying that you should always keep an eye on different customers who look like they’re trying to steal. We call it selective customer service. You know what I’m talking about, right?


On the elevators, moving from Couture to Ready to Wear, from shoes to bags—Chanel’s and Birkin’s were clinched to the hip, even the knockoffs (and I saw my fair share of both). I loved familiarizing myself with extra pieces from a collection that don’t make it to the look books I get emailed after fashion season. If you work in the industry, you know that most times the dresses you see on the runways are just a snapshot of a full run of garments that make it to market.


New York’s luxury retail flirts on both sides of a fine line—a desire to belong versus the need to

belong.


Years of experience in the industry aside, the only credential I’m left with is my Blackness; and in fashion, Blackness doesn’t open doors, it closes them. Knowing this, I still wanted the sweater.


I set the date, avoiding busier times to ensure that if I had any questions, someone would be around to help. I walked into the store with the confidence of an old rich white woman –

choosing to wear my uncomfortably chic boots because they made a sound akin to Louboutin’s when they hit the floor. I channeled Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada when she arrived at the office and threw her coat on Andrea Sachs’ desk and demanded lunch reservations.


When I told them that I wanted to buy the sweater, they were shocked and hesitated to let me make the purchase. I left without the sweater. I’ve not spent any money at the store since that

day.


*Photos included in Reparations: Style + Soul


James R. Sanders

Photo Credit: Marquitta Davis

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