I’m Reed Nelson, a writer here at Heddels, and you’ve stumbled upon a place where I’ll be going into obscene detail about pieces of clothing I regret (deeply or otherwise) not purchasing — lamenting, complaining and explaining how things went wrong*. If you’re wondering what it is that makes me qualified for this undertaking, know that there are two primary factors, the first of which being that I worked for years at a fairly prominent, high-end clothing store (RIP) and had access to a stupid volume of clothing at even stupider discounts and have thus wanted, bought and passed on more clothing than a legitimately embarrassing number of people, presumably. I’m also an avowed crazy person who overthinks, obsesses and loses sleep over just about anything, clothing being a favorite excuse to do any of the aforementioned.
(*Picture a Greatest That Never Was documentary and then just make it sadder, somehow. Maybe like if “Someone Like You” was about a piece of clothing.)
So, while this is certainly an exercise in nostalgia and ruefulness, it’s also very much an exercise in Ways to Never Get Over Things or How Long is Too Long to Keep a Tab Open (no such length). That means that this isn’t about the antiques, relics and artifacts of menswear; we have a section for that. These are the things that haunt my closet, the phantom limbs of my wardrobe, vestiges of envisioned fits and ghosts of tabs’ past. Crazy? Yes. But at least it’s on brand, so onward. This week, I’m crying over a corduroy shawl-collar Kapital shirt.
When Kapital collections would arrive at my old place of employment, it was an event. Picture Christmas, but if Christmas had the temperament of a hotel evacuation and you kept none of the things that arrived and you also got to think about what product name could reasonably be applied to a jean jacket keychain that had “Fuck Key” embroidered on the back*. There were always Kapital pieces I wanted—the sweater in Coogi drag is forever flames, the colorblock Kamakura Anorak with the horns will be a problem for the foreseeable future and I’ve already requested to be buried in the Island Print Shirt—but not much that could haunt me. Affordability is key to any haunting, mostly because it’s hard to get haunted by something you never could’ve had (met) in the first place.
(*Basically the Iowa caucuses, I guess, down to the keychain. The keychain is the Shadow app, for those playing at home.)
Anyways, when that shipment would come in, everyone at the warehouse would stop doing what they were doing for like four solid days and start doing Kapital stuff, and it made sense: we would receive hundreds of pieces, all of which were interesting, and customers seemed to genuinely care when we launched it. And this was before Grailed and A$AP Rocky and Lil Uzi Vert and Travis Scott all gave the brand a declarative co-sign. We didn’t take it lightly.
The denim-centric stuff always sold well, and the accessories did great, but at the time, no one cared about the objectively incredible Smiley Face Boots we had, for instance, or the beautiful Cowichan Cardigan that was like two seasons from making it into UpscaleHype’s tag bank.
My coworkers—shoutout Nick, Mike, Gerald, Adam, Brody, Dan and the rest of you; George and Elliot you don’t apply to this—and I enjoyed it for the most part, but brands like Chimala caused a bigger stir. We were working off a theme, and didn’t really want you staring from Jump Street. Instead, we wanted to put together whatever the outfit version of a joke that hits you on the ride home is. Low-key…. We wanted to ruin your mood but for you to also be wondering why it was ruined.
But Kapital, as you know, isn’t low-key anything. Kapital is a caps lock YouTube comment (but a good one most of the time), and the Kapital buy was an unapologetically conspicuous outlier in our assortment, meant to hypnotize, mesmerize and standout on otherwise indigo-drenched racks. (Ironically, Kapital’s DNA turned out to be a helpful turnoff for a clothing addict: it was dangerous business buying something that people might remember me buying. If they recognized the things I previously bought, then I was a public-facing crazy, fully exposed. So when I bought Kapital, it didn’t say, like, “SURF” 23 times on the torso or talk about Dad Bringing Home the Bacon. I don’t dislike smiley face hoodies, don’t get me wrong, I just didn’t buy one.)
Thus, when Spring/Summer 2018 landed in San Francisco, I wasn’t concerned for my wallet. I figured the product would arrive at my little station in the back, I’d write about it, make fun of the incoherent “Dad Adages” on the bandanas, openly mock at least one hat, consider a Ring Coat for the 627th time and call it. What happened instead, however, was that someone decided employees would do the campaign and so I was forced to wear—re: fall in love with—a piece that I wasn’t even allowed to buy yet, due to an arbitrary embargo*. Are there more cruel forms of torture? 1000%, but pain is relative.
(*For context, we had to wait two weeks to take a discount on new product. Why two weeks? Not because of science, math or data. Probably because it sounded good? Here’s the deal: when you get sizable discounts, you learn to not ask a ton of logistical questions.)
Anyways, I’m difficult to begin with—if I don’t come off that way in person know that there are other factors at play and also that I own like four trouser silhouettes in about 90 fabrications because I believe Hell is mostly pants that fit bad—and because I’m difficult, I insisted on wearing things I already owned for this Kapital shoot, save for what I assumed was a throw-in corduroy button up meant to appease those in charge. Only it wasn’t a throw-in corduroy button up, it was the Corduroy Duke Collar Shirt and I put it on over things I owned and immediately liked it more than all of them.
Is it a weird shirt? It’s Kapital, so sort of, but in a decidedly un-Kapital way. For starters, the green is unidentifiable. It’s for sure a shade of green, but it’s not Loden even though it sort of thinks it is and the only way to be more specific is to get hypothetical. Like, have you ever forgotten to water a bonsai tree? It’s like two shades more charcoal than the pieces that fall off. Or maybe it was closer to the color of a piece of asparagus but if it was cooked on an ash tray. Or it’s green but if green drank way too much early in the night and was now just trying to ride it out horizontally on a couch in the corner. I have no idea why I’m like this, and I realize that those don’t sound like good things, but know that it was a good earthy color and so it was super easy and would’ve gone with everything.
Moving on. The corduroy employed had a substantial wale, but not Look At Me wide, and the cut was fairly classic, at least for Kapital, if a little boxy by the standards of other brands. It was perfect.
Really the only odd thing was the shawl collar, which wasn’t even over-the-top. It could’ve been designed by someone on the Margaret Howell team, but mid-Amsterdam trip, which I decided is my platonic ideal of a designer. There were chest pockets and buttons and other normal things, but I can’t even remember if it was a curved hem or a flat one—although if I were a betting man (I am a betting man), I’d bet flat because legends and myth-building and all that.
Naturally, it sold through in hours. Not days, hours. I don’t even think I had time to babysit it, and I take babysitting internet inventory levels so seriously that I have a browser dedicated to the practice. Not a window, a browser. I think I refreshed the product page once and it was just gone, like a soft, pillowy corduroy figment of my addled imagination.
And here’s the kicker: it’s still invisible. Or even worse, it’s sort of on some Atlantis, Ancient Aliens tip, and I’m the dude with the frizzy hair talking about dubious evidence of its existence. I have a photo in it, which provides an iota of solace in regards to my mental health, but not much else.
Maybe the more important determination to be made, on a personal level at least, isn’t what about this shirt is making me miss something I’ve never owned — just look at it… mystery solved — but more about why I’m missing something I’ve never owned in the first place. I won’t get overly philosophical, psychological or anything, but I promise you that no one in my life has ever asked me about that shirt. Not one person. Zero (0). People ask me about my dog (pictured), my job, my relationships, my media diet, my views on politics, places with cheap alcohol, all sorts of things. No one has ever checked in on the Kapital shirt I once wore and never owned, which means that this is a personal problem of microscopic magnitude. I don’t intend to dive into Freudian speculation halfway through a (far too long, thank you brave reader) piece that references Lil Uzi Vert’s clothing rotation—and I’m fully aware of how stupid it is to create a Missed Clothing Connections message board in my brain while democracies across the world are melting down faster than polar ice caps—but I also sometimes just like to think (re: get sad) about clothing I didn’t buy. It’s not rational, but it’s nominally solvable. Exes get married, apartments get rented and we get old, but this shirt just is hanging in someone else’s closet. And here’s the kicker: I have no idea if I would’ve worn it a lot. I assume I would’ve, due to everything that came before this contradictory cherry bomb, but I also have no idea. I’m a weirdo and can’t be trusted and neglect some of my favorite things like they’re particularly glaring pockmarks on an otherwise scarred purchasing history.
For the record, I’ve tried buying shirts that looked similar in the intervening time. Found some related corduroy, greens that were passable, cuts that worked, but none of them do the trick. A couple vintage contenders emerged, but I currently own none of them, and I probably spent an amount that was close to the (relatively low) MSRP of that original shirt.
What’s the lesson then? The lightening-quick sell-through isn’t conducive to introspection, but maybe there’s something: If you love a material thing, there’s an inherent quality to it that you’re into, and part (or all) of that is probably tied to its singularity, its inimitability, so maybe don’t try for the Kroger iteration. For instance, you can buy 10 different pairs of Visvim FBT-adjacent sneakers if you want to save money and not buy FBT’s, but the only ones that actually look like FBT’s are FBT’s. If that’s what you want, that’s the only shape that will fill the hole, regardless of how similar that aesthetic cousin seems in a thumbnail—it didn’t work for me, at least.
Anyways, I’ll try to land this plane (the engines are on fire and I have no landing gear, so thanks for hanging in there with me but also you’ve been warned and I can’t promise anything tidy, someone stop me please): two years later, it’s the normalcy of the piece that’s perhaps most striking to me. In the context of Kapital, it looks like Kapital, but in the context of Not Kapital, it looked like the best work from anyone else. I could’ve worn it everyday and I’m convinced I would’ve never gotten busted. And that’s what I’m looking for—I love clothes but hate getting dressed. Now I know, if something is weird and wearable, inject in my veins*.
If anyone knows where the apparent two in existence are living, holler. We can work something out and I can freak out about something else.
Next time: Maybe a sweater? Let’s get wild.
*P.S. Please know that I also do work that requires me to think about real actual problems. Know how people watch reality TV to tune out and don’t necessarily look at the exhibited behavior on those shows—which one time included a fake leg getting thrown at another person and also one time included a real human drinking another human’s tank top sweat—as model behavior, but rather as something to distract them from peering over the edge of the cliff that society is perched on? This is kind of like that, but for regret. I regret important things too, but sometimes I like to not do that. Also, I watch reality TV.