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On buying a scarf from H&M

There are few things an unsigned, unpublished writer can afford after they sacrifice a fulltime job for the life of, well, an unsigned, unpublished writer. But the basic need to keep one’s self warm during British winter can result in the need to splash (minimal) cash.  

And this is where London truly sets itself apart from Melbourne – in the abundance of cheap clothing stores that don’t make you leave looking like you only spent twenty quid on your entire outfit. (And yes, I know H&M and Zara and Topshop have all opened in the Southern Hemisphere but…they’re just not.the.same. The Aussie stores are a season behind, the range is a quarter of what it is in the UK and the clothes are never as cheap as their European counterparts.)

So, with eight pounds burning a hole in my pocket, I headed to my local H&M in Angel to find me the perfect winter scarf. After a good fifteen minutes of getting in everyone’s way as I tried on almost every colour, texture and length on offer, I finally picked what I knew would be the scarf to get me through three-to-four (okay, four-to-five) months of winter misery. I trotted off to the counter, declined the offer of a bag because ne’re could I sacrifice 5p, and left, basking in the afterglow of capitalism (and yes okay, very cheap labour).


My purchase not only lived up to expectation, it has been a much appreciated/needed constant in my life these past few months. I knew I had made the right choice, too, when I happened to notice another woman wearing the same scarf when I was out and about in the city, looking at all the other things I could never afford. Then I got my part-time job (hello, more cheap clothing!) and the woman who was leaving, and whose job I was (temporarily) taking over, ALSO had the very same scarf. Oh how we laughed and bonded over our excellent taste. AND THEN I saw yet MORE people wearing my scarf, until hardly a day went by when there wasn’t someone, somewhere wearing this stupid, beautiful, clearly perfect, H&M scarf.

And this is where London truly sets itself apart from Melbourne. London reminds you, usually on a daily basis, that, actually, you aren’t a special snowflake. You’re just like everyone else. You buy the same clothes from the same store, eat the same food from the same chain, like the same sold-out gig as the person sitting next to you, book the same pub for your Sunday roast, need the same hangover TV as, well, everyone who’s ever lived in London ever, and so on. It’s inescapable and no matter how much you dye your hair, get a tattoo, or wear vintage clothing to set yourself apart, chances are, in a city where the greater population is around 8.6 million people, you’re going to bump into someone who looks/thinks/acts exactly like you. This can be quite confronting for someone who has spent most of their life absolutely buying into the idea they were a snowflake and prided themselves on their amazing individuality.

I blame Melbourne for that.

You can happily buy into the snowflake delusion when you’re only surrounded by a mere 4.3 million Melburnians. Even though everyone is wearing black, it’s a DIFFERENT kind of black. You can go to an indie sandwich shop and get them to make you your unique take on lunch (ham, eggplant and avocado on multigrain, thanks), get a well-made top that no one else will be wearing that day (unless you shop at Gorman) and there might even be tickets left to see <insert fave band here>. (Although, don’t get me wrong, Melbourne is growing quickly and I can see a hint of London in its future.)

But the thing is, where I strove to show my uniqueness, my individuality in Melbourne, in London, it doesn’t seem so important. I wonder if it’s because I already feel like I wear a badge of honour for living in London on a day-to-day basis (because sometimes, believe me, it can be ROUGH. Did you see the hailstorm I got caught in yesterday? If you follow me on Twitter you'll know what I'm talking about, and if you don't, what are you even doing with your life? So, yeah, hailstorm. My feet were frozen for a good thirty minutes BUT I was on my way to see Daniel Radcliffe in a play so totally worth the frostbite). Or maybe it’s because when you have found something you love to do, you don’t really remember to care about whether you’re a snowflake or not. Living your best life is, surely, more important, more rewarding, than spending your energy making sure you’re not like anyone else.

And yesterday, when I saw yet another person wearing my scarf, I hardly gave her a second glance. I just took it as a sign that I have excellent, excellent taste. (Although, I might give H&M a break, just for the time being.)


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