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Swede & Sour

Familiarity breeds contempt, right? It used to be that I'd actually get excited whenever I'd visit my sister in Swindon, a no-great-shakes London semi-suburb, because we could troll the '60s-style outdoor shopping plaza (now she's in Bristol and they have one too). Very outer boroughs in a way (though not terribly American).

H&M was the best because the clothes were cool, inexpensive, and most importantly, my size. Almost everything came in XL and 18 (American 16). So, I was totally worked up over H&M's American arrival a few years back. And somehow not surprisingly the XLs and 16s must've gotten lost over the Atlantic because they're nearly nonexistent. I even went a little crackpot and wrote them a letter asking about the discrepancy in sizing between the U.S. and England. Which garnered a response that there wasn't any difference.

Don't even get me started on their lame ass BiB (big is beautiful, duh) collection; giant tee shirts and baggy elasticized pants in black, tan and gray shame the rest of the store. You would think that their PR department was correct if you looked at the sizing charts displayed above racks around the store. The number 16 is included with all the other regular 2-14 sizes on the placard. My issue is that while the company may make this size, they certainly don't stock it. If you dig like crazy, you might find one or two larger size items, and they're likely to be either the ugliest or plainest thing in the place, like a navy blue crew neck sweater or white button-up blouse. So wrong, and so spirit-crushing.

Anyway, I'd heard somewhere that the Harlem store carried a more comprehensive range of larger sizes. Er, I guess because of their target audience. You know, black people are way huger than white people. I jest, though I can only assume that is the logic.

Well, the Harlem store is different from others I've been to in that it's quite spacious, the racks have breathing room, and there is no men's section to speak of (also makes one wonder about marketing, i.e. black men don't go for Eurotrash looks–the men's clothes can tend towards 'gay'). But variety of larger sizes' Not at all, it was no better than any other NYC location. In fact, it might've been worse.

So much for typing stores by neighborhood. The best luck I've had so far is Paramus, NJ. They also have the best regional Ikea, as far as items on display actually being in stock. My deduction is that any store inaccessible by MTA means has better goods. And don't just take my word for it, I distinctly recall reading how NYC shoplifting rings were driving in vanloads of thieves and targeting the Garden State Plaza (in Paramus) and other suburban shopping bastions. Even criminals know you've got to leave the city to get what you want.

H&M * Various NYC and NJ locations

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