In his ongoing search for the perfect affordable-but-stylish ensemble, our fashion reporter Seiji Nakazawa sets his sights on a major convenience store chain.

■  Little help?
In Seiji’s previous reports, he visited various clothing retailers with a budget of 10,000 yen (US$85) and asked the staff for their expert advice on putting together a great outfit. Money aside, Seiji’s biggest challenge thus far has been getting the staff to lend their fashion advice and so ended up with these results.

▼ Tanpopo House (second-hand shop)

▼ Prada (luxury brand)

So, this time Seiji went looking where service is job-one: Japanese convenience stores. Anyone living alone in Japan will tell you that their proximity to a convenience store is a crucial factor in the comfort of their life. With food, magazines, and cleaning supplies, there is nothing they can’t help you with, so why not fashion too?

With his theory baked half-way (just the way he likes it), Seiji hurried over to the first Family Mart he could find. As he glided through the automatic sliding doors, our reporter surveyed the store interior. At the counter was the manager, a stout man in his late-thirties with a bit of a hardened look in his face.

■  “Coordi-what?”
He didn’t really look like the kind of guy you would make ridiculous requests to readily, but Seiji had a mission and the next nearest Family Mart wasn’t for another 50 meters. Suddenly, the manager locked eyes with Seiji and gave a friendly smile.

Thinking, “Maybe this would work after all,” Seiji approached the manager.

Seiji: “Um…Would you be able to coordinate me?
Manager: “Huh? Coordi-what?”
Seiji: “You know. Would you be able to coordinate an outfit for me using items in Family Mart?”
Manager: “…”
Seiji: “…”
Manager: “Coordinate…That’s the first time anyone has ever asked me that.”

The pained smile on the manager’s face told Seiji that he wasn’t thrilled to be asked that for the first time. However, the puzzled look gradually faded and the manager’s face hardened somewhat as he said, “I see. I’ll do it.”

As Seiji and the manager made their way to the clothing section, he continued to look troubled by the whole situation. His suppressed grimace seemed harder to contain as they glanced over the small clothing rack with its highly limited range of sizes and items. As the manager scanned the racks, Seiji thought “This is going to be hard, but this is where real fashion happens…on the edge.”

Then the clerk spoke.

“Boxers or briefs?” he said, his firm voice highlighting the gravity of the question. Underwear was to be the crux of this coordination, especially because this Family Mart did not sell pants. Seiji answered reflexively “I’m a boxers guy.”

■ Family Mart Coordination complete
After the initial questions were answered, the manager made his selections for Seiji’s Family Mart ensemble. Oddly, he seemed to ignore Seiji’s preference for boxers and decided on some boxer-briefs instead. Here is the full selection:

▼ Double-knit cap 1,058 yen ($9)

▼ Grey ankle-length socks 420 yen ($3.60)

▼ White T-shirt 630 yen ($5.30)

▼ Black boxer-briefs 630 yen ($5.30)

Even though Seiji had 10,000 yen ($85) to spend on this outfit, they had pretty much exhausted Family Mart’s entire range of clothing. In the end he spent about 2,738 yen ($23).

Nevertheless, the outfit was good. The stark contrasts between the T-shirt, cap, and underwear was bold and the lack of color kept it from getting too loud. It made for a perfect “Morrissey kinda day” at the beach.

Clearly the Family Mart manager was not a fashion expert and didn’t even seem to grasp the difference between types of underwear. But his kindness and professionalism shone through in this outfit. These clothes represented the spirit of friendship and tolerance to Seiji.

As he stood on the overcast beach in the freezing cold staring out to the great grey sea, Seiji realized that true fashion is more than complex patterns or subtle color schemes. It’s about sharing our knowledge and feelings with one another using whatever is available, however it may look.

Then again, that may have just been the 103°F (39℃) fever he later came down with talking.

Original article by Seiji Nakazawa
Photos: RocketNews24
[ Read in Japanese ]