There was a moment not long ago, as I walked-ran-scurried down Duke Street in Mayfair, that my boyfriend turned, stopped me and said, ‘Calm down. You look high.’ ‘I am!’ I replied, wide-eyed, sweaty-palmed and with zero intention of calming down. The source of this buzz? The anticipation of indulging in one of my favourite activities: heading to the Céline boutique (to pick up a pair of shoes – the last pair in my size, according to an insider tip-off... be still my beating heart).
You see, I love shopping. And I’m far from alone. Just last week, John Lewis’s new managing director Paula ￼￼Nickolds admitted in an interview that shopping was her favourite hobby.
And yet, steady on, Paula, I thought. Shopping is part of my job (at least that’s my excuse), it’s my guilty pleasure, it’s (less often than I care to admit) a necessity. But can it really be my hobby? If one is to follow the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of a hobby as ‘an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure’, then absolutely it can.
Give me pleasure? Shopping most certainly does. I’m not snobby about it. I love the plush carpets and marble counters of expensive boutiques and the chaos of vintage boutiques. I love shopping for myself and shopping for gifts. I love being laden down with ribbon-tied bags and unwrapping the tissue paper-enveloped goodies at home, and the convenience of an online order arriving at my desk. I love a serendipitous sample sale find and the meticulous planning involved in tracking down ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼something (Balenciaga A/W ’02 fringed jacket, you will be mine one day). I love the thrill of a bargain and the sorry-not- sorry guilt of spending way too much money on a something I really, really need (promise). And although shopping for clothes and shoes is my main vice, I also get a hit from shopping for books, make-up, even art. And it doesn’t just thrill me, it relaxes me. I swear I’ve cured heartbreak with the soothing effect of scrolling through Matchesfashion.com and Net-A-Porter.com.
So why do I feel so guilty about saying that? Why would I avoid mentioning it in the ‘interests’ section of my CV? Why do I feel as if I need to footnote this grubby admission by saying I also love going to the opera/am politically engaged/have a New Yorker subscription/ am basically not an idiot? It feels as if to admit that shopping is your hobby is to announce to the world, ‘I’m a giant cliché!’ A walking, talking KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON mug, that it’s the ultimate signifier of being grossly materialistic, shallow or, worse, basic.
People can be terribly snooty about hobbies; reducing myself to my likes and dislikes is the sole reason I have never created an online dating profile. If we’re to be reductive about it, aren’t all hobbies either perfunctory or silly? Isn’t ‘food’ just eating? ‘Travel’ just going on holiday? And ‘working out’ a World Health Organization-advised necessity? I have a suspicion it’s about semantics, too. Take art: the vocabulary surrounding shopping for art is elevated, grown up. One ‘collects’ or ‘invests’ rather than simply ‘buys’ it.
Ultimately, however, does it matter what my hobby is, what Paula’s is, what yours or anyone else’s is? Women are riddled with guilt about what we should be saying/doing/eating/wearing/looking like – our hobbies are our private joys and pure me-moments and should be left that way. So I’m going to continue to shop proudly and excitedly, I’m just not going to say ‘fashion is my hobby’ anytime soon. Rather, ‘I invest in fashion.’ Oh, and by the way, those Céline shoes? Worth. Every. Penny.