European Fashion Spending Habits Vary by Country

I come from a long line of blue-collar shoppers, and it drives my wife crazy. I have learned a lot about style and fashion from her by default – difficult not to I suppose, living in Europe – but that hasn’t stopped me from relishing in the satisfaction I feel when I pick up “2-for-the-price-of-one” disposable men’s razors, or a bonus-pack of boxer shorts.

So imagine my surprise when I read a recent Wall Street Journal Europe survey that interviewed more than 21,000 men and women and rated twenty countries in Europe according to their “fashion” spending habits based “on need”. Well that right there is an interesting yardstick for a survey, because I wonder really, how much of what we purchase is paid for because we “need” it? I can’t speak for most men, but I know the first words out of my mouth when I go shopping with my wife is “Do we REALLY need this..?”

In Italy, I was surprised to learn that MEN spend more on fashion than women. Particularly shoes. Italian men spend between 150.00 and 200.00 euro a year on shoes compared to women who spend just over 120.00. I should probably back-step here, because if you can find a good pair of men’s shoes in Italy for 150.00 euro you’re doing o-k. (Now, I don’t want to brag, but last summer at a market in Naples, I found “designer” brand men’s dress shoes for 7.00 euro a pair. I quickly snatched up 7 different pairs and have shoes for every day of the week – and all for less than 50.00 euro TOTAL. Hey Wall Street Journal, go stick that statistic in your survey! (o-k, I’ll admit after a few weeks all those shoes kind of fell apart, and one pair lost it’s color in a rain storm, but a bargain is still a bargain).

But I digress. The fact that Italians spend more on fashion and less on – say – books (only 60.00 euro per year per FAMILY) probably means something. To me it only means you can’t wear books on your feet. Italy also leads the EU in “online” fashion purchasing.

In Russia, a whopping 62% of the fashion-conscious avoid items “Made in China” and only 1% of the country purchases things on-line. That does not surprise me because I think only about 1% of the country owns a computer.

In Turkey, nearly 80% of the population is dedicated to purchasing “local” made-in-Turkey brands. While over 30% of the population avoids buying fashion items “made in the USA”. And when it comes to shoes, the national average in Turkey is 50.00 euro for a pair of shoes. (Hey, if they were with me last summer in Naples they ‘d have felt like they won the lottery).

In Germany, fashion has apparently given way to impulse-buying, because they lead the EU in that category. I’m not sure how much “spontaneity” comes into play where you’re spending hundreds of euro on clothes, but I guess it’s reassuring to know that if you see a pair of ass-less chaps in a store- front window in Berlin, you can purchase them and not feel guilty.

In Greece, brand names apparently mean everything. This – coming from a country which pays more taxes than most. The Greeks also ranked high in a category referred to as “buying makes you happy”. I think I read somewhere that impulse-buying only makes people happy because it masks a deficiency in other areas – for example your sex-life. I think in some instances a person may find more happiness in the arms of a 200.00 euro call-girl than in a similarly priced pair of shoes. Of course you can’t get an STD from a pair of shoes either.

The Danes spend more on fashion than anyone according to the survey. Which strikes me as odd, because the word “Denmark” doesn’t usually trickle off my lips when I’m discussing who’s fashion-conscious in the world. If you ask me who drinks the most milk in Europe I’d probably raise my hand in a nano-second and shout “Denmark!” But fashion??

The USA was listed but Great Britain was, and they rank pretty low on the list. This is not necessarily a bad thing. According to the survey the Brits aren’t that fashion-conscious apparently, turn a good eye towards bargains and spend less than most countries on shoes, socks an other clothing. They spend a lot more money on fish and chips and beer, and again – I’m not sure what the correlation here is – other than that at the end of the day it’s better to have a full stomach than a nice pair of slacks.

So what kind of buying habits do YOU have? Does vanity play a part? Are you an impulse buyer? I think when all is said and done, a person is going to buy a pair of shoes or slacks or whatever because they embrace a variety of qualities (or weaknesses depending on your point-of-view): you want to look good and feel powerful because you spent a lot of money.

In the meantime, I manage to satisfy my flea-market tendencies in private. I’ll slip in a 5.00 euro pair of pants among the more “respectable” brands that are hanging in my closet and not mention it to my wife. (Only to hear her mumble, “where’d this come from?” later).

Fashion. Ya gotta love it. If only there was a Walmart in Italy.

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