It’s close to midnight on the first of January. As I type this column, the first day of the New Year has drawn to a close. Shops have been shut, roast dinners have been eaten and tins of Roses and Quality Street have been hoovered of all but the most perplexing of sweets (Dark Orange Mocha Nut Crunch, anyone?). If you’re looking for Silent Night, you’ve found it here.
When this column is published, the sales will be well underway and people will understand that the first day of January is a day of silent contemplation - but only if you’re contemplating how to load that half price LCD screen TV onto the roof of your Astra, or of how many people you’re going to knock over to get to the knock-down Carvelas and Prada pumps in BTs.
It is also a time for the silent gathering of strength for negotiating crowds, the silent girding of loins in preparation for any potential punchouts over the last camel coat and silent meditation in order to instill in oneself the cunningness that makes you hide several bras in your size under a pile of coats and pray that they’re still there when you come back from the ATM.
We all know that January Sales shopping is a slog through shops filled, according to a friend of mine, with ‘stuff that we’ve frowned at for the past four months’. The appeal of mediocre clothing is amplified because it’s so cheap; we pick up something we’re not sure about and wonder if it would ‘do’ because it’s been marked down from €100 to 50 cents.
And the sad thing about all this is that we know what a bad ideas it is to buy these variously ill-fitting, unsuitable, wrong-sized clothes - but we still do it anyway. Articles materialise all over the popular press advising people on how to tackle the sales correctly. ‘Tackle’ being the operative word; one has to barrel through an oppositional scrum to get to scratchy jumpers with stretched sleeves and misshapen shoulders, a symptom of clothing carelessly tried on and discarded by all the people who came before you.
No sales are regardedly so rabidly as the ones held at the start of the year, and I have a (very) rough idea as to why.
The start of the year is one of renewal. We make resolutions to ourselves. We decide to become fitter, healthier, more motivated. We decide to take tasks upon ourselves that are fundamentally life-changing. We assess that we can change our personalities and literally become other people.
That is why the sales are so popular; we’re not buying for ourselves (which explains why we knowingly make foolish purchases), we are buying for the different version of ourselves that we will become once we complete our resolutions. Normal Sarah would never wear a leotard but Gym Bunny Sarah? She’ll take twelve!
We do this year after year knowing full well of the consequences of an overstuffed wardrobe. We do this out of hope for the future. Buying clothes is just a manifestation of that hope and a speck-like microcosm of New Years celebrations as a whole. Normal Sarah thinks that I should be sceptical. Future Sarah says that maybe, just maybe, all those leotards will come in handy.