This month, “Boyds, The Men’s Store,” as the luxury gentlemen’s clothier on Chestnut Street has come to be known, will fade from memory like an old tux pushed to the dark corner of the closet. The new and improved Boyds will have a jewelry boutique, a Georges Perrier café, and, on the first floor, the largest designer women’s store in Center City — not to mention what the owners say will be a new and improved atmosphere. Which comes as a relief to many who have found shopping at the retail institution a lot like handing over their keys to the valet outside. Just swap the huddle of men in red puffer jackets at the curb for a fleet of salesmen in Italian-made suits inside. And instead of the car keys, hand over your free will.
That’s unfair, the suits would say. They only want to help. And help they do, pulling out a Paul Smith shirt from behind the glass counter and slapping a Burberry tie upon it, then holding them under the lapel of an Armani jacket to show how it all comes together. Guiding the nervous groom through the tuxedo salon, perhaps offering him champagne. Suiting up the recent college graduate, even hemming his pants. Or handing one bewildered 20-something from floor to floor, salesman to salesman, buy to buy, until his swank new wardrobe clicks with a fine-gauge precision he apparently never dreamed possible, reducing him to an obsequious mumble: “You guys have some really nice stuff. Thank you very much for all of your help.”
You don’t want to buy? You just want to browse? Then the suits will stand there and watch you, and perhaps keep offering to help or telling you their names. And due to the sheer number of them dressed better than you (the most successful salesmen, by one inside account, can make upwards of $100,000 a year), you will start to feel slightly uncomfortable. Then more so, as, in fact, you can’t find a size but know you can’t ask, since you just said you were only looking. And you know, too, that uttering a single “Um, actually, do you have this in a — ” or “What I could use is a — ” or “By the way, how much are these — ” could drop the anvil that is their hard sell flat upon you. Service, you see, is the store’s thing, one that works best under the following assumptions: that you’re obviously here to buy something (what kind of guy, after all, just comes in and looks around and touches sleeves and riffles hangers and then leaves?), and that everything will go much more smoothly if you just get out of the way and let these guys do what they do best.