All Black


17 August 2000
Auckland, New Zealand

If you go to New Zealand, take plenty of black with you because it is everywhere—women in black, men in black, kids in black, black trousers, black tops, black jerseys, black shoes and socks and I can only guess, black undies too. At first I thought it might be only an Auckland thing, but not so, I’ve seen an abundance of black in Nelson, Wellington, Rotorua and Christchurch. Maybe I’ll come to know the rationale in wanting to look like a relative of Johnny Cash before leaving the country next year.

Maybe the popularity of black attire has to do with Rugby—New Zealand’s favorite sport (I know, sounds like a stretch already). The national rugby team of New Zealand is known as the All Blacks—and as one would expect, their uniforms are nothing but black. Yet I have to wonder if rugby fans and fashion fanatics go hand-in-hand. Perhaps its a fashion from years past that has evolved into a low-grade New Zealand custom—some color trend that carried over from New York, Paris or London awhile back—kind of like a fashion “hiccup.” I’ve some nerve; writing about fashion after coming from Powell, Wyoming, where flannel is king.

In all of this fashion for the dark side, there are the “black shops” (as I like to call them). These stores cater to the darker dressed individuals and are everywhere in Auckland. For the most part, black shops all look the same too—a stripped down shop staffed by a twenty-something, black-clothed fashion victim with a bare-bones selection of, you guessed it, black clothing on the shelves. All accessories are black too. I just can’t figure out if this minimalist environment for a clothing store is considered sheik or is it the result of a limited bankroll that keeps inventory to this reduced state. I find them absolutely fascinating, yet I can’t say why. Seldom do I ever see customers in such stores, but surely they find their way in as I consider all the black on the streets. From my multiple observations, the clerk is always sitting at the front counter for a good part of the day mulling over fashion magazines or sending out email to friends because there is clearly nothing else to do in the store. Maybe these stores are a front for some kind of illegal operation.

If I had my way, I’d loiter in one of those stores for the good part of a day as an invisible man so I could be mesmerized by the listlessness of activity; contemplating the under appreciated, dressed-up clerk while enjoying the tranquil setting of a store stocked with a thinned selection of black attire.

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