Posted by: Chelsea Novak | February 10, 2006

Now this would have been handy

I was in an HMV last weekend, which isn’t really such a blog worthy event, but what I saw there kind of was. When I started working there eleven years ago (!!) there wasn’t much of a uniform. I remember being distinctly told in our orientation that the company was all about having individuals as staff and that wearing uniforms every day just wasn’t going to happen.

Now companies change ownership and rebrand. These are realities. And over the five years I was employed there, by then end I was wearing a staff-shirt every day. Not without a whole lot of complaining and evoking references to the “Musictown” smock from Empire Records of course, but that was mostly because I was young and mouthy. At the end of the day, really, it was just a T-shirt.

So I was in an HMV this weekend and I was totally struck my something looking at the female staff. Sure all their staff-shirts matched, but it had gone far beyond that. All the female staff had chosen one of two looks. The first, which I think totally works in a record store, was that of “rock chick.” Black straightened hair cut in the style of Joan Jett, tight jeans, a big studded belt and Converse sneakers. Oh and a hell of a lot of bracelets.

All the other girls on staff (that I could see) we identically attired in their own way. It began with the closed toe Birkenstock sandals, and then it was the same brand of black yoga pants. Yoga pants? When did HMV turn into Lululemon? When did yoga pants become a rock fashion staple? They all topped the look off with the “I worked on this messy updo for an hour” hairstyle, and with the exception of one of them, they were all blonde. I’ve never understood working on your hair for that long and then putting on exercise clothes and actually going out in public that way.

It was just really strange and it got me thinking about working music retail now and working music retail then.

Kids starting work at a record store must have it easier these days. The vastness and popularity of google has to make it easier to answer those really hard questions about who sang what and what inspired who. Back in the day (oh I’m dating myself here) a lot of it was simply stored in our heads and having little music factoids required a lot of love music and a love of research. Now, I’m positive that there are still certain skills needed to be a good record store employee, but it has to be so much easier these days (falling profits thanks to itunes aside).

One thing I would have love to have had then is this. A guide that maps music out for you, gives you a bit of wry writing to go with it and provides hours of entertainment. You wouldn’t even have to bullshit to people about knowing where things came from, because you could really find out! Of course, this particular guide being all about electronic music makes me love it even more.

Today’s sing-a-long song: “A Girl Like You” by Edwin Collins



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