I like to consider myself an alternative kind of guy. That goes for the beer I drink, the friends I make. Even the clothes I wear.
A friend of mine calls my look a "a sordid mishmash of GQ and Salvation Army." That means baggy pants, bowling shirts, espadrilles, thin ties, boxer shorts, mock turtles and psychedelic vests.
Not all at once, of course. But you get the picture.
The problem is keeping an off-the-wall wardrobe and not going broke in the process. I mean, I like unique clothes. I just hate paying unique prices.
In North County, that could spell trouble.
But I've found the solution. Steer clear of Buffums and Bullocks. Take a passing glance at any garage sale and flea market you come across.
And become a religious shopper at The Cheap Skates.
That's what I call stores like Marshall's at the Solana Town Center in Solana Beach, the TJ Maxx at the Pomerado shopping center in Escondido and the Ross store at the El Camino North shopping center in Oceanside.
These places sell many of the same clothes as the Big Boy department stores. At half the price.
No lie. I've seen the coolest shirts on the Big Boy racks selling for $60. At The Cheap Skates: $18. Or less, if it goes on sale.
Once, I asked a Cheap Skate clerk how they do it. She said the buyers for all the stores go to the same manufacturers' auctions. When the Big Boys get done ravaging all the latest looks, the Cheap Skates move in for the cleanup. They pay less for the very same lines and pass the savings on to you.
Once, as I walked out of a Cheap Skate store, a woman doing a survey asked me where I really did my shopping.
"Right here," I said.
"No," she cut me off. "I mean, where do you shop for your really nice clothes?"
I couldn't convince her that I was a loyal Marshalls' shopper and still didn't look like Polyester Man, a walking K mart clothes rack.
I guess I'm just a cheapskate.
And I'm laughing all the way to my closet.