So, many of you janded Naijas would prefer that we didn’t mention it, but you guys and gals inspired Julius Agwu’s ode to second-hand clothing aka Okrika called “bend down select.”
Come on, you know the story; you started with Aswani as your joint, where you learnt to kneel under the sweltering heat, getting high off the stench of sweaty body parts as you bent over dirt cheap heaps of fairly-used, unfairly used and thoroughly-used clothing, shoes and underwear. Washed overnight, the next day you told everyone your aunt in Houston sent the lot.
Like a junkie looking for their fix you endured the groping arms of countless Igbo traders at Yaba throughout your undergraduate years. For the men, some of you even grew to become firm friends with your “customer” at Katako. She’d send you text messages to confirm that yes, her bale of bed sheets have arrived and there is a Manchester United one there to suit your mattress and impress the candidates contesting for the currently-filled position of Wife.
But now you are in Jand, where everybody speaks aspri-pri and going to Primark is as sacrilegious as shitting on Daddy G.O’s suit and wiping your arse with the flaps of his bowtie. Basically, you have no idea how the Okrika market/Bend Down Boutique goes down here in Jand. Well, there are the main things you need to know:
For starters, this is Jand, yes, Bend Down Boutiques exist but they are not called that because there is no bending involved. Yes, you are basically buying the same dead or living people’s clothes and belongings but there is a difference—you pick them off a hangar and an Oyinbo will take your money and wrap your purchases for you, not a perspiring man wearing pencil jeans and sharing a plate of Nkwobi with flies whilst eating with the same hands he uses to serve you.
Here we use the word “Vintage” for Okrika. And you will go to proper shops to buy your vintage clothing. We call them “Charity shops,” “Shops,” and “Vintage Shops”
Basically, they all sell second-hand clothing but the Vintage shops are privately owned, may buy bales and sell to other people. The thrift or charity stores sell used clothes that people have donated and give some profit to the charity organisation running the shop. Do not turn up your nose because Okrika is such big business that Charity shops in the UK are now more than shoe shops. Oh yes. In fact, charity shops raise £200million every year, so that should tell you that even oyinbo like second hand tinz. What’s that? A point t note sha, you will not see pant and bra for sale in Jand as Okrika o; these things are needed more by your unfortunate relatives in Nigeria and Ghana.
There is also one category of bend-down boutiques in Jand that appears irregularly at the weekends, where people with broken teeth and equally broken English park their cars in a school playground, church yard or supermarket car park at the weekends and sell from their boot or just plonk everything on the floor. If they haven’t had the common-sense to put the wares on the table then yes, you will have to bend down to select what you need. But that shouldn’t be a problem for you so stop complaining because at least in Jand, you are not likely to raise your head and see someone you know (and pose for).
If you suffer from the admirable Nigerian condition where you have a taste for high-end stuff but none of the means to achieve this, you really can’t do without Okrika in Jand. Just like Yaba for instance has better grade than Abule-Egba side (don’t ask me how I know) then you need to know where to get the right vintage wears. London is your best bet of course; just like we queue on Tuesday for Aswani, people queue at certain shops to buy designer cast-offs from celebrities.
Yes, YSL, Nicole Farhi, Thomas Pink, Alexander McQueen and the likes can leave your dreams and actually reside in your cupboard and on your limbs if you visit the charity shops at Oxford Circus or Highgate. Last November some smart people were rewarded with David Beckham’s Louis Vuitton shoes and Victoria Beckham’s Prada dresses after queueing in the cold at a Red Cross Charity shop in Chelsea. When they wear these things, you as a LAST carrier will be looking. Better wake up my friend!
Meanwhile, if you find not just clothes but toiletries expensive, head to your nearest car-boot sale for half-used toiletries. Just apply anointing oil before using and you should be alright.
How to escape detection as an Okrika wearer
There is no stigma here in Jand among Oyinbo people about going to Bend-down-select o. They even use it to pose and our oyinbo celebrities are proud to say they love “vintage shopping.” #Yimu
As a Nigerian, I will advise you not to be so foolish as to forget yourself, before they go home and tell your family you are suffering in Jand. You know how the Waffi proverb goes; everybody must make it a point to denounce the neighbourhood brothel until they are caught within it.
Even if you are caught doing Bend-down-select in Jand, here’s how to wriggle out:
The good thing about Okrika in Jand is the shops have it all. So, if whilst in the shop you see someone you know, race to the books section (males) or the crockery section (females) and look so intently at the books or plates, avoiding eye contact. If they are the type of Nigerian that also have their reputation at stake, they will ignore you and save you both the embarrassment of a greeting. If they have nothing to lose in terms of reputation, then expect them to come to you with; “Ah, I didn’t know you shopped here o!”
Just tell them you only come for the books (or vintage crockery) as you are an avid reader (or hostess) and make sure no scrap of clothing is in your possession. You will do well to keep praying that someone else does not take your picks off the rack, while you make small talk with the meddlesome idiot.
If you are caught in a prime location, be sure to drop the hint that Sir Paul McCartney of the Beatles also shops for books in this store, just like you.
Or that you read in Cosmopolitan that Nigella Lawson buys her crockery from vintage stores. Just like you.
As for the rest of you….Taa! C’mon stop that forming. You either wear okrika by choice or by association. Or both. Nobody holy pass.
Now allow me turn my attention to the charity shops of Lewisham; I need to find a cheap crowbar to pry my tongue from my cheek.
See you next week.