Fashion brands come and go but for the non-fashion-literate the world of clothing can be a baffling and intimidating one. As a marketing professional I could probably outline the distinctive brand values of Top Man, Gap or Uniqlo – as a prospective purchaser the difference is elusive and strangely frightening. Surely there must be a brand for a consumer like me – not fashionable, low-budget, easily intimidated by even a helpful salesforce.

And lo, there WAS such a brand – The Officers Club! Except I never thought a lot of its clothes were any good, but hey, this is branding we’re talking about.

The Officers Club brand was extremely simple to understand – SEVENTY PERCENT OFF EVERYTHING. Off what? Some specious ‘full price’ which supposedly was being charged at “at least six” retail outlets elsewhere in the UK. Needless to say, nobody has ever seen a full-price Officers Club shop, and nobody would ever buy from such an establishment anyway. But nonetheless there’s something winning about such a naked grab for attention on a price basis – a refreshing shamelessness no matter how fictional the reductions might or might not be. It’s a way of saying “this stuff is really cheap” without drawing attention to the cheapness, which in the clothing market means drawing attention to i. how quickly it falls apart ii. the undoubted sweatshop practices required to drive prices down. The idea that Officers Club gear is smart stuff that’s just been reduced is a transparent figleaf to the conscience.

The actual clothes Officers Club sold* were….well, they were OK. They were better than Asda George, about as good as Tesco. Until I got too fat for it I had a bottle-green shirt from there which was one of the cosiest things I owned. Their boxer shorts and socks weren’t exactly comfortable but they were pretty solidly made and rarely prone to holes or tears. I never risked the suits or anything ‘high-end’. Their cheap T-Shirts had particularly rubbish logos (serious fashion qn: why do plain T-Shirts, polo shirts etc. without a pattern cost more than ones with a crap pattern? They can’t be more expensive to make, right?). But in the end the product wasn’t the thing – it was the warm glow of satisfaction you got from seeing your fashion-illiteracy pandered to, and the illusion of a bargain.

*I say “sold” because the Officers Club, online at least, is undergoing a rebrand – it is now O Club, aiming at yer urban youth by the looks of the website. This is a bold but foolish move – even though it was never exactly clear which Officers were meant to be involved with the Officers Club the name had a certain shabby snootiness, unlike O Club, which sounds like a slapdash saturday morning kids show.

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