Sock it to me

When it comes to socks, I’m like Jack Nicholson in Heartburn where all too often he leaves the house claiming he has to go buy more socks when in fact he’s having an extramarital affair. I’m no Jack Nicholson, but I do seem to buy a lot of socks.

This particular expedition took me to The Bay at Queen and Yonge in Toronto where since the days of of Robert Simpson Co. in the 1970s, men’s basics have been lodged handily in the basement or on the main floor. No longer. Only brand-name perfume and high-margin emoluments are there now. Men’s is hell-and-gone up on the fifth floor with socks stashed in the furthest possible back corner.

As a result, I was able to parlay my visit into a lengthy tour of the mostly renovated store. There are a few elements yet undone and the escalators aren’t all running, but the two-year-long makeover seems almost complete. And what a change has been wrought. I kept reading that somehow The Bay was going to be in one part of the building and Saks Fifth Avenue in another, but the whole place looks like Saks to me. With the modern design and minimalist displays it couldn’t be further from Bay CEO George Kosich’s 1990s philosophy of “pile ’em high and watch ’em fly.”

Within the walls can also be found spiffy boutiques such as TopShop/TopMan, Coach and Burberry. Kleinfeld Bridal is on seven with young women carrying home the classy white garment bag containing the big day’s gown. More important than the changes – the store was busy – on a weekday.

I must admit I never thought these high-end American banners would come to Canada. In addition to Saks, Nordstrom now has two stores open, one in Calgary and another in Ottawa, with Vancouver launching this Friday. Nordstrom will add three outlets in Toronto over the next two years.

The only thing that hasn’t changed are the socks. They’ll likely still wear out after a year, so I’ll be back. Hope these big names make it on through or I’ll have to find a new excuse to leave the house.

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