Have you ever thought about whether you are a hunter or a gatherer when it comes to your shopping style?
In this podcast episode (yes it was a very fuzzy video), Jill Chivers of Shop Your Wardrobe and I discuss how the concept of hunting and gathering from ancient times is still an applicable idea for modern shopping.
If you’d like to download it to listen when you’re driving, doing the housework or walking the dog, you can get it on the Castbox app (look for it in your app store – it’s available on both IOS and Android)
When you think about hunting versus gathering what are some of the differences?
Hunter Style Shopping
Hunting is more of a solitary pursuit (unless of course, you have an expert hunter like me on your team on a professional shopping expedition) whilst gathering can be a solo or group activity depending on your personal preferences.
Hunters are Purposeful
Hunters make a decision about what they want, go out with a direct focus on what they want to buy and look specifically for it, ignoring everything else around them.
They may also be a specific criterion for that item.
They find it. They buy it. They take it home.
It’s a purposeful activity.
They are shopping with logic as their decision maker.
The Comparison Hunter
There are hunters who are after the fastest result possible – the go in and get it, then get out hunter (as I’ve just described) and then there is the comparison style of hunting. Instead of getting the first item that meets your criteria, you’ll look at all the different options in different stores – comparison hunting – when you’ve found the best one, then you’ll buy that. It’s still very purposeful and focussed.
The Downsides of Hunter Shopping
Because of the expectations, you place on your shopping trip, if you don’t meet your goal – find the thing and bring it home, you can easily be greatly disappointed – even feeling like a failure (remember, it’s the clothes and the retailers, not you that are wrong). You can put undue pressure on yourself that is unnecessary.
Alternatively, you may settle for second (or third) best, just wanting to take home “the kill” for your time and efforts and so not be as picky and choosy as you should be.
Another downside of hunting is that you may miss the fabulous item that you’d love as your vision is blinkered by your total focus on your intended prey.
A person with Hunter style tendencies will maintain a clothing shopping list of what they need to buy, what they need to replace and will make time to take focused shopping trips to achieve these aims. They will generally only shop when they have to, when there is a need, and are less likely to shop with friends.
They are more likely have a smaller wardrobe, one that is more capsule in nature – finding the piece that goes with many other pieces to create multiple outfits. Unless, they buy multiples of the same item (loved it in one colour, going to buy it in every colour) which is often a shopping mistake.
Gatherer Shopping Style
Gathering style shopping is often more about the experience and often not about looking for anything in particular.
They go shopping, they look around, they let items grab their attention, they are prepared to fossick through the racks, they are often shopping with their emotions as the decision maker. They want to be inspired by what they see.
Gatherers are Often More Social
It may be more social (though not always). A stroll around the mall with your friends is a way that many gatherers spend time with those they are close to.
Open to Opportunities
Unlike the hunter who is more blinkered in their shopping approach, a gatherer is more open to opportunities. They look around and will notice more of what is around, and may try on and consider more different styles of clothes.
They may enjoy the stimulation of the environment and approach shopping in an unspecific way, with nothing in particular in mind to purchase, or have a vague idea of what they want, but vague only.
Gathering is Lower Energy
Gathering is more of a non-stop activity – it requires less energy and focus and can be sustained for long periods and doesn’t have the same pressure as the hunting shopping experience.
Enjoyment of the time spent can be the prize, rather than the thing you bring home. It can be window shopping – or as Jill call’s it “the art gallery method” where nothing is actually on sale and it’s just an enjoyable experience in visual stimulation.
When I spend time on a gathering style shopping experiences, this is when I find my unique and interesting pieces, most of my heroes are found this way.
Gathering is a great way to shop when you’ve got all your basics covered when you’re just looking for some unique and interesting heroes to complete your wardrobe, to keep it fresh, to add some zest.
Downsides of Gatherer Shopping
Gatherers get into trouble if they have the feeling that they have to take something home and will buy the wrong thing or just anything (in the way the hunter may too). It’s very easy for them to gather too much, too many of the wrong things, and make poor choices.
Even when gathering we feel the need to take home something for our efforts and as we see more, we may buy more.
Gatherers may waste a lot of time or not be specific enough about what they need to fill the holes in their wardrobe and so have a more haphazard wardrobe.
They frequently are unaware of what they already own, and so purchase similar items, forgetting that they already have something similar at home.
Or they will purchase another pair of jeans, or black pants, or whatever their “always handy” item is, to feel that their time and energy haven’t been wasted.
If you tend to overshop, Jill recommends not going on gathering style shopping expeditions – it’s like keeping lots of chocolate and cake in your house when you’re wanting to lose weight.
Gatherers often have a larger wardrobe and if this doesn’t suit their personality, they may feel overwhelmed by what they own, that’s the old “wardrobe full of clothes and nothing to wear” syndrome. They’ve built up lots of stuff, but nothing really goes together as it was often bought without a plan.
Gatherers may also try out more styles and stray much further from their style recipe, which means they have more bits and pieces that just aren’t making them happy.000
Online or Bricks and Mortar?
You may think that one is more prone to online and another to bricks and mortar (or the mall), but really I’ve seen both styles done both in the mall and online. Neither optionis exclusive territory to either the hunter or the gatherer.
What’s your approach? We’d love to know your experiences – both the good and the bad!
I think I am a hybrid of the two! I am a gatherer when I want a hero piece of clothing to add to my wardrobe, usually a dress, top, or jacket and then I become a hunter because they will inspire specific pieces and accessories which I want to wear with the hero! It is more helpful for me to look online at everything just for inspiration too. I guess you could also say that I grow some exotics in the “kitchen garden” since I will dye, sew, and paint to get what I want and many times that is easier than searching.
I was once a desperate hunter. I HATED shopping and only bought anything when I absolutely had to. But on these desperate expeditions, I could never find anything that looked good or that I really liked. I thought there must be something wrong with me. Things got a little better a few years ago when I started taking some interest in clothes thanks to some old Trinny and Susannah books I found in a thrift shop. But since discovering and studying your blogs this past year, I have advanced to expert gatherer! I will be forever grateful for all you have taught me. The technical detail is ìncredibly helpful but the biggest lesson for me has been how to develop my own style. Imogen and Jill, you both look gorgeous in your signature colours and shapes and patterns. The best thing I have learned from your blogs is that it’s not just my body shape and colouring I need to dress for but my individual preferences and personality! I’m not scared of shops any more because I no longer expect that everything should fit and suit me, or that I should even like it all! Now I love exploring shops. I know what shapes and colours suit me, and what patterns and materials and styles I love. It’s not often that I find a new piece that I need and love to bits but when I do, I feel the thrill of the score. And when I don’t, it’s okay too because I already have a beautiful garden of clothes at home that I can enjoy.
Ha! I recognize my transformation. I used to be a gatherer, spending quite a lot of time shopping, buying what I liked, getting fabulous pieces, especially jackets, which are not so needed in my Southern California city. I had not analyzed my lifestyle needs. I didn’t have enough basics. I had no concept of building a wardrobe. Now I am a hunter. I have all the basics for the life I actually lead and I am satisfied with my wardrobe by and large. I shop to upgrade or replace items that show wear or to better reflect my new palette. If I don’t find it, I don’t spend. One occasion occurred where I did not have the right garment for the situation. It was easy to find the right thing to fill the gap. Thanks for all your wisdom, inspiration and practical advise!
I am a targeted gatherer. I leave myself open to find things I might not otherwise consider but I don’t leave things TOO open because I will end up coming home with a lot of junk.
I love browsing thrift stores but they used to be major pitfalls for me because I’d take home anything that caught my eye with no plans on how to incorporate it into my wardrobe. Now I go with an objective in mind so I can better weed out the junk and discover the real treasures.
Loved this! Listened & read it at same time. I’ve gone from being a hunter to a gatherer – partly because I’m older & work half the hours (allowing more browsing time). Now it’s really working well as I’m learning to ‘let go’ ie get things OUT of my wardrobe when they don’t work anymore (or ever worked). Also op- & consighment-shop shopping requires a more gatherer approach. One of my closest friends is more of a hunter so it’s quite amusing when we travel somewhere together & hit the shops. I really love your vids & technical analysis, ladies. Kitty
Like Bernadette, I’m a bit of both. In a shopping mall, I’m a hunter – focused precision – I’m usually searching for a particular item. In a thrift store, I’m a gatherer. I’m open to all options. I take my time and experiment with different items. The cost of a thrifted item is low and I can donate it again if the item doesn’t work with my existing wardrobe.
Great descriptions of “acquisition” styles. I used to be a hunter-only type of shopper when I was very busy with my career. Need a navy skirt, or a grey suit? Seek and find! As my wardrobe of basics was built I turned into a gather-hunter. That is, I shop now as a gatherer but only to fill items on my hunting list. And, I only shop thrift stores and very good sales.
I knew I needed to expand my minimalist wardrobe towards either the lime-green capsule range, and/or the purple capsule range, with a long vacation in mind. Shopping with a friend, I scored a $5 purple zip-up vest that goes with four blouses. I can wear this vest at least six months out of the year, changing it up with jewelry, scarves, and belts. I also scored another hero piece, in a $3 silky cover-up, with a subtle pattern in lime-green and subdued gold. It goes with three blouses, and I had already found free jewelry during a coupon sale that goes perfectly with it. This cover-up will be perfect to dress up a bit if we find an upscale lobster house while dressing casually for a stroll, because it is wrinkle-proof and takes up very little room in a bag. These are the types of items that are on my hunter list, even though I don’t know what form they’ll take. I just remain open to them, and of course following your wonderful style advice. I now know from the style, construction, color, and pattern, that an item is for me, or not.
I loved this take on shopping – and I have to admit I am a bit of both.
I prefer lone shopping, i love the hunt but will sometimes have a little bit of everything in the closet and can get overwhelmed…
Most of the years gatherer- I rarely have shopped hunter style and only when something was desperately needed.
As a result I have many closets of clothes and shoes but they are completely haphazardous. I actually qualify as a hoarder…
I have no idea how to work with what I have as most of the items I loveand are quite costly ( and dont want to throw away) but there is no sense of cohesion of style ( though the colors would be mainly cool and brights with tons of black)and there are so many heroes…
How do we organise such a closet? I have gone through many posts on closet organisation but none really meets my situation.
My life has changed the past years after becoming a divorced mom and I find it hard to dress with heroes every day- as a result I have a ” uniform” of black jeans and simple dark tops and am Ok but far from fabulous.
And to top it all I still go gathering( though very rarely go shopping any more)- I must say when I insist on finding something most of the times the hunter way its not a succesful buy its rather a quick fix thing that I dont really find waw!
And whatever new stuff I now shop-gather I do use with pleasure( and yep still mostly heroes) but I feel bad buying stuff with so many many clothes…
I think doing some work on your style recipe would help – to find out what really works and what doesn’t. Also doing a style challenge like Evolve Your Style would also assist you in trying to narrow down what you do and don’t enjoy wearing and why. I’ve also been a divorced single mum – still wore heroes every day!
Doing something to help you clear out your wardrobe so you can see the wood from the trees could also be worthwhile.