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PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 April, 2013, 9:24am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 April, 2013, 10:39am

Addicted to Gucci: Buzz Bissinger's confession reflects global issue

BIO

Anna is a business writer and editor of the SCMP’s Money Magazine. During her 20-year Hong Kong career, she’s written everything from stock market reports and luxury goods sector analysis to speeches for the HKSAR Chief Executive and served as president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club for two years.
 

A lot of people, especially men, seem to find the idea of shopping addiction funny, but like sex addiction, the phenomenon is very real and getting worse as a consequence of internet shopping. The recent case of Buzz Bissinger has firmly added shopping to the long list of addictions that require years of therapy. Bestselling author Buzz Bissinger, 58, who has written several successful books about sport, checked into rehab after publishing a mind boggling account of his addiction to shopping at specifically, Gucci. He told GQ magazine of his three-year shopping spree, running up bills of 420,000 pounds at the Italian store.

Gucci were very happy of course and this level of spending turned him into one of their most valued and coddled clients. He admitted in GQ to owning 81 leather jackets, 75 pairs of boots, 41 pairs of leather trousers, 32 pairs of haute couture jeans, 10 evening jackets and 115 pairs of gloves.

“I have an addiction, I am a shopaholic.” His account of his spending obsession has marked a transformation from respected sports writer with wife and children to “Gucci Olympian,” resplendent in 9,200 pounds sterling ostrich skin jacket with “wax coated black jeans, shiny and sheeny and sizzling” At one point in the article, the Pulitzer prize winning American hack declared “I wasn’t mainlining heroin just impossibly gorgeous leather jackets.” His 6,000 word tale of mid life woe was so over the top that some people thought it an early April Fool joke. But GQ’s editors said it all checked out.

Bissinger apparently decided to go public to help others struggling with similar addictions. “I wrote it because it was the only way I know of coming to terms and getting the help I am now getting. “ No sniggering please, compulsive shopping is a serious affliction by no means confined to women or the very wealthy. It causes as much mayhem as alcoholism in families but you don’t usually hear about rich people admitting to it. “Shopping addictions have been facilitated by the ease with which you can buy things online and they have definitely increased in recent times,” a psychiatrist told the Weekend FT. “Some people have brains more prone to addiction.”

Recent studies of shopping addiction have confirmed that it occurs throughout the socio-economic spectrum. So how do you know if you’re prone? The disease occurs in several forms with some sufferers known as “return-a-holics”, for ordering goods they cannot afford and sending them back for a refund. For Bissinger, money was not the problem. He sold two million copies of Friday Night Lights, his successful book about a Texas high school football team. He got lucrative film and television series deals too. He also inherited considerable wealth from his parents.

Although Bissinger admired several labels including Burberry and Alexander McQueen, he was fixated with Gucci from his teenage years, when his mother bought the same shoulder bag as Jackie Onassis.

As a reward for outrageous spending, Gucci treated him like royalty, with expenses paid trips to Milan and Florence. And they provided with a personal fashion consultant in New York. He called her the “divine stylist” - it’s all part of the Mr Big mentality the waters parting when I walked into the New York store.” He said: “I see a black leather biker jacket I know I must have even though I already own 15 jackets of similar style.”

Bissinger admits that his friends were “appalled and confused and amused,” by his obsession with outrageous clothes, but they don’t seem to have done much to stop him. He reportedly bought an orange leather motorcycle jacket and matching leather pants from Alexander McQueen that made him look, well, very orange,” he admitted.

His children “liked the flair, maybe, but there were times they seemed embarrassed or simply stunned,” His long-suffering wife at first liked “the rocker look” but she began to feel like she was living with a hoarder. “ Relationship mayhem followed. The moral of the story is listen to your friends and family if they suggest you might just be over -doing it – on any front.

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