Shop - Tam Shepherd’s Trick Shop
- Kirstin Innes
- 18 October 2007
Tam Shepherd’s Trick Shop provides ghoulish opportunities for those wishing to dress up for Hallowe’en and have a truly hair-raising experience. Kirstin Innes goes behind the scenes of this century-old Glasgow institution
I’ve picked the worst possible time of the year to interview Julia Walton. It’s 12.30 on a Sunday afternoon, just before Hallowe’en, and the door of Tam Shepherd’s Trick Shop is constantly jingling. ‘Yes, it’s definitely our busiest time,’ she says, while politely fielding enquiries about the size of their afros. ‘Hallowe’en has always been special in Scotland, hasn’t it? I think we put more effort into it.’
Julia and her sister Sarah recently took over the long-term running of the shop from their parents, but the business has been in the family since the 1930s and in the same location, at the bottom of Glasgow’s Queen Street, for almost 110 years.
‘There was a real Tam Shepherd,’ Walton explains, ‘and my great-grandfather, who was a magician touring the music halls, bought the shop from his widow when he died.’ Perhaps because the shop has been in the family for so long, there’s a palpable sense of history and continuum about it. It’s a tiny, dark, excitingly cluttered space with the shop front window filled with a massive themed display of wigs and disembodied heads which blocks out the light, while the old glass cabinets crammed with joy buzzers and fake rats might limit walking room but could keep you peering into them for hours.
Fancy wigs, detailed rubber masks and a series of shelves dedicated to false moustaches jostle for wall space with sepia-tinted family photographs. ‘People do have a lot of affection for us, maybe because we’ve been here for so long and we haven’t really changed during that time. We get grandparents, who’d come in themselves as kids, bringing their grandchildren in; one customer recently told us that he used to spend his pocket money in here, and now here he was spending his pension. I also think you can usually count on us to have really odd things that you won’t get anywhere else. Everyone always says: “Sorry, this is a really unusual request”, but unusual requests are pretty normal for us. We got a new range of fake dog poo in recently and a customer said to me, “Oh, I like your new poos!” I was trying to imagine someone just wandering past and hearing that; I think we sometime forget that our conversations aren’t that normal.’
Right now, of course, the customers are here for their Hallowe’en costumes. ‘We still do really well on fangs and witch hats, of course, but there are different items that come into fashion every Hallowe’en. This year, a lot of people are dressing up as Amy Winehouse and coming in here for the huge black beehive, the tattoo sleeve and the crazy teeth.’
The main character from Ugly Betty is also proving popular as are a fresh range of Michael Myers masks with the new Halloween out again. ‘Last year we had a whole Hallowe’en-themed wedding to cater for,’ recalls Walton. ‘The couple had been planning it for years; the groom was dressed as Frankenstein’s monster, the bride as Morticia Addams, and all the guests were instructed to dress up too. They didn’t have their wedding list with us, though. Actually, come to think of it, we should start doing wedding lists . . . ’
Tam Shepherd’s Trick Shop, 33 Queen Street, Glasgow, 0141 221 2310.
Beyond A Joke
Tam Shepherd’s isn’t the only place to find some truly fancy dress. Florence Thompson raids the racks from the pick of the bunch
If you’re based in Edinburgh, Costume Ha Ha on the Grassmarket (0131 225 3322) is probably the best place to go. It’s a shop dedicated to all things novelty, offering monkey suits in both senses of the word and much more. The Royal Lyceum Theatre (0131 337 1997) has a treasure trove of more theatrical costumes available for hire, including ‘decades-worth of amazing costumes, from lavish ball gowns and Braveheart-style Highland dress to tuxedos and military uniforms’. The vast stock includes period and contemporary outfits so you could be anything from a Cossack to a courtesan. For more mainstream online fancy dress, Jokers Masquerade (www.joke.co.uk) has the largest online collection of child and adult fancy dress in the UK. You can also purchase pet costumes as well, if you fancy robing your dog as a burglar or Yoda. For adult costumes, prices range from about £30 up to £97 for a seriously terrifying garb called ‘Dr Phobic Brom’. Angels Fancy Dress (www.fancydress.com) has more than five miles of costumes, ranging from the elegant to the ridiculous. The company has supplied gear to hundreds of Oscar-winning films including The Aviator and Titanic. You can order hats, props, clothes and wigs over the internet, and with their ‘Fancy Dress Guidelines’ you can’t really go wrong. Take time to enjoy their ‘Match the Ghoul’ competition too; send in a picture of someone and the horror character you believe they look like and win a ‘spooky’ prize. Script to Screen (www.scripttoscreen.co.uk) offers very specific, but extremely good quality costumes to hire; a full Chewbacca suit, Davy Crockett and Elizabeth Bennet is there for the taking, and the company has had years of experience providing costumes for film and theatre. But if you want some serious grandeur, Prangsta Costumiers (www.prangsta.com) are a bespoke costumier service. Their gear slants towards the theatrical and bizarre for catwalks, carnivals, parades and festivals. Prangsta Costumiers’ Showrooms and Studio are situated in London, though the company is available for bookings elsewhere. Check out the website just for a laugh: the designs are quite spectacular.