It was a one-man show about a curious sexual fetish which sees buyers on eBay purchase dirty sweaty socks and used tights with their well-earned money.
As one audience member who had travelled to see the show from Manchester asked before the performance commenced: “What else are you going to do on a Monday night except come and see something weird?”
Photographer and journalist Garry Cook welcomed the audience to Worn in an upstairs room at The Stanley Arms in Lancaster Road, Preston saying: “This is going to be quite an experimental night for all of us.”
Members of the audience gave each other critical side-eyed glances – were these people present because they sold intimate secondhand clothing online or had they been drawn into the performance out of intrigue for the trend?
Promotional material released ahead of the show described what to expect of the evening.
It stated: “Worn is a unique, socially-aware show that will give you an insight into other people’s lives and force you to reflect on your own attitudes to sex, society and the British media.”
The show began with Garry spitting words of judgement onto the sellers and buyers who partake in the trend – ‘disgusting’, ‘shame’, ‘shocking’.
It was almost cringe-worthy in its damning nature but there was a point in Garry’s venting to come later.
The brilliance of the show is that there’s no need for Garry to ham anything up. He is droll and the laughs from the audience come when he just states as a matter of fact the various traits of the underworld trade in worn clothing.
It is the absurdity of the fetish which is getting the laughs.
Reading an account from one seller on eBay on how she found herself selling used garments, Garry relates: “I put my foot in the shoe to show the product and that’s when the strange requests came in.
“One [buyer] has just asked me for worn tights with all the trimmings then said he was going to give them to his mum as a birthday present.”
What do trimmings mean? It wasn’t clear but it’s probably not for publication in a family newspaper anyway.
As he slowly uncovers the secret world of selling used and dirty underwear on eBay Garry says: “I don’t know about you but I want to know more. Does this woman do normal things?
“There’s only one way to find out and that’s to ask.”
What he discovers is that yes – the women are normal. Maybe the sales they make on eBay are helping them fund activities or new clothes for their daughters, for example.
But while the requests often have a sexual nature they can also be downright odd – one eBay seller was asked for toenail clippings to come with the socks she was advertising.
Another seller was asked to meet him in Tesco and walk about without shoes on, all of which would be rewarded with money.
In his quest to find out more about what he calls the “fetish fulfillment business” Garry decides to go ahead and buy a pair of used tights himself.
It’s an amusing moment during the performance when he pick up a sword, lit up in gaudy colours, and uses it to brandish a pair of tights so that audience members could get a closer look.
There’s a big moment during the show where Garry points an accusing finger at the British media for the part it plays in dishing out judgement on what behaviour is constituted as shameful, but that will require a ticket – why spoil the twist?
In a final one-liner Garry closes his performance with the words: “Hello, I’m Garry Cook and I buy worn clothes on eBay.”
Behind him appears the legs of a man in bright orange trousers – the very same that Garry is wearing on stage.
His point is that in investigating the trend he has become less judgmental and more sympathetic to people who buy and sell used underwear on eBay. Why should it be perceived as disgusting or shameful?
But the disparity is that there’s nothing weird about buying trousers second hand so his climactic point, although well-meaning, is somewhat lost.
Discussing the performance afterwards Ann Hall, 52, from Kirkham said: “I’m fascinated by people’s private lives. It was a really good introduction into a secret world.
“I entirely clothe myself in clothes from eBay and charity shops to recycle them.”
Giving her thoughts on what she might change about the she added: “I would downplay the use of words like ‘disgusting’. I would be matter of fact about it because the trend speaks for itself.”
Megan Titley’s preview of Worn: Performance in Preston uncovers secret trade in used tights, sweaty socks and other secondhand intimate clothing