Tag Archives: fashion

Pretensions of mulletry

On a mid-October morning in 1957, a murderous gangster named Albert Anastasia was assassinated in the barber shop of the Park Sheraton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. Two men, faces covered by scarves, rushed in and fired round after round into one of the mafia’s most feared killers, who thrashed about vainly clinging to life before expiring in an ever-expanding pool of blood and mess on the barber shop floor.

It was a lucky escape for Anastasia. Had he lived, he might have had to have his hair cut.

For some people it’s the dentist poking metal into holes that are best left unpoked, for others it’s the proctologist doing similar at the other and of the alimentary canal, but for me there is no experience on this Earth that horrifies me more than having to get my hair cut. It’s not fear in the traditional sense – there’s nothing inherently worrying about hair being shortened – but putting control over how stupid I look for the next few weeks into the hands of a random, frequently Italian man is an action I find intensely distressing.

My head looks fairly idiotic at the best of times as certain people close to me never cease to remind me. I still have the same barnet I settled on at about 16 years old, having realised attempting to emulate the extraordinary fringe of Jimbob from Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine left me with a pair of Olympic-sized ski jump ramps either side of a pasty yet spotty face.

But, stupid as it looks, I’m used to it. And a few weeks after getting my ears lowered it settles into the type of mop people expect to see on me, and looking in the mirror leaves me with a warm sense of apathy. All I ever want is to blend in, to go unnoticed.

But it never stops fucking growing does it? The front starts expanding in all directions like an ash cloud above Stromboli, the top and sides lift until I look like Bet from Coronation Street and the back adopts pretensions of mulletry. In no time at all I look like a bellend and I can hear the barber tapping comb against scissors in delighted anticipation of the battle to come.

Here’s how it plays out: he asks me what I want, and I say something like “Just a trim thanks”, possibly adding “it’s got a bit big” to make the point I don’t want him just waving the weaponry at it and demanding I line his palm. He sets about the back; fine, don’t care, can’t see it. Then he starts on the sides.

It’s at about this point the barber forgets what I asked him and skips off down a path of his own choosing. They always know best, what’ll look great on you, exactly where you’ve been going wrong all these years. He hacks too much off one side because he doesn’t want to do it gradually to see how it looks; time is money after all. He then has to do the same to the other side because, at least in the places I go, it’s tricky to glue or sew an inch and a half of hair back into place having just scythed it from the head of a terrified man.

The top then comes into play, and this is where he suddenly remembers what I asked for. Why remember that now for Christ’s sake? ‘Just a trim’, so he takes a tiny bit off the top and front and leaves me with some kind of tower effect on my head. Welcome to a period of cowering in front of the mirror attempting to rearrange what will, no matter what you do, look like two scoops of ice cream in a little cardboard tub.

The worst thing about all this is, by the time you realise he’s gone way too far, it’s far too bloody late to do anything about it. So nowadays I don’t even look in the mirror as he does it, I just sit there and take it, let him do as he pleases. He’s going to decide what’s best for me anyway – I might as well just experience the final horror without the preceding, increasing despair. Those creepy, longer scares in horror films are always more unnerving than “Oh look she’s opened the bathroom cabinet – I wonder if there’ll be a cleaver-wielding maniac behind her when she shuts it”.

Not that the ordeal is over when the scissors are put away, far from it. There’s still the hairdryer. You saw how I came in, didn’t you mate? And my ‘trim’ request suggests I just want a shorter version of what I came in with, right? Please don’t let that stop you blasting hot air upwards and to the side on the highest setting available to ensure I leave the place with a lopsided wall of hair that looks like I’ve been dragged sideways along an electric fence during a hurricane while channeling the spirit of Jedward.

A few years ago I decided, outrageous as it is, to do it myself. The benefit of this is you can just hack off a bit that looks stupid, roughly do the other side the same, and no-one really notices; no ‘hair cuuuut’ in a playground voice from anyone.

I didn’t tell anyone I was committing this fashion heresy, of course, but it became a little tricky to hide when overconfidence while drunk got the better of me and I left home one day with a small bald patch above an ear that not even Sweeney Todd would have allowed out the door. People noticed. I was rumbled.

So I started going to the barber’s again. And after the very next ‘proper’ haircut I heard “Have you been cutting your own hair again?” My triumph at declaring that no, it’s just that barbers are all bastards was rather tempered by the knowledge that I’m doomed to look like a tit no matter what I do.

Shave it all off is the answer, but if I was going to do that it would have happened by now. Fear of the unknown is worse than fear of the knowable piss-ripping I’ll endure after every visit to one of these arseholes with Edward Scissorhands on a loop in their heads. Instead I will continue to sit grimly in the big leathery chair, nodding at the mirror held behind my head as though there’s a single thing I can do to change what it shows me, while begging for masked gunmen to run in and put an end to the nightmare. And if they happen to take out the barber while they’re at it you can thank me in the afterlife.

Slimmer fit, shorter jacket, narrower trousers

The world is a fucking serious place, there’s little point denying it. Murder, hatred, rage and suffering on an unimaginable scale suggest we should all walk around with serious faces all day long and take no pleasure in anything. That seems foolish, which is why when someone explains to me that they don’t think the time is right to complain about life’s irritating trivia on this site because of ‘what’s happening in Gaza’, I feel the urge to shake into them that it doesn’t seem to stop them watching facile comedy on TV and moaning in the pub about their boss like he’s one step down from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Life has to go on, like always.

Like always, however, there’s an exception. There’s a particular aspect of culture that merely needs to be mentioned in passing for me to scream at the top of my lungs that we need to re-evaluate everything we hold dear, to realign humanity so that passing aliens won’t simply wipe our planet with a huge tissue to get rid of us like a shit-stain.

Here’s Charles McKenna, ‘buying director at menswear chain Slaters’, to explain more.

“Generally, men are wearing colour again. Last year, various shades of grey became very popular. This year, the cloth mills introduced blue in various shades, royal blue being extremely popular. The key point is these suits have to be in a modern shape: slimmer fit, shorter jacket, narrower trousers and teamed with tan shoes.”

Anyone who has met me knows I’m unlikely to be the target audience for the next Dolce & Gabbana double-page spread featuring some slicked-back tit with an implausibly big nose and no fucking socks. My fashion sense is nil. I’ve spent nearly 20 years dressed in jeans, black trainers, a logo-free sweatshirt in a dull colour, and a black hoodie. My wardrobe is neither varied nor extensive. Beyond a vague attempt to prevent derision I do not give, and have not ever given, a fuck about how I look. And I fucking hate people who do.

Therefore, Charles McKenna, ‘buying director at menswear chain Slaters’, epitomises everything I hate about the unspeakable vanity of humanity: clothes, shoes, bags, hats, jewellery, watches, glasses, ‘accessories’ (what?) and everything else people drape over themselves in a woeful attempt to stand out. Their inability to use words and gestures to make themselves unique is matched only by the stunning arrogance that they believe their unparalleled creativity in choosing an outfit will easily be enough to wow the crowds of people vomiting in Yates’s on Reading high street at way past midnight.

This has spawned an extraordinary industry of ‘luxury’ fashion, of which Mr McKenna is just one of many princes. Even when you think you’ve come up with a particular concoction of clothing that might somehow make you feel better about your tattered life, you’ll be told that your clean black suit needs to have a ‘slimmer fit, shorter jacket, narrower trousers’, and if you dare not to ‘team’ it with a pair of tan Paul Smith’s, £229.49 (was £254.99) from Jules B, well God fucking help you because you’re one step from trampdom.

It’s not aimed at everyone, I know that. Most people just try to get by looking normal, and doll themselves up from time to time so they don’t look too daft when others do the same. Just don’t stand out, that’s our motto.

But that doesn’t stop me being sickened by what it represents: too much money than some people know what to do with. Rightly or wrongly I view people in that category as a great part of the reason the world’s so fucking wrecked at the moment. And not just that, it also does bad things to good people. I once knew a girl who spent £600 on a coat, only to complain the following month she barely had enough money to feed the dog.

Here is a passage from the news story that quoted Charles McKenna:

Tony Glenville, creative director at the London College of Fashion, said that even if men were not always aware of fashion, they were taking in peripherally what other men were wearing on the red carpet and at weddings. “Black is still important in fashion terms,” he said, “but instead of being the only colour, it’s taking its place in the colour group.”

With the maximum disrespect to Tony – the type of disrespect I’d ordinarily reserve for a man I’ve just met in the pub with a white, thinly striped, open-necked shirt and beige jacket, talking about rugby – I wonder if he’s ever caught himself mid-sentence and started to weep uncontrollably at the emptiness of his life. If he hasn’t, a couple more fashion units (‘years’) are all he can expect before his picture is seen on the news while Clive Myrie grimly relays the words “before turning the gun on himself”.

Because filling your life with vacuousness like this is like swallowing air instead of food: you might not feel like eating for a while but you’re no less empty. Life doesn’t have to be serious all the time, and most days if you don’t laugh you’ll cry. But the braindead superficiality of this aspect of our lives makes us look like people who laugh delightedly at the wrapping paper of the presents around the tree without comprehending that the gifts inside are the reason we have to spend another fucking Christmas at Grandma’s in the first place.