Tag Archives: clothes

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.

An attempt to be a birthday cake

I don’t have a problem with fun, I really quite enjoy fun. But just as I am void of desire to punctuate that statement with a dreaded exclamation mark or a giant smiley face, I don’t feel the need to literally dress fun up.

I’m rather despondent in the face of forced and contrived ‘fun’. You know – community fairs, team bonding experiences, party games, fancy dress.

Fancy. Dress. That is where my main contention lies. Obviously there have been moments in life when I’ve fully embraced and actually enjoyed it, but that has been on my terms, decided at my own leisure, created with my own thoughts and creative ability. Not thrust upon me.

When this fun becomes ‘fun’, it’s usually as a result of some type of enforced wearing of a party hat or novelty devil horns. The quotation marks around ‘fun’ come to quite literally represent these devil horns. The ring leader of this enforced fun, thrusting a pair of devil horns onto your head in an attempt to demonstrate ‘naughtiness’, because ‘naughtiness’ is fun.

No. No it is not.

And do you know what else isn’t fun? When your invite to a birthday/hen/stag/party event comes with a command that everyone must dress in the exact same fancy dress attire.

Ever since I lost a fancy dress competition to a bunch of grapes, whilst I was stood on stage inside a cardboard box in an attempt to be a birthday cake, any fancy dress has been tainted with a tinge of trauma.

Because how could I not win that competition? We were at a high street’s 100th birthday party – why would a bunch of grapes win instead of a birthday cake? It didn’t make sense, and it still doesn’t make sense. And because that certainty wasn’t certain enough, I will now instantly recoil in horror at the very mention of the awful words ‘fancy dress’, because whatever I attempt will not be good enough.

Maybe you’d think that if we’re all forced to dress in the same outfit then there’s no competition. We’re all in the same boat, or the same costume box – strength in numbers, united we stand, or something. Nope, that doesn’t make it better. It brings to the surface the horrific memories of the group fancy dress moments that defined my childhood. Because when I wasn’t strutting across a stage in a cardboard box, I could be found in a homeless man’s second favourite belonging – The Bin Bag.

Along with my two sisters, once a year, I’d knock on strangers’ doors dressed in refuse chic. All three of us, wandering the neighbourhood in bin bags. Black bin bags. This was Halloween trick or treating for countless years – the bin bags, a bit of rope, a rubber nose and a plastic hat, made up the costumes for us trio of witches.
And it was a conflicting time for us, this childhood relationship with bin bags – because they were also brought out on Christmas day to contain our presents. Why is Santa using our Halloween costumes for our presents? What is all that rubbish doing in my Halloween costume? Why are you dressed as a bin, dear child?

As the years went on, my fancy dress attempts became more elaborate and desperate – I was soon led by creative intuition and began to raid charity shops for inspiration (via the bin bags left outside containing donations, of course). Little Sharon had invited me to her 10th birthday party and I had never visited a house so grand. The birthday party was fancy dress, and of course I deemed it appropriate to visit the local charity shop to purchase a tight PVC skirt, lacy black top, black ankle boots and to spray my hair green. No, I hadn’t shunned the bin bags to transform myself into a saucy witch of the night, I was a PUNK. As a 10-year-old child, a reclusive, nose-bleeding, bed-wetting, cat poem-writing 10-year-old child, I was dressed as a ‘punk’.

So here we are many years and fancy dress attempts later, on the verge of a nosebleed at the stress and outrage that I’ve been invited to an event where a costume has been enforced upon me. You could argue, after reading the narrative of a snippet of my childhood fancy dress horrors, that an enforced costume is a blessing in actual disguise, because surely there won’t be a group enforcement of the bin bag, and what could be worse than that?

I’ll tell you what can be worse than that – the enforcement of bulk-bought costumes. By all means, announce the theme and announce that it would be nice if we all dressed as a similar collection of characters. But don’t announce that you’ve got your hands on a pile of BULK BOUGHT costumes. A job lot. Grab ‘em while they’re hot, girls. All this material for one paaaand.

Because why, why, why, why is it necessary to extinguish the slightest glimmer of fun that does exist in fancy dress, that is the creation of your own disastrous masterpiece, by dictating that we must all wear the exact same garment? Purchased from an online industrial warehouse of ‘FUN’, and no doubt stitched in a Bangladesh sweatshop, wherein which poor building regulations and health and safety standards caused it to come crashing down, killing 256 girls and maiming another 167. Because buildings cannot be held up by ‘FUN’ alone, you know.

For the sake of human rights, and before the UN gets involved, please reconsider inflicting this upon us. For now, I shall dig out my old bin bag to become the apparent Anti-’Fun’ Witch that you probably now consider me to be.

We can pencil moustaches on

A few days ago I had cause to email the following sentence to an acquaintance:

“I would rather be bent over by Rolf while burning myself alive than ever get involved in any kind of fancy dress.“

I’ve managed to reach 37 years old without ever having to wear fancy dress. As far as I know I never wore fancy dress as a child – not so much as a spaceman costume to Richard Knightley’s ill-fated 7th birthday party or a white sheet on Halloween.

It staggers me that grown adults feel the urge to dress up like patients on day release from the local IQ-deficiency ward. If someone could explain to me the fascination with making oneself out to be a cowboy or a centurion or fucking Cleopatra, or some similarly tragic character from times we’ve long moved on from for the good of the race, I could perhaps understand why I’m now being asked to dress like a fucking Frenchman for the stag weekend of a 38-year-old man.

On a Friday night, in fucking Newcastle no less. I’ll just start punching myself now, save the locals the bother.

Clearly there’s something in the make-up of specific cretins that demands people pay them attention. Personally, my imagination works perfectly well without me having to actually become Batman or a Power Ranger. I can well imagine what it’s like to be shot by a Canadian hunter without having to dress up like a grizzly bear. No, I will not wear that Hawaiian skirt and do a little twirl for you just because GO ON IT’S A LAUGH.

It’s parenthood, mostly, I know that – parents who get little or no attention from anyone because their children have become everyone’s entire life consider one day a year dressing up like a fucking vicar to be their quite literally God-given right.

But those of us without the need to be pointed and stared at, then laughed at and kicked shitless in turn, shouldn’t have to be roped into such an appalling parade of childishness when trying to celebrate the end of a man’s freedom in Newcastle on a fucking Friday night. Some of us want to dress normally and get alcoholically strengthened so there’s at least a slim chance of surviving the first round with the half-naked nutter who spills our pint and then demands we buy him one for unwittingly dripping it down his effortlessly sweating beer-gut.

The groom in question is half French, which is what makes the whole thing so thoroughly hilarious. Not for the groom, obviously, who has already threatened to leave the moment anyone produces tying-up material to go with their dressing-up material. Last year on a stag weekend in Dublin, another poor bastard spent the entire day dressed as a leprechaun, only to be told his evening’s endurance involved dressing up like a female leprechaun. With two simple words – ‘Fuck that’ – he sat and remained implacable. He will forever be my hero, perhaps more than the best man, who decided to wear the outfit in the groom’s place to the bewilderment of many a congratulatory Dubliner. “Someone’s got to wear it”, he said. Do they though?

This debacle has so far cost me £20 as I’ve had to change my train to Newcastle to a later one, to avoid three hours of ‘oh go on you have to join in go on’ from friends of friends I see once every six months. I’ll likely have to find a way to fuck off somewhere that night with whoever else refuses at the first, and if it ends up just me so be it. It might sound out of order but it’s not as out of order as making me dress like a comedy Gaul in fucking Newcastle on a fucking Friday night. I already have to wear your stupid ‘shirt and shoes’ combination on the Saturday, that special outfit that gets people into places in the extremities of the UK where they’ve yet to establish that what you wear doesn’t relate to how likely you are to smash the place up come 3am.

There’s an episode of Seinfeld where he winds up having to wear a puffy, piratical shirt on live TV, and he’d really rather not. His “But I don’t wanna be a pirate” is one of the funniest lines of the entire show. I feel his pain like a blade to the calcaneal.

And whatever happened to the word ‘fancy’? Didn’t that used to mean posh, or refined in some way, as opposed to ‘like a cunt’?

I received a reply to the email.

“Right chaps, we’re gonna go with the French man theme for the Friday night. If we all get navy or black stripey tops and beret, we can pencil moustaches on (or you can grow your own Dan!) Apologies to Chris who would rather have intimate relations with Rolf than dress up, but we’ve got to do it.”

But I don’t wanna be a pirate.