Fashion, or the lack of it

Anyone who’s ever met me will know I am no fashionable bloke. I’m perpetually envious of people who are, though; not (I hasten to add) those wearing the latest catwalk creations, but people who manage to make themselves look good in pretty much whatever they’re wearing. I’d love, for example, a full-length leather coat. Because, in my head, I’d look like Neo. Of course, I wouldn’t. I’d look like a second-hand car dealer, or possibly like Colonel Von Strohm after raiding Herr Flick’s wardrobe. Similarly, I admire t-shirts; things like the ones at T-Shirt Hell (particularly the clown and coffee ones), and the way people I know can just look pretty cool in t-shirts—Jono would count here if it wasn’t for the fact that all his t-shirts are metal. Me, I don’t wear t-shirts. I wear shirts, almost all the time. White cotton button-down Oxford shirts to work, always, and casual shirts at home. Now, admittedly, that’s at least slightly because the top pocket gives me somewhere to put my cigarettes, but that’s not the point. The very word “casual” is the giveaway here. It’s a word to describe things out of catalogues. Clothes from C&A. Stuff worn to the office party by the boss; you know those tight jeans with the ironed-in crease down the front? That sort of thing. In fact, the only cool item of clothing I own is my hat and even then I’m the only person who likes it. (On the other hand, I don’t care, because I like it.) I was walking out of work the other day—dark night, glass doors—and caught a glimpse of myself, reflected. I looked like nothing more than G. K. Chesterton, or more accurately like Fiddler’s Green in his Chesterton persona, as Neil Gaiman would tell you. Honestly, all I needed was a shooting stick. Now, Chesterton was a wonderful man; a gourmet and gourmand, wit and raconteur, wise and childlike and writer of and subject of stories and anecdotes to make anyone laugh, and then think a bit. But he was in no way Adonis. He was proud of that—he was once delighted to be introduced as “Mr. Chesterton, who has been looking round in America”—but then he was a successful author and broadcaster, and I’m not.
I’m unclear whether any of this matters. I mean, some people just look good in clothes. No, wait—that, er, came out wrong. Some people make clothes look good on them; they could wear sackcloth and carry it off well. Me, on the other hand; I could make a Savile Row suit look like those rubbish bags that Toto Coelo used to wear. And I like suits; I had a fascinating conversation with a guy at work once in the pub about different types of suits and how they sit on you and so on. He wears a watch chain and manages to get away with it, and he’s about 24. Perfect example. So, my thought is: if you have to try, then you’ve already lost; you’re the boss at the office party in his ironed jeans. So my policy is generally to just lie down and die, to abandon all thoughts of the subject. I mean, I have some cool clothes—what I think are cool clothes, anyway. The hat. My summer jacket, which I can’t wear yet because the weather’s too cold. My trenchcoat. My ordinary coat, although it’s now battered—the hat looks better the more battered it gets, but the coat is wool, and does not. Much more Michael Douglas than Crocodile Dundee, sadly, and Michael Douglas clothing looks good because it’s expensive and in pristine nick, because he throws it away when it looks a bit worn. (“Your shoes cost a thousand dollars?” “That one did.“) I, however, have the tastes and don’t have the budget for that sort of thing. So, I can go for expensive but infrequently-bought and therefore rather foxed and cheap-looking stuff, or trendy stuff that doesn’t fit properly because I’m not a 19-year-old beach bum, or David Brent clothing. Or something I haven’t thought of. Suggestions welcome.

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