Stereotypes are terrible things – intellectually lazy, socially derivative and the last refuge of anyone who believes anything they read in the Daily Mail. But as a heterosexual bloke of over 40, I cannot be alone in caring absolutely nothing for fashion. “Oh Yes Indeedy” I hear from anyone who’s every seen me clothed* – if I wear anything costing over about twenty quid, it looks like I’ve nicked it. Coat hangers are more debonair than I when presented in a suit.
But this is normally not a problem because after thirty five years of dressing myself, it’s not exactly difficult to effect presentability at work and wantonly slobby at home. Outside of suits for the office, the remainder of – what I’ll charitably refer to as – my wardrobe is generally accessorised with edgy oil stains, custom rips, emulsion paint flashes and unidentified stains which would worry a toxicology lab.
My clothes tend to follow a well worn path from briefly pristine, through a period of uncared for use, before ascending to their true purpose of bike rags. The idea of chucking something away before it has broken down to original threads is diametrically opposed to my approach to upgrading shiny bits for my mountain bikes.
So all is good if not stylish until I was forced to embrace the fashion foolishness that is ‘Business Casual’. Stereotypes again – let me hear a “What the FUCK?” from anyone with a sense of what’s important. My approach was to go with jeans and wing it but Carol refused to send me out of the house in any of the motley collection of chain-ring scarred troons. So with her acting as personal shopper and me acting like a five year old, we embarked on a voyage of fashion discovery.
It soon became apparent that I am not able to pull off a fashionable pair of trousers. The problem begins when I can’t even pull on a pair of said trousers. Being configured for a difficult hybrid of dwarf and cyclist from the hips down, my thighs are too fat, my arse is to big and my legs too short to carry off anything not declaring themselves comfort fit.
Although you’d have to bloody well furtively carry them off under the gloom of night rather than actually presenting them for payment. Firstly because they look bloody ridiculous and secondly because they represent a wad of beer vouchers even I’d consider reasonably significant. Not that I’d ever get that far because I am the Howard Hughes of shopping for clothes.
Put me in a room of my peers and you have to dart me with a tranquilizer to shut me up. But I can get properly self conscious next to a pot plant when interacting with those who are fully trained in the art of pantaloon salesmanship. “Can I help you sir?” is instantly babelfished** into “H’mm 40, poor posture, leg length of similar dimensions to man stood in deep ditch, no real belly but what is going on with those thighs? It’s an experiment gone horribly wrong where some psycho generic engineer has grafted two milk bottles*** onto his arse. Still quite a decent sized unit to work with back there“
So while they gently guide me away from the glitzy marketing of pulling trousers, and on beyond the dusty shelves of slacks, 80’s chinos and dreadful trouseroons apparently hand woven from hemp, I can still hear the shushed hysteria of the other assistants whispering “Have you seen that old bloke? Where are his legs?“
Right here and striding from the shop clutching nothing other than a few remaining shards of dignity. Is it beyond the comprehension of the oh-so-cool designers than a normal bloke requires nothing more from a pair of trousers than to prevent him mooning in the street? He does not require tailoring which prevents circulation and stay presses his knob for all to see. Nor a crutch that hangs low enough to suggest a third leg or a colostomy bag. And at no point do studs, rips, patches, oddly located pockets or buttons ever enter his orbit of needs.
He just wants to feel appropriately and comfortably trousered without resorting to those pants so vaunted by our elderly American cousins. You know the ones which fasten just under the breastbone and speak of golf and upcoming death.
In desperation, I asked my personal shopper at what age beach shorts and mountain bike t-shirts become a bit combed-back ponytail embarrassing. The answer is 11 and apparently they also fail to pass muster in terms of suitability for the problem of business casual. The second point was firmly made before I even asked the question.
This argument went on for some time.
However you will – I’m sure – be relieved to hear I have secured sufficient trouserage collateral to spend the best part of next week in Barcelona. I fully intend to sneak in a pair of shorts and proudly display my stumpy legs to an entire convention of IT geeks. Let’s face it, most of them still looked like they have been dressed by their mum so I’m going to be a vision of sartorial elegance.
* There are a few who – having seen me rather more naked – would suggest you can count yourself bloody lucky.
** What do you mean you’ve never read HHGTTG. Stop wasting your time with this drivel and get over there this instant. And no, watching the film doesn’t count. Not even a little bit.
*** this joke only works if you’ve seen proper old glass bottles. Anyone in the prime of their life will know exactly what I’m talking about.