Like most males of my age, I’m an uncomfortable clothes shopper. The very thought of leaving the warm nucleus of my flat for a brutal, strip-lit warehouse touting whichever vulgar garment happens to be fashionable right now is so appalling that I tend to hang onto the same tatty old shite attempting to cover my nakedness for one more glorious season rather than face the alternative. I’m not proud of it, far from it, but that’s the truth. And as every summer leaves what autumn finds, I have learned to recognise that 50/50 mix of pity and disgust buried deep beneath the permafrost of those I hold dearest. They try to disguise it, bless ‘em, but I know it’s there. And it hurts because I know they know I only have two sartorial settings: Dress to Impress, and Dress Down Weekday.
Take, for instance, my Bolongaro Trevor ‘God Save the King’ tee-shirt with its attendant heraldic symbols, furry-faced monarchs in period ellipse frames and mottled seriffed type. This fits neatly into the former category and gets outed whenever I need to dazzle ‘em. About twice a decade. Anyone who witnessed the annihilation of popular song performed by my brother and I at the Idle Hour last year may have spotted it, and my fervent prayer was that you’d be so impressed by the packaging, a closer inspection of the contents would have been unnecessary. And while we’re on the subject, could someone have a word with Nibs about that Union Jack jacket? We all know it’s a magnificent beast but there’s a fine line between Mo Farah and Jimmy Savile. As well he knows.
In the latter corner lies my John Lewis knee-length overcoat. This loyal lovely has been doing the rounds since the Boer War and was dyed black in 1926 in order to disguise the blood of fallen suffragettes and rotting stitches stolen from a roadside hospital in Ypres. If it were a tree it would be a Douglas Fir: Solid, stalwart, stoic. A bit like Jeremy Clarkson. The inside pockets, however, have frayed beyond repair (although this does have the advantage of easy access to my person for those essential ‘on the road’ adjustments).
Also worth mentioning are the unmentionables. Yes, it’s those grey Christmas 2003 boulder holders I never thought would last out the year, but like the Council Tax and Tesco Metro have managed to survive despite multilateral distain. Admittedly there’s not much to fall in love with here, but as the years have gone by they have formed an impressive crust on the inside elastic which has aided and abetted adhesion to the waistline. Sorry, ladies, he’s taken.
They say charity begins at home. And I have a bag marked the same which will never, ever see a shop marked the same. Because there’s always a couple more years left in there. At least a couple.