Something has gone wrong with the algorithms on Facebook… it keeps pointing me to websites for the latest trend in menswear, despite my never having been a dedicated follower of fashion.
I am more a disinterested casual observer.
That said, over the decades I have flirted with the “must have” looks of the day, but never really pulled it off beyond having a snake-belt in my school colours in primary five.
I think I first became aware of fashion as a means of self-preservation. Even as a callow youth, I knew anyone wearing white skinners, Docs, a Crombie coat and carrying an umbrella was to be avoided on the grounds they were likely to be vicious psychopaths. Why else would you style yourself on the Droogs from A Clockwork Orange?
Urban myth has it that some went as far as to steal their sisters’ false eyelashes. Just the one, though.
Skinhead chic was more tribalism than fashion. But while they were busy rolling up their straight-leg jeans, all the better to display their DMs, the rest of 70s society was showing a bit of flair with flares.
As a teenager in the decade that taste forgot, I don’t think I had a single pair of breeks that weren’t flared, or bell bottoms, or baggies. Even the brown corduroy suit I was forced to wear to my cousin’s wedding had a flare in it. But then, so did the groom’s beige three-piece suit. The width of his trouser legs was matched only by the breadth of his mustard kipper tie.
Now, the thing about flares is what you wore on your feet. Say hello to platform shoes, which in an instant made the median height of the population about six inches higher. What a time to be alive, if you were Ronnie Corbett. Not so good if you were irredeemably clumsy. Hospitals were full of folk with twisted ankles who didn’t get the knack of stepping up kerbs on stilts. And, yes, I had a pair. Everyone did. At least mine didn’t have glitter or rainbows on them. What were we thinking of?
I also had a very brief flirtation with brothel creepers, those thick-soled creations that came back into fashion for a while in the 70s. I remember showing them off to a mate, who asked what the soles were. I said: “Crepe”, he said: “No need to be posh about it”. He had a point.
Said creepers were a flash-in-the-pan, quickly overtaken by that great icon of 70s into 80s footwear – the cowboy boot.
Everyone had a pair, and if you didn’t you were a saddo. Because you really needed to be able to ride the range when you were catching the number one bus from your housing scheme into town. And this was in the days before line dancing became a thing.
So among the earliest purchases of my first wages as a trainee reporter was a pair of brown, not quite pointed, cowboy boots. I remember little about them, other than they left exactly the same circular mark on your legs as a pair of wellies. But they cost a lot more for the privilege.
While I was being man about town with my disposable income (living at home while pulling down a wage… if only I had known I would never have it so good again) my next must-have purchase can be blamed on Ultravox.
Ah, Vienna… trench coats were back. Although, to be fair, Midge Ure wasn’t wearing the wide-lapelled, huge buttoned one made from brown corduroy that I bought. That cousin’s wedding clearly had an effect on me. Looking back, it was the fashion faux pas from hell, but I thought I was Archie at the time.
I still remember going out on jobs thinking I looked like a 1930s news hound in my swishy coat, all that was missing was the Trilby hat with the “Press” card in it. Folk I interviewed must have wondered why my mum was still dressing me.
Fortunately, as the 80s pressed on, I avoided the worst excesses of the fashion era. Sure, I had red braces for a while, but at least I never wore them with a belt. Oh, and waistcoats too. Lots of them. Never ever buttoned up. Not a look I miss.
Thankfully, I settled back into the sort of fashion sense that has got me by for decades. Jacket and shirt for work and nice nights out, other than that, jeans and t-shirt. And I really didn’t care less if it was a polo player or a crocodile on the front, just so long as it was comfy. I became a fan of George.
In the past few years, I have upped my game slightly. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still jeans and t-shirts – usually one from a beer festival – with a hoody thrown over for that touch of je ne sais quoi. That’s what I’m wearing as I write these words (the plus side of home working).
But I’ve acquired a couple of Tweed jackets and waistcoats (always buttoned up these days) for more dressy up social affairs or being out on the town. Sometimes there can even be a cheeky wee bow tie in the mix to add that dash of old school glamour… and then someone pointed out I looked like an extra from Peaky Blinders. Which is impossible. I don’t have the cheekbones for it.
Still, I’ve reached an age where fashion is a thing for bairns. So long as I’m comfortable in what I’m wearing, I’m good with that. Although it would be cool if snake-belts made a comeback.