Warning – proof that I’m a wizened old fart alert!!
I was bumbling up the road today when it occurred to me that my trousers were at least two inches too baggy for fashion. There was nothing else for it, and I immediately poured petrol over my head and set fire to myself.
Luckily I live in England and the flames were doused by torrential rain before they’d so much as removed the lint from my jumper.
I was thus afforded the chance to consider my trousers in more depth – something I’ve long dreamed of doing. This garment I realised was about four years old. For a moment it seemed like that was very old indeed – and then I slapped myself awake (much to the alarm of the old-lady walking by, who released a very shrill ‘Ooh’ and clung even tighter to her wheelie-bag).
Many moons, several donkeys and a prolapse or two ago I was in a car with my then boss, a certifiable idiot who would drive three different businesses into the ground over the next five years. This man was a twat of the first order, who had that unbearable smugness of those born into money. He somehow managed to be inept at everything and still hideously arrogant, and I was often overcome with the urge to scream the truth in his face so loud that even his triple-reinforced ‘sense-averse’ brain protecting skull-fortress couldn’t keep it out.
Sadly there is no sound loud enough.
Anywho – as we drove along he remarked upon his new shirt, very probably because I had not done my duty by noticing it for him. “This is a Spurbly-Manfumf shirt,” he told me (it was over twenty years ago – just substitute a posh name you know, like Tarquin, Ponsenby-Smythe or Nigel). He was clearly proud, “it’ll last a lifetime,” he concluded. Then, utilising his pedigree insensitivity he went on to savage my habiliments, which were “Scabwear’s” own brand, my entire outfit costing about the same as one of his shoe-laces.
Despite the fact that it was he who paid me so badly, he failed, as so many of his kind do, to fully understand that some people do not have full-choice in the cost of their clothes, cars or houses.
Years later I did get the last laugh when my by then ex-boss sold the last of his inheritance and pissed it away in another failed enterprise because he was all opinion and no ears. But I was still dressed in Scabwear, and bought my food at Scabland, and drove a Scabia eX-Ma 1 point Oh-dear.
Back to the present.
The thing is, today it’s easier to wear ‘shabby-chic’, or to think, ha, I spend pennies on trousers so I don’t care if they fall apart. (which is different from tramps, who spend pennies IN trousers which is why they fall apart!) Many of us do (spend ON trousers that is), which is why Peacocks and Primark (substitute regionally appropriate bargain store here) do so well. But while it seems to save us money it actually costs us financially and in many other ways.
Fashion changes so quickly now that you can easily find yourself unable to leave a shop. By the time you’ve run your new hoodie through the till, it’s last minutes fashion, and you have to go back to the racks where a sweating shop-worker is sprinting between the delivery bay and the hangers, rushing away last-hour’s range and bringing in the new, new, ever-so honestly hot-off-the-ironing-board, only just left the blistered fingers of a terribly underpaid third-world child, oh Christos it’s so shiny new collection.
In a few years people will be going out draped head to foot with iPads showing rapidly changing outfits, hooked in to pay-by-the-minute ‘fashion-streaming’ services.
This costs us not only in the deterioration of clothing quality but in the fact of having to buy clothes so quickly to ‘keep up’. While there is some freedom to ‘be yourself’ and ignore fashion, if you happen to hold a job you have to be presentable. Clients will judge you if your wearing last year’s suit, as will your boss. If your a young person then not keeping up can be humiliating and lonely. Yes this is wrong, but it’s still true.
It may seem that it’s okay, because even charity-shop chic is very ‘in’, and they’re really cheap. However, it is reaching the point where it isn’t true any more. What ends up in charity shops is too out-of-date, and the purview of old-men who don’t care what trousers they wear because they probably will spend pennies IN them at some point! Charity shop clothes that are in fashion now cost close to the price of normal retail shops.
Charity shopping is (so my wife tells me) easier for women, because they can mix and match styles, rescue a dress by making it a skirt, wear something under or over, add a scarf etc. For men, a crap shirt is a crap shirt and adding a pink scarf will only challenge the ability for your boss to accommodate flexualities (flexible sexualities- cool eh? just made that up!).
Besides, for suits and smart clothes for work the charity shop is rarely a viable option. So we end up changing wardrobes like men change underpants (sometimes twice in one year.)
This costs us not only in buying clothes, but in manufacturing materials, transporting, retailing and then dumping them. All the many ‘unseen’ costs to resources of our obsession with what rags we use as badges.
Not only this, but it’s like we’re all caught in a game where the winner is the retailer, who must be laughing at us until their colon bursts.
Shops who might sell one outfit a year per person can now sell two, or three, or four. If it doesn’t go out of fashion it’ll fall apart.
Perhaps the greatest irony in all of this is that if we choose to be fashionable we are choosing our clothes to express freedom – freedom of choice, freedom of expression, a statement of who we are, an assertion of our difference from the crowd, our individuality. Yet by being part of the game we are homogenising ourselves.
Far from individuals we are merely a flock, buying the bullshit which tells us what is fashionable and acceptable to wear. We now believe that our enslavement to the rhetoric of fashion IS ACTUALLY FREEDOM – we have been made happy in our bondage to fashion.
A real statement of individuality would be for us all to make our own outfit from hessian sacks and bin-liners and refuse to wear anything else for a week. Although if we all did it… oh bugger…
So I’m keeping my trousers – and I’ll try really hard not to spend a penny in them.