Thinking about this today, as I was getting dressed in some creased shorts, a tee-shirt, and a fleece top.
Hard to believe now, but there was a time when I was concerned about being ‘fashionable’. During my teenage years, in the 1960s, fashion was all. It changed from month to month, and god forbid you should appear in something ‘old-fashioned’, when you met up with your friends. Trends changed constantly. One week, high neck shirt collars called ‘giraffe collars’ would be all the rage. As soon as you could afford to buy at least one of those, it had changed to ‘pin-through’ collars, and your contemporaries would scorn you for turning up in a ‘high-neck’.
Then there were leather coats. The cost of one of those mid-length, or full-length overcoats might exceed a week’s salary for one of your parents. By the time you had cajoled one of them to help you buy one, it would undoubtedly be ‘last week’s news’, and you were almost ashamed to be seen in it. Having a Saturday job, and school holiday jobs didn’t help. Armed with the money from working at those, you rarely knew what to buy, to stay ‘on trend’. The ‘Mods’ had a lot to answer for, at least where I was brought up.
I recall a craze for ‘cycling’ tops, as worn by Tour De France riders like Eddy Merckx. By the time I saved up for one, which looked awful on me anyway, my friends were smiling at me turning up in something that was so ‘last month’. Then Parkas became the rage, driven by the people who wore them when riding scooters, like Lambrettas, or Vespas. By the time I had saved up enough to buy one, it was high summer, and I dutifully turned up in it, sweltering in the heavy coat during summer heat.
Suits then became all the rage. Italian mohair, two-tone Tonik, and three piece, including waistcoats. If you were a ‘Soul Boy’, they were de rigeur, and you wouldn’t dare show up to a club or party without one. That was my fashion heyday, helped by the fact that my Dad had various ‘contacts’, so could supply suit lengths of material, easily made up by tailors of his acquaintance. Between my own savings, and some parental contributions, I soon had a nice selection of up to five suits, in different colours or shades. Other ‘contacts’ provided the shoes. Only the best, from Church, or Loake, at a fraction of the retail price. Back then in London. everything seemed to ‘fall off the back of a lorry’, and the world was our oyster, at maybe 20% of the retail price.
Between the ages of 15-19, I finally struck fashion gold. I was ahead of the game, and even setting the trend. Suits were definitely my thing, and I could finally get better ones than almost anyone else I knew. I was happy at last. No longer trying to catch up, but easily out in front. By the time I was 25, and getting married, I had stopped worrying about it. As long as I had a reasonable wedding suit, and something to wear to a restaurant, or dinner party, I was happy enough. Life became concerned with bills and mortgages, and fashion took a back seat, at a relatively early age.
Here I am now, retired, and aged 66. Fashion could not be further from my mind. I don’t even own a suit any longer, though I should get one. After all, I have a lot of funerals to attend these days. My only concern now is comfort. Warm fleeces for the winter, and a selection of heavy coats. I am still wearing shirts and tops bought as long ago as 1989, and couldn’t care less. During the so-called ‘summer months’, I am in shorts from March to October, and don’t even need to wear socks. I no longer even know, nor care, what is considered to be ‘fashionable’, and I don’t even own a pair of denim jeans.
It is freedom, pure and simple. You will get there too. One day.