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Already entering dangerous territory and unchartered waters, I would like to start this article with a caveat that I haven’t the faintest idea what I am talking about. Realistically the same could be said about all my articles, so here goes…

A while ago, I went to meet a friend for a drink. As I was coming from the City and they worked in Old Street, I agreed that we should try somewhere in between, so a post-work rendez-vous at The Book Club was arranged.

Upon arrival, I was told that I was not allowed in on account of the fact that I was wearing a suit. Not even a tie. Just a suit.

Now, I appreciate that this is probably some arty hipster getting his perceived ‘own back on the man’ for not letting him into somewhere because he was too scruffy… But seriously? An enforced dress-down policy?

There is a reason why people dress smartly. It looks better, it is more impressive. It’s not like you’d show up to meet your girlfriend’s parents for the first time wearing a wife-beater and tracksuit bottoms, is it? So, in essence, this place is not letting people in because they look too smart, too good and (irony of all ironies considering this is Shoreditch…) like they’re trying too hard.

I did eventually get in (on the proviso that I removed my jacket, naturally) after arguing that my carrying a book was in fitting with the ethos of the place, but it got me thinking about the importance we place on fashion.

The choice of clothes we wear is an interesting point of observation. Since the dawn of man, we have sought to conceal ourselves. As evolutionary steps go, the decision to wear clothes is right up there with the invention of fire. The PG Tips monkey is probably the only animal that has followed suit and mastered the art of clothing. He did also live in a house, which was impressive, even if his piano kept getting stuck on the staircase. 

Fashions are always changing. Never as profoundly and bizarrely as we are led to believe by those in the industry (is anyone going to break it to Karl Lagerfeld that wearing a 15ft high collar makes you look like a deranged, paedophilic Dracula?), but you can date an era as easily by its garments as its architecture. And each era in hindsight looks so utterly risible.

We howl with laughter watching repeats of Bullseye on Challenge TV at the tacky and colourful shellsuits worn by the contestants, yet at the time (up to a point) you could have walked down the street sporting one and not expected a second glance. It seems so strange that we accept these horrendous things just because they’re everywhere.

It’s not like old cars, for example, are laughably hideous. The basic models of old hatchbacks just look less sophisticated versions of today’s incarnations, while the great cars of their day only increase in beauty with age. The same cannot be said with clothes… So I took it upon myself to take a step back from the present and try to work out what the future’s “What on EARTH were they thinking wearing that in 2012?” moments are going to be…

Firstly, I think it would be impossible to avoid the most hideous thing in current existence. I don’t even know what they’re called, but here is a picture of one:

What the hell is it??? It’s like the bastard love-child of a T-shirt, a button-up fly and a David Blunkett watercolour. It’s like the sort of dubious people who traditionally wore v-neck t-shirts suddenly thought that they didn’t look like enough of a tosser and decided to up the ante. If you really want to pull off “the look” wearing one of these, I think you’re supposed to undo all the buttons. That’s the method I find most offensive, which probably means it’s the coolest.

But hold on a minute, don’t go thinking that all your top buttons are going to be left redundant. There’s a worrying trend, pioneered by the likes of Olly Murs (why is he still famous?), for people to wander around with their shirts buttoned all the way up. Quite why you’d want to put yourself through the neck-squeezing discomfort to achieve the result of looking like Dr Evil, I will never know. But I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation. Until I receive said rationale though, I will continue to approach offenders and politely inform them that their tie has fallen off.

Next layer up and, as modelled below, the thinking man’s button-t-shirt-monstrosity should perch under one of these delightful, shiny puffer gilets. 

Do they make orange ones too, in case you wish to be recycled?

Do they make orange ones too, in case you wish to be recycled?

Now the strangest thing about these over-garments is that they are plentiful in places like Italy, who traditionally pride themselves on their sartorial elegance. I mean this is essentially a zip-up bin liner. I’m not entirely sure why the home of Versace, Armani and Gucci have fallen for a shiny version of something that looked absurd ten years ago when modelled by numerous “Kings Road yahs”… And J from 5ive.

But…Then again… It is shiny. Ooooooh. Shiny. Me want one…

Finally, in this particular dissection of current trends, you have to think what will cover your dignity down below. That’s why we wear clothes, right chaps? So people can’t see your tackle… Or so you would have thought?

The inventor of skinny jeans obviously begged to differ.

Having never worn skinny jeans, I will never know the sensation. I’ve worn tight jeans before, sure, but that was more due to quantity of underlying flesh than the deliberate cut of the trouser. What I do know from that experience is that tight jeans don’t offer much in the way of “give”… Which makes it all the more extraordinary that Shoreditch hipsters like to vacuum-pack their gonads into a pair of the above.

Gentlemen. Look at the picture. Then look down. Now look back at the picture.

I know, right? Where the hell are you supposed to put it? The only two men who could get into those trousers without tears welling up are Action Man and Ken. Ignoring the pain, how on earth do you even get them off and on? Do you smear your legs in butter beforehand? Carry around a bottle of WD40 at all times in case you need a number two? And they’re not exactly concealing. To be honest, you’d save yourself a lot of time and hassle (not to mention any chance of breeding) if you just wore leggings. I can’t help but feel that’s the next fad…

So there you have it. A score of years down the line, we’ll be looking back and laughing at these. Hopefully. Otherwise something will have gone horribly wrong.

In the mean time guys, what’s wrong with a nice shirt? Also, despite the monstrously strong glare dished out by halogen lights these days, I think your retinas should survive indoors without sunglasses.

Oh, and finally… As for the “trendy” Book Club, it was like going for a pint in the communal area of a budget European youth hostel. I wonder if that’s the look they were going for? Perhaps ‘shit’ really is the new ‘cool’?

by Harry Harland

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