Friday, 1 June 2012

Keep your dignity as well as your cool

What is it about warm weather that makes us throw self-respect and fashion-sense to the non-existent wind? I love a sunny day as much as the next man. But what I don’t love, is the fact that so many people see a cloudless sky as an excuse to dress like they’re auditioning for a Black Lace tribute act? Over-exposed body parts, clashing patterns and footwear so heinous that it’d make Douglas Bader thank his lucky stars. Forget about ugly Christmas sweaters – summer’s where all the true fashion crimes occur. Let’s take a look at the repeat offenders.

Hawaiian shirts

This is one terrifying creation that, like Jason and Freddy, simply refuses to lay down and die. Loud, obnoxious and tasteless, and that’s just the people who insist on wearing them. Despite their vibrant colours and shouty designs, they’re usually worn by sad-sack middle-aged men dressed by their passive aggressive wives, who are still punishing them for some unspoken, decades-old transgression.

Improvised swimming trunks

When I was in school, exercising in your underwear was traditional punishment for leaving your PE kit at home. And it worked, since we all dreaded having to run around the gym in y-fronts and a vest, when the class waiting to use the facilities were all lined up outside the window. And yet, weirdly, what was once the height of teenage humiliation, has now become de rigeur for lazy sun-worshippers. There’s a whole generation of lads who feel that it’s not only acceptable, but preferable, to sunbathe and swim in their underpants. Although it’s a generally unpleasant trend, I reserve particular scorn for the ones who choose to wear Calvin Klein boxers. They’re apparently oblivious to the
transparent qualities of white fabric when wet. No-one wants to see your junk smeared across your groin, like commuters in a rush-hour Tube carriage.


Despite their inherent blandness, Polo shirts are a convenient and inoffensive suitable-for-all-occasions wardrobe staple. Which is probably why some think that the way to give their generic outfit a lift is to pop the collar so they look like Sesame Street’s resident numerologist. Even Elvis looked like a twat with his collar popped, and this was a man who could pull off a rhinestone-encrusted jumpsuit.

Pastel sweaters

Given the British weather’s inclement nature, it makes good sense to prepare for any occasion when planning an outfit. The easiest solution is to wear several light layers – loose and airy when it’s warm, but easily buttoned up when the clouds inevitably gather. Unfortunately, some men take their tips from our continental cousins, and choose to dress for the warmth, only to then drape a light-coloured pastel sweater across their shoulders. Fine if you’re an antique dealer weekending in Sitges, but otherwise it’s a very bad idea. The only people who can get away with wearing a sweater this way spend their days running around the playground shouting “Ner ner ner ner ner ner ner ner ner ner ner ner ner ner ner ner Batman.” 

Long shorts

Long shorts are fine if you’ve got long legs. If you’re of less-than-average height, however, they’ll make you look like Mickey Rooney. Even so, many men aren’t comfortable wearing anything above the knee. Hey, we’ve all got issues. What I don’t understand, is the ones who insist on wearing board-shorts, only to roll them right up to the crack of their arse when they’re laying in the sun. As the temperature rises, the legs get rolled higher and higher, until they mutate into some kind of monstrous, plaid man-nappy. I know there are plenty of guys out there who get their kicks by being wet-nursed by matronly women who charge by the hour, but that doesn’t mean it looks good on the beach. 


I have a confession to make. A few years ago I went through a phase of wearing flip-flops to work. In my defence, I worked in a creative agency and our manager decided to have a tonne of sand, some deckchairs and a fake seagull installed in our little corner of the office. He thought an indoor beach might inspire us to do better work. I just found that I was able to slip off my flip-flops and scrunch my toes into the cool sand whenever I got stressed. The work didn’t improve, but at least I realised how stressed I’d been getting. But the fact remains, unless your workplace is littered with sea-front accessories, there’s really no excuse for inflicting those cracked heels, hairy toes and oddly discoloured nails on your work colleagues.


Seriously. Just fucking stop it. I have enough trouble believing that someone once thought “If only there was a way of combining the clunky shapelessness of the clog, with the gaudy, rubberized awfulness of the jelly shoe”, without having to acknowledge the fact that countless millions of other people thought “Oooh, they’ll look nice with my leggings when I pop down the Co-Op.” Growing up, we were taught to frown on people who left the house in their slippers. Crocs are no better. Even worse are the ones that have been carefully accessorized with the gaudy tchotchkes that the Crocs people have Christened ‘Jibbitz’. It’s enough to make you wish that the four horsemen would get a move on.
Linen trousers

As if the current trend for ‘fucking red trousers’ isn’t distressing enough, white trousers are also making a worrying comeback. Unacceptable even in the eighties, when all kinds of fashion abominations were tolerated, these linen monstrosities reached the apotheosis of awfulness when featured heavily in a now legendary ad campaign, as four chinless wonders sauntered down a jetty to leap onto a waiting speedboat (“The last bus home IF you’re drinking Bacardi”).  But those who forget the past are condemned to pop into Top Man and repeat it. As if the look itself isn’t bad enough, consider the fact that the tiniest droplet of
moisture around the groin will spread until it looks as though your prostate needs a once-over from a dexterous medical professional.

Hot pants

When Kylie made her big comeback in 2000, it wasn’t the song Spinning Around that everybody was talking about. It was the tiny pair of spangled hot pants she modeled in the video. And thus, a terrifying new trend was born. Whereas Kylie has a derriere so peachy that the Man From Del Monte would nod his approval, many of the women who insist on pouring themselves into their summer micro-shorts really ought to consider a lower hem. The unpleasant truth is that your underdressed back-end gives onlookers the sensation of following Julie Goodyear up a loft ladder.

Braided hair

It’s not just adults who fall victim to summer’s many fashion disasters. Every year it’s the same old story, as swathes of kids come swarming out of regional airports after two weeks in Malaga, like the child slaves escaping the mines beneath Pankot Palace. Only instead of shackles and rags, these kids are recognized by their fair hair, scraped and sculpted into painful looking cornrows. At some point during the 1990s, parents decided that the best souvenir of two weeks on the Spanish mainland wasn’t a straw donkey or comedy sombrero, but a red-faced child with hair braided so tightly that the slightest sneeze could detach a retina.

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