The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Am I mad, in a coma, or back in 1981?

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I’ve been watching Ashes to Ashes on BBC1 the last few weeks. It’s a sequel to the highly enjoyable series last year, Life on Mars about a cop in a coma who seemed to have travelled back in time to 1973. Despite the dodgy premise, it was cleverly done and a great way to revisit the era of my early childhood memories with today’s knowing attitudes. Ford Cortinas, flares and nylon everything – superb.

Ashes to Ashes has a different cop, this time transported back to 1981, and here the fun comes from the fact that I was 15 then. So all the references to the Royal Wedding, state-of-the-art computer games like Space Invaders, and really dodgy synth-pop music are ones I understand completely.

So the other day, when I saw a woman in the street with large, spiky blond hair up top with trails running a down the back of her neck (remember Limahl from Kajagoogoo? If not, check Google Images and you’ll see what I mean), wearing a leopard print short skirt and a leather jacket with shoulder pads, I wondered whether an 80s revival was underway. Perhaps she got her clothing from her mother, I thought.

Then she turned round and I realised she was her mother. A woman in her 40s dressed as she might have 25 years ago.

Maybe she was heading to a party, but at 11am on a Monday it seemed a little unlikely. Perhaps this is the way she usually looks. Considering Peter Stringfellow and Rod Stewart still dress the same way a quarter of a century later, I guess it’s not unusual for people to stick with a style they’re comfortable with, long after the rest of the world has moved on.

After all, the Queen dresses like my grandmother did; there are plenty of old guys in the pubs who clearly haven’t upgraded their style sense since the 50s; and most denim and leather clad bikers these days look exactly as I remember 30 years ago, except they’re now all bald and have long grey beards to go along with their rather faded tattoos.

But then it dawned on me I haven’t exactly moved with the times either. In essence I wear more or less what I did 20 years ago –a t-shirt under a denim or cotton shirt tucked into my blue or black jeans.

What was that? A shirt tucked in? Surely no one’s done that since the 80s have they?

Even ignoring the current trend for jeans to be half hanging off the arse with the crotch somewhere down by the knees, I could at least update my appearance by untucking my shirt, but here I’ve run into a few problems: my shirts are the wrong cut to be hanging out. In fact they’re all several sizes too big. The shirts I wear are the same ones I wore when I was 100lbs heavier, so if I do untuck them they flare out and hang down to my knees in a way that, I must say, looks even less fashionable.

So why haven’t I updated my wardrobe in the last couple of years? Money aside, I haven’t a clue how to dress as a thinner man. As a hefty individual it’s quite straightforward – you search for ages, then finally wear whatever fits; there’s little choice available. However I’m now thin enough to fit into clothes from just about every high street retailer, but I have no idea what would suit me.

Like the über-low-crotch jeans I know most of the stuff hanging on the rails would just look silly on me. Of course it doesn’t help that I’m not quite thin enough – today’s clothes are designed for skinny 16 to 24 year olds, not overweight middle-aged men. I might be 100lbs lighter than I was, but I’m still 20lbs heavier that the fashion designers cut their cloth for. If I were to wear a shirt designed to hang loose out of the trousers, my belly would look even more exaggerated.

Having watched plenty of Trinny and Susannah, and Gok Wan on TV, I know if I were a woman my shape would best be flattered by an A-line dress. However, given my beard, deep voice and preference for trousers, I doubt this is really the way to go.

But until they start a new TV series on Channel 4 called Blokes – How to Look Good Overweight and on a Budget I’m going to continue to have to dress in ignorance.

Where’s a fashionable gay friend when you need one?
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23 comments

Anna van Schurman said...

I vote for just calling Trinny and Susannah and asking them. Dude, you can write a pitch!

Anonymous said...

You could always go to one of the reasonably priced men's clothing stores and "browse" the help. I'm sure you could find a new gay friend to help! Sure he's probably working on commission but when you explain that you've lost 100 pounds and are in desperate need for a new wardrobe a piece or two at a time - ie recurring commission if he does right by you - he's sure to see the light and help without trying to take food out of the kids' mouths.

Mia`

Eryl Shields said...

You don't need a gay friend, you have me! Bring your wallet on a trip to Glasgow with me the next time the sales are on and I will fit you out like a dream.

Having said that, I will just advise you to buy smaller versions of the clothes you wear now as you always look very stylish to me. I particularly like your red cord shirt. But just in case you really want an update: checked shirts are really in for men (and women) this season and pale denim is back. Just like 1981 in fact, the woman you saw must be a fashion editor!

Pendullum said...

Then again, you could bump into an unfashionable gay guy... and then there you are in leather pants, cowboy boots and a tank top and where would that get you?
Go to Glasgow and visit Eryl...
She offered, and I think you should pounce as she has definitely has style....

C in DC said...

And, please, when you succeed in starting the show, Blokes – How to Look Good Overweight and on a Budget, make sure it airs on BBC America too.

savannah said...

wear what you like and is comfortable for you, sugar! stick with classic mens styling.

Sandy said...

I think if Trinny and Susannah were to walk up the Street in Castle Douglas it would be they who stood out somewhat. They'd have half the population rounded up and dragged off to Gowans in a trice.
Personally, I don't have time to worry about them as my day is filled trying to avoid that snazzy young street barber from the One Show and his mission against long hair.
Happy Comfiness Kim.
Sandy

Carole said...

If you do go with Eryl on a shopping spree, please take pictures. I should think a fashion show a-la-ayres would be just the ticket for a comedic post.

Ubergeek said...

I don't know, I think the A-line dress might be a good choice. How will you find a new style if you can't let go of your preference for trousers?

Kim Ayres said...

Anna - :)

Mia - unfortunately my current budget level would probably have me wandering into the charity shops, and these are often staffed by old women with less dress sense than me...

Eryl - now that is tempting, especially as I have no doubt you would know how to maximise on charity shop chic by recognising what are actually good makes and cuts

Pendullum - leather pants and a tank top... hmmm... no, I think my wife would leave me.

C in DC - :)

Savannah - classic men's styling - let me think - belly hanging over the top of jeans and an un-ironed shirt - yup, I'm there.

Sandy - your dress sense has long been an inspiration to me ;)

Carole - it's true, I can feel the blog post writing itself

Ubergeek - living in Scotland does offer alternative to trousers. Mind you if I did start walking around in a Kilt, everyone would assume I was an American tourist.

Charlie said...

Even ignoring the current trend for jeans to be half hanging off the arse with the crotch somewhere down by the knees . . .

I roared with laughter, thinking of you clad like this. It's so not you.

PI said...

Take a look at French fashion - not the haute couture but the ordinary man in the street. They have smart casual to a T. Recently our son who lives in France -sent shots of the latest Christening they had attended and all wore really casual stuff but it all looked 'together' - quite an art.
As for dressing mutton as lamb it's a difficult path to tread as I'm still a size 12 but I don't do bare - haven't for years. Apart from in the garden of course which is completely private.

Kim Ayres said...

Charlie - I can achieve this effect with some of my older, larger jeans. But no, I won't be posting pics

Pat - you're teasing me once again about your garden activites...

The Hangar Queen said...

It's probably cheaper to fly over her and buy a plane load of clothes than buy a couple of outfits in the UK.

Come over.I'll sort you right out and have you in an A-line in no time.

Julie said...

Too funny. Every once in a while my husband will comment that I'm dressed like I did in the 80's. On those days, I'm usually wearing a cardigan and jeans... and my socks match my top... with a pair of loafers. So, yes, I suppose I haven't changed my basic style of dress. Too bad I can't wear the same size as I did then.

Mary Witzl said...

I was snickering happily away at this, when it suddenly struck me that I too dress the way I did when I was in my 20s: jeans and a sweatshirt worn over a T-shirt, and comfortable shoes.

Do you think I could come shopping with you and Eryl? I'm in desperate need of some fashion advice; when I go shopping, I invariably come away with stuff that makes me look like a horse's ass.

Stella said...

Hmmm, I think I need Eryl too!!!

Kanani said...

Ha ha... this made me laugh. I've been a high-fashion shows all week, and have been watching a re-run of the 1980's. It's like Adam Ant has never gone away or something. I mean, really, it's just hilarious.

I don't know if I ever mentioned this, but I used to work at a job where I dressed all the men's suit forms! Anyway, lately I've had to read a lot of books on fashion being that I've now got a job coming up as fashion editor for an online TV network site! (I've also been seriously revamping the wardrobe).

So I went onto Alibris UK and found Carson Kressley's book for men. It's a funny book, very approachable and (not to insult you) an easy read. I gave it to someone recently and he called to say he LOVES it. And this was a science nerd and all who still wore the same outfit as when I first met him eons ago. (Or was that ions?).

Anyway, I think it's fun to learn about stuff we all take for granted, like clothes.

And yes, take ERYL shopping with you!

Tom said...

I'm just happy to find a pair of jeans that fit, a shirt that hides my gut and underwear that don't cut off the circulation... looking toward the day when I have your problems. :)

Brave Astronaut said...

I was in high school in 1981. It was a time of big hair and shoulder pads and tight jeans. Don't make me go back there, please . . . I promise . . . I'll be good.

As new fathers, my friend and I have decided that the clothing fight is the one that we are willing to have with our children.

We are hopeful that our children will be sheltered from the mistakes of our youth.

Anonymous said...

Haven't you heard of Queer Eye for the straght Guy . Get the DVDV's they are helpful & hysterical

Kim Ayres said...

Hangar Queen - yes, but what was your dress sense like when you were a man?

Julie - ach, you were probably too skinny then

Mary - I think Eryl's going to be able to start up a new business as a fashion consultant

Stella - everyone needs an Eryl

Kanani - I'll check him out - thanks for the link :)

Tom - underwear that doesn't cut off the circulation? Does such a thing exist?

Brave Astronaut - what? You're going to force your kids to have big hair and shoulder pads and tight jeans?

Anon - I think it was a Channel 5 series and we can't get Channel 5 here, at least not until the region turns digital. I'll keep a look out though

Sam, Problemchildbride said...

I think you absolutely have to do this now. I'd love to hear of a shopping trip with Eryl and see a befpre and after Kim and all that. Do it and then blog about it! 'Twill be fab!!

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