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?