This weekend I shall attend The Wedding of The Year – two friends I am very fond of, and honestly wish them all the best.
I have no smart clothes for such an event. Really: none at all. I last wore a suit (boring, plain navy blue) at a work christmas party some years ago, where I was likened to a member of CID. One that didn’t know how to dress.
At that party I dressed too conservatively. My humdrum stuck-out like a sore thumb. Which just reinforces my paranoia that I never know how to dress for any kind of event. I live in fear that I’ll commit a shocking faux-pas by not wearing a tie when I should, or wearing jeans when I shouldn’t. I can’t understand how everyone else just seems to know the correct outfit to wear. It’s like they were all given a guidebook when they were in school, but I was off-sick that day.
I believe in dressing for comfort. For day-to-day, I don’t really care about the impression I give. If you’re the sort that judges a book by its cover, this particular book is a story about a unshaven, balding freak in jeans, Pacman T-shirt and tatty trainers. Quite a fat story, too.
But even I am aware that this is someone’s Special Day, and if I’m going to be dragged into group photos I’d better look the part, and not like a hobo who sneaked into the wedding reception in order to get some free nibbles.
So last weekend, we (my wife and I) decide to go into town and try and drag my sense of smart attire away from the 1970s. We end up in that bastion of with-it gentleman’s attire: Burton’s Menswear.
On the drive over, I mentally prepared myself: I will be introduced to new styles, almost certainly ones that I would not normally entertain. But I must consider the possibility – no matter how preposterous that this may sound – that my sense of style does not quite tally with that of others. I need to smarten-up, if only so that the Happy Couple don’t have to spend the next few months of their free time photoshopping a suit onto me in all the wedding photos, when they should be spending that free time bonking.
We enter the shop, and are greeted by … well, he looked like a twelve year old with a fake beard drawn on him. He has those massive loops in his earlobes which are apparently fashionable, but just make me think of those eyelets in marquees where you thread the rope.
In that moment I realise he is probably very well presented and attractive to the Young Ladies of Today (and possibly even some Young Men, I don’t know) and I, therefore, am a dinosaur. I can’t help thinking I would be more comfortable buying a suit in Age Concern.
Anyway, The Pre-pubescent Beard Wearer asks us if he can help. My wife gestures to me as if I were a troublesome ‘special’ boy who can’t dress himself (actually, that’s pretty close) and says: “I hope so. I mean, look at him!”
Now, those of you who go clothes shopping will know that shops like to put photographs of models (pouting models with deep, burning eyes) around the place, dressed in what is currently the latest fashion. This allows ordinary, ugly pondlife (like you and I) to point at a picture and say “Ooo! I’d like to look like that, please!”, little realising that such a feat will not be accomplished by a simple change of wardrobe. It’ll take reincarnation.
On the walls of Burton’s are such pictures. And although I knew I was a bit behind the times, I didn’t realise how much.
The photographs are of a perfectly-skinned man, with a beard considerably longer than his immaculately-combed, centre-parted hair. A beard that bushy should not be worn on a face that looks like it hasn’t yet experienced the ravages of acne. That beard looks stuck-on.
For a moment I thought his head was on upside down. On his head he wore an orange woolly hat. His jacket appeared to come from some random grey tweed suit, and didn’t match in the slightest to whatever the hell jeans he was wearing. And his shirt was a blouse, straight from Dorothy Perkins. He was excessively tattoo’d.
To be clear: I have no problem with any of those fashion or personal-adornment choices: I just don’t think they should appear together. The general impression was that the photographer had found a homeless person, sandpapered his face to a smooth finish, and dressed him in whatever had been left by the back door of The Salvation Army. Then poked him and said bad things about his dog-on-a-string so he’d look angry for the camera.
Anyway, back to the child in the fake beard … my wife has given him the brief of “he’s going to a wedding, he needs to look presentable and not a boring old fart” as if I weren’t standing right there. He escorts us over to a selection of mannequins. The mannequins are dressed similarly to the Scrubbed Hobo, though thankfully without the fake-beard or tattoos.
“Well, this style is very ‘in’ at the moment. Suit jacket and these jeans would work well, don’t you think?” I can’t help noticing he’s asking my wife’s opinion rather than mine. I think it looks truly ghastly, but before I can open my mouth to express this, my wife replies with “Oh yes, that style would work, wouldn’t it?”
Just then, in my head I hear the first inklings of a constructive opinion: “that jacket is OK, I suppose” I think to myself: “and that shirt there would work with it too, wouldn’t it?”. I feel immensely proud that I have something constructive to contribute to this conversation. Usually I couldn’t give a toss.
And just as I’m about to speak up, my wife points at that shirt and goes “but not that shirt, though. That wouldn’t look good at all“. The Bearded Foetus agress with her, and my one single constructive sartorial opinion dies in a hail of friendly-fire. It is clear that whatever my opinion of a fashion, the correct opinion is the exact opposite.
There and then, I decide that this whole episode will finish much sooner if I keep my opinions to myself. After all: I may hate the style, but I won’t be looking at me in it, will I? As long as it’s comfy, I don’t really mind. I just don’t want to spoil someone else’s party.
Trousers, shirt, jacket and shoes – all in all, we were in and out of there in less than ten minutes. Which is an acceptably short amount of time for a geek of my calibre to be inside a clothes shop. Though I still felt the urge to look round Maplins, just to balance things out.
Late last night, I packed my new outfit into my suitcase. I still hate clothes shopping, and I always will hate clothes shopping. But at least I feel comfortable that I’m not going to show myself up, stick-out like a sore thumb, or ruin anyone’s wedding photos. It’s not an outrageous outfit, but there’s a bit more colour than I’m used to and I shouldn’t look like a boring old fart.
Last of all, I double-check the details of the wedding weekend, to make sure I know what time I need to be at the church. And what’s the first thing I read?
“The theme for the wedding will be high-class 20s art-deco. Please come dressed in black and white …”