The old saying “Clothes make a man” is definitely passé. Today, far from making a person, whimsically designed clothes make one wonder whether they are intended to be utilitarian or showy. Take the case of those ultra-skin-tight jeans so common these days that highlight the contours of one’s lower half a bit too emphatically. They make me wonder how one can possibly wriggle into and out of them without stripping off a layer or two of one’s own hide in the process! Apparently, all it takes to make a line of clothing trendy is an internationally acclaimed fashion designer aided by well-known models – and everyone follows it mindlessly regardless of whether it’s comfortable or not. Comfort and suitability appear to be secondary. It’s the visual appeal, or rather impact, of the garment – irrespective of how outlandish it may be – that seems to matter now.
Funnily enough, clothes were originally intended to cover human nakedness. Today, thanks to dramatically changing sartorial preferences and attitudes, clothes tend to reveal more than they conceal. Thus we see figure-hugging apparel that leaves little to the imagination besides plunging necklines, rising hemlines and exposed waistlines. American wit Dorothy Parker once quipped, “Brevity is the soul of lingerie” – an observation that perhaps could be applied to contemporary men’s and women’s outer apparel too. With the advent of mini-clothes, the skimpier the better seems to be the trend now, raising the eyebrows and hackles of puritans.
In the 1970s ‘bell-bottoms’ were the rage. Everyone who mattered strutted around in flared trousers popularised by Elvis Presley who had fans swooning as he sang and danced his way into their hearts. In those ‘dry’ days an enterprising tippler used to smuggle a pint into his home now and then by strapping it to his shin under his floppy ‘bell-bottoms’. On windy days, however, his flapping trousers revealed a bulge on his leg which, when queried, he would airily dismiss as “A mild attack of elephantiasis!” When it comes to formal wear, some can be more British than the British themselves. While in service I had a colleague who turned up for work fully suited and booted, replete with a strangulating tie and waistcoat while even his British planter-boss turned up in baggy shorts! I used to feel suffocated seeing him encased in that ‘armour’ in those sweltering summers.
I’ve seldom had good ties with ties since they create knotty problems for me – quite literally. I’ve always regarded the tie as a noose around my neck rather than a fashion accessory due to my congenital inability to knot a tie properly. Frankly, it’s something beyond me though many claim it’s child’s play. So, if I don’t tie myself up in knots, I usually end up looping what looks like a hangman’s noose. Fortunately, pre-knotted ties bail me out of my predicament.
Footwear, besides complementing one’s formal attire, doubles as a fashion statement. According to a wit, high heels were invented by a woman who was kissed on the forehead while ‘elevators’, I presume, were devised by a man who was patted on the head (rather than the shoulder) by his boss. A woman’s stiletto heels also come in handy to unobtrusively spike her male companion’s foot under the table when he commits a gaffe. To me, socks have always been problematic since mine tend to be ‘immoral’, seldom staying together. They seem to forget that they’re ‘married’ or rather paired for life. So one odd sock often ‘elopes’ with another and the duo goes into hiding, forcing me to wear an unmatched pair – which many are quick to notice. I gave up trying to be fashionable long ago. As a bachelor I’d learnt that trying to keep abreast of oft-changing sartorial trends could burn quite a big hole in one’s pocket. For, as Oscar Wilde put it, “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.” firstname.lastname@example.org