I Stopped Dressing Like a Redneck and Saw the Clothing Light: Better Clothes Make the Day Brighter | Andrew Martin

A About a year ago, I was about to go out for a drink with my wife, when she said to me, “You realize this shirt is dead, right?” I was wearing a clean, ironed number, I pointed out. But my wife explained to me that death was a syndrome particularly likely to affect white shirts, as she took me to my wardrobe and showed me that all but one of my four white shirts, had irreversibly lost their snowy shine. “Look against them,” she insisted. “They are gray. Might as well throw them out.

I was, at the time, approaching sixty and my wife’s criticism of the shirt seemed particularly relevant in this context. Aware of this imminent step, she offered me a series of prescriptions, including not drinking four glasses of wine a day, doing Pilates and resuming learning French (which I had abandoned to protest against reflexive verbs). . While recognizing that all of these things could benefit me, I pointed out that they would also make me unhappy. However, when it comes to shirts and clothing in general, I see his point.

It was an opportunity to abandon a lifelong bad habit – dressing poorly – and adopt a good one: being proud of my appearance. I could compensate for my physical decline, I reasoned, cheer myself up and maybe cheer others up too. Although I wasn’t trying to emulate them, I had long appreciated these middle-aged men who put their comrades from the shabbier cohort of society to shame by wearing flowing overcoats instead of those pesky puffer jackets. look like everyone else like an insect, or who choose a scarf for its color as much as for its warmth.

The “surrender” part of my program involved a wardrobe purge, in which my wife (a former fashion editor) was the final arbiter. While she was watching TV in the living room, I came in with a shirt on. “And that?” “Dead,” she said, barely looking up. As I paraded a jacket—a “suit coat,” as I learned to call them—she said, “Get rid of it. It’s too big.” “But it’s a 40, my size,” I said. “Your size is actually 38,” she replied, as I remember her mentioning. a few decades ago.

It was mortifying to think how wrong I had been about the clothes. I wore them in stubborn rotation. I would put on a shirt or sweater simply because it was clean: it was that item of clothing’s turn to be worn. Or I might just wear something boring because I didn’t seem to have much planned for the day, not realizing that the prophecy could come true on its own because of the clothes. I was vaguely aware that things were going better for me – thanks to greater self-confidence – when I wore something that I actively wore. lovebut I never thought of doing each a smart day.

I was nourished by a few scraps of sartorial advice. Nick Foulkes, writer and dandy, once came up to me at a party and said, with a kind of benevolent exasperation: “Andrew, a tie knot is supposed to be a generous thing.” I would be briefly inspired by glimpses of the very dapper Melvyn Bragg strolling down Hampstead Heath. I once saw him wearing a wide-brimmed black hat, like the man on the Sandeman port labels, and when I I saw a similar hat in a charity shop, bought it, but only dared to wear it once, and that was in a morning play. (I realize now that One nice thing about dressing thoughtfully is that you’re always in a room of your own creation.)

Heredity may have appeared late here. My father was sartorially committed and I remember him standing in front of a mirror in a bright new tweed jacket. “It’s a tonic to wear nice clothes, Andrew,” he said, adjusting his tie, which was still a Windsor, a perfect equilateral triangle, tied on his thigh. He was right, I learned; he East a tonic to disguise yourself a little. The world suddenly seems more spacious and full of potential.

But I have to work at it, and the language of men’s clothing is becoming more and more subtle and complex. I turn the fashion pages of magazines more slowly than before and wander down Jermyn Street (the dandy’s mecca) to window shop. I’m fascinated – but also depressed – by a man my age who works in one of the fanciest stores, because he has an elegance combined with an excess that I could never approach. He will wear a nicely cut suit with a T-shirt, or with pants reaching mid-calf. I’m aiming for the secondary virtue of dapperness, embodied, say, by Bill Nighy or Paul McCartney.

If this all sounds like an expensive project, it’s not particularly expensive. I buy most of my stuff from charity shops – good ones, mind you, which I keep an eye on on my bike regularly. But the white shirts must to be new, as I heard myself say sternly to a friend the other day, as if I had known it all my life.

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