It turns out my advice for sorting out the irrationality that characterises a man’s wardrobe on a budget can be of some use to women too – if this article is anything to go by, anyway.
Photo: Fred Dawson
I guess it’s helpful for anyone to re-evaluate their clothes now and again – just to try and make sense of what you’ve got and how well you put your items to use…
Camper shoes were always ones I tended to look at on other people’s feet with envy – I loved the way they looked, but I was consistently put off by the fact that they were so expensive in comparison to other brands.
You can probably guess, then, how happy I was to discover that the advent of summer has prompted the Spanish company to launch a relatively affordable canvas shoe to take on the market currently dominated by Vans, Converse and the like (a picture of the new design can be found on the Guardian website).
Not only do the shoes look great (my favourite has to be the sandy-coloured model pictured by the Guardian, but there are other styles available), but they have eco credentials to match in their use of organic cotton.
The only downside, as far as I see it, is how we’re all going to choose between them, the pair of Supergas we’ve had our eye on for so long, and those Spring Courts everyone’s been talking about lately. I guess it’s like they they used to say – we’ve never had it so good.
Apologies for the lack of posts recently – I’ve just got back from a trip to sunny Munich. Of which I feel I must mention: the German male’s reputation for poor dress sense is, in a large number of cases, completely unwarranted.
I was particularly impressed with the proliferation of smart casual wear (jeans paired with polos/shirts, accessorised with well-cut jackets and good shoes), which is perhaps indicative of the fact that Bavarians see themselves as more akin to Italians than the Germans as a whole. The confidence to dress up, albeit in quite a simple, unfussy way, gave the men of Munich an elegance that I very rarely see on the streets of London – but as this article in today’s Guardian shows, perhaps there is some latent desire amongst the English to revive their traditions of formality.
I have to confess a love of pocket squares – not overly flamboyant ones, especially with a work suit – and I reckon they’re yet another way to add some style to an outfit with very little effort or outlay. Silk squares are often thought to be the norm, but you can get equally good results with a patterned cotton handkerchief – so don’t feel the need to keep that stalwart of gentlemen’s accessories buried out of sight.
Good to see the Observer addressing an issue that has been troubling me for a long time – that you only ever seem to hear about women’s clothes receiving the ethical treatment.
I’m glad that the article has highlighted the stirling work of a couple of retailers I have tried to champion – namely Adili and Howies – but in my view there’s still an elephant in the room that nobody likes to talk about, and that’s money.
Now, I appreciate that buying ethically-produced clothes has to, and indeed should, have us reaching a little deeper in our pockets to fund living wages and reduce the environmental impact of the fabrics used in our garments. But ethical clothes for both men and women often strike me as being overly expensive – as if some producers have realise the recent pricking of our collective conscience has simply signalled an opportunity to make a fast buck.
I, for one, would love to see some ethical clothes in the shops that showed true value for money – I reckon it’s only when this happens that we’ll see people buying into ethical clothes in any meaningful or sustained way.
I haven’t talked much about formal clothes on here before, but the fact that so many ‘suits’ have been gathering here in London these last couple of days (for the G20 summit) has prompted me to look at this sometimes forgotten side of a man’s wardrobe.
Almost inevitably, the majority of sartorial attention has been lavished on Mr and Mrs Obama – with good reason, I think. While it goes without saying that I fully endorse Michelle’s decision to accessorise high street as well as designer clothing, I’m most impressed by Barack’s ability to work a standard two-piece suit, particularly the way he has hit on the right fit for his shape.
Now, women often say that any man looks good in a suit, but I think that really depends on the suit. By this, I mean how well the pieces (particularly the jacket) are cut to the man’s body shape – because that is really where you win or lose with a suit.
And you don’t need to shell out for bespoke tailoring to get it right – simply buy the most appropriate off-the-peg number and have it taken in/let out where it’s needed. This shouldn’t set you back too much more, and the result will be obvious every time you put the suit on.
Photo: Downing Street
Should you require any further persuasion, just look at the image above. If there was one person you might pick out as being limited in the style department, it would be Gordon Brown. But the silhouette he has managed to create with a few alterations here and there shows that even he is able to cut it with the big boys when it comes to formal occasions.
Everyone likes a bit of cheering up, especially at a time like this, so I was delighted to read yesterday that Liam Gallagher, scruffy Oasis singer turned stay-at-home dad, is launching his own fashion range (called Pretty Green).
Seriously. Given Liam’s complete lack of style (the Guardian website has furnished us with a slide-show which shows his credentials in a less than flattering light), I’m pretty bemused as to what’s prompted him to get involved in this kind of business in the first place.
You can kind of understand it when Kate Moss decides she’s going to boost her bank balance by letting a high street chain sell cheap knock-offs of her wardrobe – after all, she is (for better or worse) widely known as a style icon. But when you’re universally known as being a bit of an also-ran when it comes to fashion, you are probably best advised to steer well clear.
So who, if anyone, could we turn to in the celebrity world for some sensible style tips? My vote would probably go to Will Young – I saw him on the South Bank Show last week, and he looked to me like he’s pretty adept at putting together a simple yet individual outfit. Rock may have had quite an influence on fashion in the past, but I think it’s now time to broaden our horizons.
Having been hauled over the coals in the last few months for their atrocious sweatshop record, Primark have apparently just appointed a new ethical trading director - yet few people seem impressed.
Photo: Kaustav Bhattacharya
To be honest, it wasn’t just my objections to the dubious provenance of their clothes that had me avoiding Primark – even in spite of the low prices levied against the appalling conditions of the clothing producers, I really don’t think you get much for your money in terms of style or quality.
But I have to agree with the guy from People & Planet when he says that a job appointment alone cannot change anything - and I just can’t see how Primark will be able to commit themselves truly to improving their ethical record while at the same time maintaining the ridiculously low prices they need to trade at simply to keep people coming through the door.