Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Monday, 19 May 2008

The male mutton


In a feature on the divine Nicky Haslam, whom I once sat next to at a New Statesman lunch, of all places, this observation:

But in real terms, 'mutton' is much more of an issue for men (mutton dressed as ram, perhaps?). Women have lived in fear of committing this premier fashion sin for generations. This has left us extremely well-equipped to do and wear whatever the hell we want, without looking daft or inciting judgment. We know how to get away with stuff.

Men don't. Men - who have only recently been introduced to the possibilities of metro-sexuality, of Beckham-endorsed experimentation with challenging fashion statements, of expensive denim and He-vage (man cleavage, achieved with especially deep V-neck T-shirts) - are not yet aware that an extremely fine line divides these thrilling, liberating styles from age-enhancing daftness. They don't know how to age these brand-new looks, how to carry them off into their thirties and beyond. See 33-year-old Beckham's over-plucked eyebrows and too-tanned skin; the contrast between 35-year-old Jude Law's thinning hair and his army jackets. And Russell Brand, who at 32 should start rethinking his signature silhouette quite soon, because his hips are perhaps no longer as lithe, and his arse no longer as trim, as his super-skinny jeans require (and the kaftans aren't distracting us). These boys are a couple of years and a couple of bad denim choices away from Tony Blair and Jeremy Clarkson in jeans status. Or Richard Madeley, in weekend garb.

15 comments:

greying pixie said...

Isn't it awful? I really do dispair. My husband and I are just amazed at the appearance of middle class men in early middle age. The worst is school gatherings, such as carol concerts, prize giving, parents' evenings, school pays etc. where it seems that fathers show how proud they are to be come to watch their children by turning up in trainers, sweats, and (my absolute bete noire) shirts hanging out! Not a jacket, smart shirt or (dare I say it) tie amongst them. And all this at a state school in a very affluent and middle class area in southern England.

This sort of thing makes me see red so last carol concert I wore my mink coat! Huh!

Toby Wollin said...

What happened to a nice suit, eh? Or a lovely tweed jacket and knit tie? Hmmm? Men have 'uniforms' that make every man look great - a good suit, good sport coat, a blazer, a tuxedo. There is no man on earth(no matter what shape or size) who looks awkward or poorly in those items - why choose to show up in anything else?

lagatta said...

I was thinking more of an older age bracket such as Mick Jagger... but I guess rock stars are a breed apart.

Arabella said...

The utility kilt was quite popular when I lived in San Francisco and seemed to suit men of all ages as long as they were picky about their socks. Doesn't work with a tie, though.

Duchesse said...

Older men can get away with casual (in truly casual settings) but not the casual of a 20 year old: think of Picasso at 80 in his sailor's shirt.

Greying Pixie: My bete noire is the baseball cap in any setting other than the game... but especially not in a restaurant.

Anonymous said...

My husband wears the 'crumpled academic' look. Quite fetching, really.

Geri

greying pixie said...

My husband wears a cross between tweedy academic and Byron/Oscar Wilde. It usually involves me losing yet another pashmina to him, which I gladly do. I could never have married a man who didn't care!

Mopsa said...

Polly Vernon - she really knows how to write doesn't she? Brilliant bit of observation. Thank you for pointing us to it. But what's all this about pashminas for men? You ARE joking folks?

greying pixie said...

Why should I be joking? In Pakistan from where they originate they are ONLY worn by men. With corderoy trousers, brogues and a Harris tweed jacket, it looks great.

Tee said...

Casual wear is big in Australia, to the extent where many can't seem to dress any other way.

A particular niggle of mine (relevant to the topic, that is) is middle-aged men who dress in oversize boyswear. A friend of mine in his early 40's gets around in t-shirts, cargo shorts, dinky trainers with socks and ... yes, a baseball cap. While this outfit might be find for walking the dog, it's what he wears to work!

Whatever happened to casual trousers and sports shirts?

Anonymous said...

I dunno... I think men of any age look good in jeans. It all depends on the fit and what they're wearing with the jeans.

Ditch the trainers for boots or high-top leather sneakers or Oxfords. Ixnay on the stupid baseball caps and the sloppy shirts. A nice sports jacket doesn't need a tie.

Well, unless they're still slim. Then they can get away with almost anything.

Except leather trousers! (ha ha! you should see my neighbor, the aging rocker...)

-- desertwind

Rosaria said...

I don't think too many women are looking at Beckham's over-plucked eyebrows....

Fish said...

Personally I love seeing Nicky in jeans and a t-shirt. He has the right legs for skinnies... and as the article says, he does know his figure very well. He's a bit of an eccentric, granted, but he's got the guts to wear crazy things... which I think says a lot.

Fish x

Anonymous said...

Greying pixie, I applaud your sardonic comments about the abysmal state of mens dress. As someone who takes the time to dress well, I think, I'm shocked at how most men look like they just rolled out of bed and threw on the first things they could get their hands on. I thought I was the only one who noticed.

Richard Madeley said...

This is all nonsense. I look very good in my weekend garb. Well, to be honest, I look pretty good all the time...