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

Thursday, 5 June 2008


A new BBC series called Jews starts on June 18th , this is a piece I wrote on the series in today's New Statesman

After the 11 September 2001 attacks, both Jews and Muslims ceased to be people and became ideas, concepts to be discussed in newspaper columns, internet chat rooms and blogs. Jews and Muslims as three-dimensional beings, independent of their role in terror or the war on it, separate from their opinions of the Middle East, dropped out of sight. The BBC has sought to rectify this situation by commissioning three films about Jews from the award-winning documentary-maker Vanessa Engle, whose 2006 series Lefties made me laugh out loud. The presence of the name Anthony Wall, a long-time editor of the Arena arts strand, also inspires confidence.

. . .

Engle's series tries to get to grips with Jewish life in Britain. What you are left with are those faces. The crooked smile of the Auschwitz survivor from Salonica. The trapped eyes of the Hasidic drug dealer. The cornered look of the Jewish atheist who doesn't want to hurt his father. They aren't issues. They're what life is, before you start having opinions about it and turning it into an issue.

Scarves II

Some of you will, I hope, be pleased to hear that Harry Fenton, the sharp dressed man, has agreed to become a regular contributor to these pages.

Last night he showed me some photos from 1970 of himself and his unversity friends. Apart from the fact that all the boys had beards, the other salient characteristic of their wardobe was that they all wore silk scarves.

This is a forgotten era in menswear, and one which we should encourage to return.

UPDATE Mr Fenton has asked me to point out that he does not himself appear in this photo, which was merely chosen to illustrate the notion of male hippies wearing scarves. Mr Fenton in his photo has a much smaller beard and very long legs in blue cords.

Our glorious leader

July Vogue has a piece on one M. Thatcher, style icon.

In the Guardian today, Zoe Williams says (and I think she is right) that back in the day, no-one obsessively commented on her clothes:

As improbable as it seems now, nobody seemed to care that much what Margaret Thatcher looked like in her heyday. There were very few remarks about her shoes; nobody was obsessively watching her weight.

[But. . . .]

I want to say those were nobler times, when everyone was less superficial, and that much is true; but truer and more salient was the fact that nobody cared what she looked like because we all hated her so much. You check out a politician's leopardskin kitten heels when she is an irrelevant person, talking irrelevantly about nothing. Conversely, when a politician is snatching your children's milk, smashing your union and kicking you in your metaphorical face, you tend not to notice what she's wearing.

Personally I think this is bollocks. The savagery unleashed on Hillary's Clinton's wardrobe is evidence to the contrary.