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

Monday, 4 August 2008

Guest post: On Beauty

My (real life) friend the poet George Szirtes, has responded to my post on Misogyny:

I wrote three posts at my own place in response to the misogyny blog by Linda, that ended with a comment by a certain Stephanie who suggested men die first because they're stupid. My contribution was: fine, I am quite happy to die first.

I am not altogether stupid. I am a writer and that gives me certain advantages. But I want to discard the advantages here. I'd like to speak, if such a thing is possible, for Mr Normal, Mr Nothing Special. I want leave the gender wars out of this for now, as far as that is possible.

Beauty is something most people seek, and most men seek it, first and foremost, in women. There are many other qualities they seek but beauty is there somewhere at the core of it. And beauty is far from simple: it is not merely the ruddy glow of health or voluptuousness (what Eliot called 'pneumatic bliss'). It is not merely fleshly, though it is that too. Nor is it proportions drawn up according to a secret formula. What I said in my post was that it was "not to be owned by either the beholder or the object. And partly, because it cannot be owned like property, because it remains an elsewhere and, notionally, eternal, it is something that has always to be sought." It is in that way a spiritual yearning. We are not elsewhere and eternal. We are here and fugitive. That sense of life as something fugitive may go a little way to explaining why women's fashions change so frequently, why last year's fashion is ridiculous and no longer beautiful. Clothes are part of the beautiful, as are changes in clothes.

Next to the essential though, the momentary always looks a bit ridiculous, particularly when it is actually a product of labour. It takes considerable time. Humour is incongruity. And while, no doubt, the attitude Linda's blog refers to is part of the package, it is neither entirely a patriarchal plot nor gross stupidity. It is part of the tragic ludicrousness of life. Men and women often appear slightly ludicrous to each other. And women are far from reticent or decorous about what is ludicrous in men. In fact they are furiously critical – which is something I have never experienced among men regarding women. But we can be adult about this, can't we? Shall we, we thoughtful ones, try?

The £200 plastic shoes

But they are not Crocs, they are designed by architect Zaha Hadid and are ecological and only available from Dover Street Market in Mayfair and will be launched at Fashion Week. They come in eight colours including silver.

Too many questions arise, such as how the sweaty-feet question is dealt with (and will your tights slip around inside them?) Or am I being a philistine? At least they have a good heel for walking.

Hommes en Jupe

working this summer's florals

I often daydream about time travelling into the future, just to see what people are wearing, and if there is anything new to come in fashion.

A small revolution in France might give a clue:

Dominique Moreau is a trailblazing freedom fighter, a man battling for equality and recognition in a world of prejudice and gender-based stereotypes. At least, that is what his supporters say. To others who may be less aware of the socio-political implications of his sartorial habits, however, Moreau's heroism is less apparent. To them, he is just a bloke in a skirt.

"Today, millions of men around the world wear skirts, like the sarong in Asia or the djellaba in Africa, without being bothered," he insists. "Why not us?"

Moreau is the president of Hommes en Jupe (Men in Skirts), an association of about 30 men in Poitiers, western France, who don skirts to go about their everyday lives. For them, getting dressed in the morning is less about style and more about political substance: they are fighting to reclaim an item of clothing last worn by Frenchmen more than 500 years ago.

"We're fighting against prejudice and cliches," says Moreau, a 39-year-old civil servant who quotes Virginia Woolf as a gender-bending inspiration. "Women fought for trousers; we're doing the same with the skirt."

And yet trousers are more functional. If you're a man and don't have does-my-bum-like-big-in-this issues, which on the whole men do not. What with their lean legs, an' all.