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

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Harry Buys an Iron

Well, of course I already had one. But whilst recently struggling to get a sharp crease on a shirt sleeve it occurred to me that maybe the iron I was using was really not very good. Like the majority of our household appliances I fondly imagined that it was bought , my memory unreliably suggested, in a vague period called ‘a couple of years ago’. Which of course was wildly inaccurate. So maybe the iron was underperforming because of old age ( though why that should be the case I can’t imagine)

This domestic reverie prompted a recollection of a conversation I once had in Milan. I was in the company of a stylish ( well, obviously) creative director ( advertising not fashion).
Older than me, and with a degree of gravitas and that ‘not quite beard’ look that is quite difficult to carry off. A charming and quite taciturn chap.
I had worked with him for a while, so we knew each other.
Which is the kind of qualification I need to make before I say that I, a man, dared to ask him, a man, about clothes. ( This is an unusual conversational area for older males to venture into).
How, I asked , do Italian men always manage to look so stylish and well turned out? I went on: Italian men seem to gravitate toward what I see as being classic, almost anglo clothes. Tweed jackets ( which indeed Paolo was wearing) and nothing faddish . Understated and stylish, but managing to make the average Brit wearing similar clothes appear scruffy by comparison.
We were in a very recherché enoteca. As a solo visitor I would not even have noticed this tiny establishment. A small dark wood panelled room filled with wine bottles. A few stools. And rammed with Italian bourgeoisie quaffing a glass of wine at the end of the working day. Stylish to a man ( and woman).
His answer was very simple. We buy, he said , good quality clothes. Not many. Each season a new jacket , a coat, or trousers. That are well made, and fit. And then , he said, (rather pointedly I felt), we look after them. He admitted that he didn’t have an enormous wardrobe , but everything in it was immaculate.

So that was the difference! My thoughts immediately turned to my wardrobe. With many less than immaculate items that had seen better days. But which I was still inclined to pull out and wear because of some undisciplined notion that they still passed muster.
Well, the wardrobe remains full of sentimentally preserved schmatte. But I do make more of an effort to have the right creases in my shirts nowadays .