Tag Archives: fashion

Snowy Saturday Update

Regular readers of my literary meanderings will know that I am partial to a good cup of coffee whilst sharing my happy, yet jaundiced view of life. Hopefully, you will have noticed that I always try and put a comedic spin on everything I write. I have enjoyed humour and comedy since I was an infant.

I recall sitting on my Dad’s lap in the mid 1960s, listening to the radio on Sunday lunchtimes with him.

In most matters my father was quite a serious man. A highly skilled engineer, in both communications and electro-mechanical disciplines, but his sense of humour was, to put it mildly, weird and wonderful.

And so the development of my comedy muscle was exercised by listening to the Goons, Hancock’s Halfhour, The Navy Lark, The Clithero Kid and many more.

My sense of humour was further nourished by watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Goodies, The Kenny Everett Radio Show, Kenny Everett on TV, –  and then the fantastic Young Ones, Bottom, Blackadder, The Fast Show.

So my sense of humour is by necessity somewhat offbeat, and sometimes is quite dark and black – as I believe in the old adage that its always good to laugh at misfortune, even if it’s someone elses.

Anyway, I thought you would enjoy my account below.

Whilst I don’t have much hair left, I do like to go to an old-fashioned gents barber shop, rather than an androgynous “salon” where a haircut can evaporate a sum equivalent to the National Debt in a matter of seconds.

However, whilst my tonsurial consultant is a traditional gents barber, it doesnt prevent him from engaging in conversations and freely sharing his opinions with me whilst he’s buzz cutting my head.

So, there I  was a couple of months ago, getting a haircut prior to departing on a short holiday trip to Rome. When I mentioned the trip to the barber he responded:

“Rome? Why would anyone want to go there? It’s crowded & dirty and full of insane drivers. You’re crazy to go to Rome. So, how are you getting there?”

“We’re taking Alitalia”  I replied. “We got a great rate!”

“Alitalia?”  he exclaimed. “That’s a terrible airline. Their planes are tired, their flight attendants are even older, and they’re always late. So, where are you staying in Rome?”

Sighing, I explained “We’ll be at the downtown International Marriott.”

“That dump! That’s the worst hotel in the city” He replied. “The rooms are small, the service is surly and they’re overpriced. So, whatcha doing when you get there?”

“Well, I am planning on going to the Vatican and  hope to see the Pope.” I replied.

“That’s rich,” he laughed. “You and a million other people trying to see him. He’ll look the size of an ant. Jeez I wish you  good luck on this lousy trip of yours. You’re going to need it.”

A month later, I went into his small shop to have my regular haircut. The barber asked me about my trip to Rome.

“It was wonderful,” I explained, “not only were we on time in one of Alitalia’s brand new aircraft, but it was overbooked and they bumped me up to first class. The food and wine were wonderful, and I had a beautiful 28 year old stewardess who waited on me hand and foot. And the hotel – – it was great! They’d just finished a $25 million remodeling job and now it’s the finest hotel in the city. They, too, were overbooked, so they apologized and gave me the presidential suite at no extra charge!”

“Well,” he muttered, sullenly buzz cutting my scalp……

“I know you didn’t get to see the Pope.”

“Actually, I was quite lucky, for as I toured the Vatican, a Swiss Guard tapped me on the shoulder and explained that the Pope likes to personally meet some of the visitors, and if I’d be so kind as to step into his private room and wait, the Pope would personally greet me. Sure enough, five minutes later the Pope walked through the door and shook my hand! I knelt down as he spoke a few words to me.”

“Really?” asked my Barber. “What’d he say?”

He said, “Where’d you get that SHITTY haircut?”

THANKS DAD!

Can Underpants Contribute to Sustainability?

My Mother always used to tell me when I was a child, that I must wear clean underwear every day. Her justification for this advice, was that I wouldn’t be embarrassed if I had an accident, and got taken to hospital. Strange logic, maybe, but I grew up with the healthy habit of wearing clean underwear every day.

 

This offers two benefits to society.

 

Firstly, it reduces the chances of body odour, and secondly, ensures that any bacteria and microbes that accumulate in the old under-crackers are reduced to a much lower level that they would be if one were to wear them for days on end.

 

Having said that, the wearing of clean underwear every day takes its toll on the environment.

 

A report conducted by Yates and Evans[1] found that 12% of domestic electricity demand, and 13% of mains freshwater demand in UK homes was for laundering.

 

Further reports suggest that an average washing machine will consume 17,160 litres of water per year, and given that the average household uses their machine 270 times per year, that’s a massive 63 litres every time the machine is used!

 

Apparently, according to the UK’s Daily Mirror[2], the average UK man owns 13 pairs of underpants in total, buys new pants once every six months spending an average of £20.75 a year on them. Interesting?  Maybe not, but stick with me…

 

Now the same article also goes on to explain that shockingly, 10% of my fellow men wear their shreddies for seven days before washing them. YUK! Un-hygienic for sure, and probably not likely to make you irresistible to the ladies!

 

Society is stuck on an unsustainable track – The garment industry manufactures clothing, we buy it, use it, wash it, use it, wear it out, throw it away, and then buy more, and so the cycle goes on.

 

Interestingly, the textile industry is one of the major contributors to pollution and the generation of CO2. According to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation the textile industry’s share of the carbon “budget” will increase from 2% in 2015, to 26% by 2050.

 

Manufacturing textiles is also greedy of other resources. In 2015, the manufacture of textiles consumed 98 million tonnes of oil. By 2050, this will have increased to 300 million tonnes, (always assuming there will be any left by then!)

 

A chilling by-product of manufacturing clothing, is the addition of an estimated 23 million tonnes of plastic microfibres into the world’s oceans.

 

We should be doing all that is possible to reduce the amount of new garments that are coming into existence.

 

I am not advocating that we extend the use of underpants creatively with a wearing pattern such as day one right side out, day two inside out, day three back to front etc., but there is a new alternative.

 

But there is hope.

 

Organic Basics is a Danish company that has been developing sustainable fashion, and designing clothing that impacts far less on the environment.

 

By using silver thread within the construction and weave of their range of pants and socks, they have extended the wear to wash interval hugely – and laundering a pair of pants just twice a month is now possible!

 

This is all down to the use of silver, which kills 99.9% of bacteria, and is used as an anti-bacterial filter by NASA in space travel.

 

The garments are made from 100% recycled materials most of which is recovered from post-industrial waste such as fibre, yarns and waste from weaving companies. Furthermore, they are fully approved by Bluesign, an organisation supporting a sustainable textile industry.

 

However, sustainability does come at a cost – in this case two pairs of men’s Silvertech® Boxers costs a whopping €56.00 (£48.56 as at 24/01/2019) so this may put them out of reach of many individuals.

 

There is light at the end of the tunnel though. A recent study by Nielsen showed that 66% of global consumers are willing to pay more for ethically sourced and sustainable products. In the case of millennials, this rises to 73%.

 

So, the question remains –

 

Will my Mother’s advice still hold good?

[1] Dirtying Linen: Re-evaluating the Sustainability of Domestic Laundry (2016) University of Manchester (UK)

[2] Daily Mirror, 21/04/2016

The Demise of My Blue Denims… Or Not

Settling back into my customary seat near the window of Costa’s in Petersfield, I took a cautious sip of my medium skinny wet latte with an extra shot. I say cautious, as the last time I sat here, I was nursing a burnt tongue and lip – the barista thought I had said “Extra Hot” instead of extra shot. I won’t get caught out like that again in a hurry.
Leaning back, I started leafing through the shop’s copy of the Daily Mail, in search of articles of interest. It was a bit of a slow news day, with lots of coverage of the US hustings between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. 
I mentally switched off. Reading about our own home grown liars and cheats was enough, without reading about someone else’s. 
I carried on, skimming articles for value, when my eye was drawn to a few column inches at the foot of the page.
“Why You Should Ditch Your Denim at 53!”
“Surely not” I thought. I read the article swiftly. It seems that research has shown that many people feel that denims and jeans are the province of the young, and that older folk such as myself shouldn’t wear them. 
I looked askance at the article. The very foundations of my world were rocking. Last week, it was my old trainers that I decided had to go, as balding fat blokes shouldn’t wear such items if they were to retain even a shred of street cred. 
Jeans and trainers were the uniform of my generation – our trademark, our sartorial protest at the generation before, in their baggy grey flannels and knitted pullovers. 
The style was academic, and in the past, I have worn skin tight drainpipes, flares with hems of twenty four inches, straight legs, and boot cut varieties, in standard denim blue, black denim, and, embarrassingly in the early seventies, crimson denim. I’ve had comfort fit, relaxed fit, button fly, zip fly, and even a pair with a Velcro fly, although to be fair that was a homemade repair when I got the old zip jammed and couldn’t be arsed to get it fixed. 
Over the years I have used many makes, including the eponymous Levi’s, Lee Copper, Inigo Jones, Wranglers, and even Tescos own. 
I have had (to my shame!) matching denim jackets, one of which was even fleece lined, but it in my defence it was the seventies, and I was in my late teens. 
I felt a bit sad. The thing about denim jeans is that they are so eminently practical. Pull them on in the morning, walk the dog, fix the car, cut the grass, go out shopping and then go out for a beer, and all without having to even think about changing.  
The things are almost indestructible too. I have had a pair which I have practically lived in, that I bought in 2008 on a trip to the USA. Levi’s, standard weight blue 501s. I used them for walking, motorcycling, flying, boating, cycling, and dare I say it. Even after that level of use and abuse, they are only just beginning to decompose around me. 
Don’t get me wrong, it’s just the material at the entrances to the pockets that is fraying and falling apart. The rest of the structure is OK, with the dye fading, and the wear patterns in the pockets where I habitually stow my wallet and mobile phone showing almost white. They just won’t die!
Carrying on my musings, it occurred to me that if I make the decision to retire gracefully from wearing denim, I need to assess and decide upon the look that I will need to replace it. 
I could take up wearing chinos full time. The trouble is that Chinos are fairly smart casual, and I couldn’t work on a motorcycle, and then go shopping without changing. Military surplus is a non starter. 
I could buy a few more pairs of adventure utility trousers with the zip off legs. Maybe invest in some cargo trousers, with multiple pockets.  
Or maybe I should just ignore the style gurus, and carry on wearing my blue denim jeans. They have served me well for forty five years, and I guess another twenty won’t hurt. 

Time to Save My Sole(s)

I guess it had to happen at some point. 
Every generation has its sartorial signature. For my generation of baby boomers, it’s blue jeans and training shoes. I sighed, looking at my four year old Converse All Stars. I was about to go down the pub for quiz night. I had gone to the utility room, and pulled my faithful trainers from their shelf. 
The once pristine white leather now cracked and grubby, despite my best efforts with the leather conditioner. The laces, fraying, the insoles malodorous and worn. Despite the abuse of four years of almost constant wear, the soles with their moulded blue tread looked almost new, with just a small area around the ball of the foot and a slightly chamfered heel to testify to their age.
I felt an odd sadness sweep over me. I had enjoyed a constant relationship with casual footwear since I was a child. I remembered with loathing the awful black plimsolls with the elasticated tops that my Mother used to force me to wear at primary school. 
Luckily, I soon grew out of them and recall going to my secondary school, and having a surge of pride when I pulled on proper trainers rather than the dreaded tennis shoes that had to be whitened with a no doubt toxic white creme which cracked and flaked as soon as it dried. These trainers were my thirteenth birthday present. 
I can remember them now – Power Toledos. They were black leather, with a suede toecap, and a biscuit coloured ridged sole. They were very comfortable, and I was soon wearing them virtually all day. 
As I grew older, and left school, I fell in with a group of friends who were very much into 1950s rock’n’roll, and it wasn’t long before my trainers were kicked into touch in favour of what we called bumper boots, and my baggy Levi’s switched for snake proof drainpipe denims with a turn up. This phase lasted for about three years, during which I experimented with crepe soled blue suede shoes, motorcycle boots, platform boots and Doc Martens. 
However, the sheer practicality and enduring street cried of trainers lured me back, and I have virtually lived in the things since the mid 1980s. Thirty years of Adidas, Nike, Puma and Hi-Tec, each pair lasting me a few years. 
I’m now 57. I caught sight of myself in the mirror the other day. A balding fat bloke in the obligatory Levis and a pair of scruffy Converse All Stars.
I though about the image, and mentally shuddered. It was not a good look. Well, not for a middle aged porky chap with virtually no hair. I am the Flight Operations manager in a large blue chip company, and my days were now filled with suits and meetings. 
My current peer group of friends fall into two distinct categories. The rural look, with old, crinkly waxed jackets, tough boots and Stockman coats and hats, or the American collegiate look, with smart chinos and loafers. 
But until now, I had stubbornly clung to my winter “look” of baggy tee shirts, comfort fit Levis and trainers, and my summer plumage of baggy tee shirt, shorts and trainers. I suddenly realised that I was somehow stuck in a time warp, an endless Groundhog Day of arrested development. 
I snatched the shoes up, and strode over to the flip top bin, and hurled them viciously inside, the flip top spinning madly under my onslaught. 
With a pious feeling I was about to walk away, when my eye was drawn to the tickets secured to the side of the fridge.  
Status Quo’s “really and truly” farewell concert was due to happen a few short months away in December.  
I realised that no adult red blooded male who has grown up with the Quo through the sixties and seventies could possibly entertain the idea of going to a Fab Four gig wearing anything other than blue denim and trainers. 
Smiling, I reached into the bin, and pulled out the iconic footwear. “One more wear guys” I muttered, and hid them in the back of the cupboard. 
I think it is fitting that my old pumps will retire at the same time as the blokes who will forever be associated with jeans and trainers. 
Mark Charlwood © September 2016