What to wear (examination of British fashion for blokes)

I remember when I was little I always thought English kids where probably a bit soft. I based this theory on reading Janet & John books and seeing how English kids wore socks and those little silly black shoes. Whereas I was a properly tough Kiwi kid in my bare feet. I actually do not remember when I got my first pair of shoes. I have a school picture as shown here with half the kids in bare feet still!

I  also used to wonder, based on watching Coronation street, how English people found their way home when they went out. This was because the terraced houses where all identical. I saw England as a place where people on holiday sat in deck chairs on pebble beaches, with handkerchief hats and read a newspaper. The English played soccer in foggy stadiums and the place looked unfathomably glum and miserable compared to my wild sun-filled young life in the back blocks of New Zealand.

When I arrived in the UK many years later, it was still a pretty glum place, frankly, I got here in November 1991 and I believe there were some economic issues facing the country at the time. I didn’t have any money anyway so that didn’t affect me at all. I just wandered around in the fog, wondering what on Earth I had inflicted upon myself.

I understand that many kiwis’ think England is still a bit of a bland place populated by soccer playing softies. Pommy pooftah’s I believe we refer to them as. I had a bit of a revelation recently though. Stuff often occurs to me in a rush. I realised that far from being a bland place, albeit with excellent comedy shows. England is actually an amazing place to dress yourself as a bloke.  If you are unfortunate enough to reside on the continent you better be small, and slightly effeminate. We all know about the great Fashion houses of Europe. The variously overhyped and often overpriced clothing for girls or homosexual men sold by the likes of Gucci and Versace, YSL, Dior, Prada, Armani, and Pierre Cardin.  As a strapping six footer, try buying any decent clothing at all in any shop on the continent.  Everything is a triumph of style over substance. The shoes are beyond description, small sizes only and either pointy or clumpy, poor quality footwear for the fashionably challenged. While you might find some smart clothes for the popular European pastime of promenading in the evening admiring each other’s other halves. There is little in the way of practical day wear for blokes. I believe the sum total of clothing purchased on my many trips to the continent is a nice linen shirt from a market.

If you live in Australia it helps if you are a cowboy as the most popular clothing seems to be for men who like moleskins and felt hats. The ubiquitous Aussie look is either cowboy or surfie if the main brands are anything to go by. In New Zealand it seems all we want is clothing made from wool or Possum. If you want to shop in the USA, you will also hopefully like to dress like a cowboy or someone who spends their time on the campus of an expensive university. Either that or as a pretend African-American gang member.

However…. England is the place a man can truly dress with style and comfort in quality clothing. In London alone we blokes have Jermyn Street. An entire street devoted to men’s things. Amazing proper shoes that are good for actually walking around in or going to work. Stylish clothing for relaxing in your smoking room. High quality gentleman’s shaving equipment and accessories. The street is crammed with such famous names as Dunhill, Crombie, Turnbull and Asser, Hilditch & Key, Church’s, Crockett & Jones and so on, while at the end of the street is the Davidoff shop for manly cigars and walking canes.  Nearby is Holland and Holland where you can buy the best firearms in the world and very smart robust clothing to wear while you decimate the world’s wildlife. Just up the road is Purdy. Also makers of weaponry used over centuries to bring about the near extinction of large land mammals and medium-sized game birds.

For walking about in a wilderness the Continentals will wear some ghastly cagoul in a fluorescent colour while we in England have the world’s best proper raincoat maker, in Barbour. Clothing that mostly comes in practical green and brown for sneaking up on your dinner while it is still fossicking in the shrubbery.

England is a tremendous place for a fellow to dress himself for every occasion. Look at the people of Hawkes Bay in New Zealand, you may have a wonderful climate and fantastic wines but the men are forced to continuously dress in moleskin trousers and an aertex shirt as those are all the shops in Napier or Hastings sell apparently. In Auckland it’s white or cream linen with boat shoes, year in year out.  In Europe the clothing is like the music, made for and appealing exclusively to, Europeans, who are not like regular people.

The world’s richest men travel to London’s Saville Row to buy their hand-made suits, while their wives can walk down New Bond Street looking at all the nice trinkets that cost more than a house.

Far from being the pommy pooftahs and soccer softies of my youthful ignorance, the English are actually the world’s great adventurers. Look at all the explorers and soldiers. The men who went out into the world to discover new places and countries. One might argue they were looking for somewhere better to live but the fact that they mostly ended up in Australia kills that theory. James Bond is English! The Royal Marines and the Guardsmen are English. Hard men fighting brutal bloody wars against the disaffected tribesmen of the near east.

The ones letting down the side are actually the soccer softies. Soccer is a big girl’s game in the eyes of we Kiwi’s. We won’t actually properly take soccer seriously as a sport until the long-haired little men who play the game stop falling to the ground, rolling around screaming as though being castrated with a rusty spoon when someone runs past them. Miraculously they are instantly better when the sought penalty is awarded. Only in soccer do you hear the phrase “He won a penalty”. I always thought, in sport, you were awarded a penalty for an infringement by the other side. What should be ‘won’ is an award for play acting. Interestingly enough, these soccer players, in their spare time, dress almost exclusively in effeminate European fashion labels.

Categories: Advertising/fashion, Rants

17 replies »

  1. James Bond is Scottish admittedly of the civilised variety. But after you have been to Jermyn Street you can go to the finest gentleman’s clubs in the world as two minute stroll away. There’s the Carlton Club, East India Club and the RAC Club and plenty more. You don’t have to worry about the Continental riff raff or the local pikies there.

  2. BTW, I suppose when you get your first pair of flip flops in NZ you are regarded as something of a social climber?

  3. Thanks for the early morning chuckle…opened gmail expecting to see crap email from ex and instead had a good old laugh!! xx

  4. Completely agree with everything you say here…I have just recently begun to appreciate what London has to offer by way of mens’ style (as opposed to fashion.) If you get hold of a copy, I highly recommend The Chap magazine.

    As a tangential aside: You should have seen the look on a colleague’s face when a Zimbabwean and I told him the typical fashionable London Friday office casual wear would have him labeled as being a bit light in the loafers in our relative home towns.

  5. Another good read Sandy, although I’m interested that you have been able to use the term ‘pooftah’ without being excommunicated, or at least threatened with same.

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