On clothing

One of the things I like most about my writing ‘career’ is that I get to wear what I like while I’m ‘working’. Being a man, this usually equates to the bare minimum of dignity, no concern for cut, style or even cleanliness of the garments, and fasteners, if any, must be loose and preferably elasticated. This is to accommodate the classic ‘writing’ positions – standing to stare out of the window, leaning back in the chair to stare out of the window, chewing religiously while staring out of the window or shuffling up and down stairs to the kettle without upsetting the wife or neighbours too much (we have that modern curse – large expanses of glass – covering 50% of the kitchen exterior surface).

Today is a little different. I am wearing my Not Quite West London But Close shirt, and some khaki pants (sorry, trousers) that get worn once every 18 months because they are hideous enough for me to notice that they’re hideous (which is a lot of hideousity. Hideousness? Hidelity?) As an example of how little I notice these things, I have, in my time bought and worn the following: three monks’ habits (the longest of long stories), am aberdeen-angus coloured blazer/jacket (sans horns), a nuclear-yellow long sleeved shirt from Banana Republic (I loved it, but eventually spilled purple nail varnish on it – another long story), tweed trousers at least four inches too short (another very long story), a rubberised macintosh (from a second-hand shop, no fetishism intended – I ripped it to bits in a moped accident), compression socks (for running – similar to those Paula Radcliffe wears although I suspect my feet and calves are twice her size), lycra shorts (for the gym, worn under another pair of shorts for modesty – thereby defeating some of the purpose of owning said item, although they do feel nice – but again, no fetishism intended) and umpteen fluorescent or otherwise gaudy items emblazoned with the Fetcheveryone logo for running, plodding and pootling in.

So, as you’ll observe, I have little ‘taste’ in clothes, and a blissfully under-developed fashion sense – to the extent that one of my mother’s favourite stories about me is the time she refused to be seen with me while out shopping together, as my holey jumper made me look like a vagrant, or that she was neglecting me. I had to shuffle along six paces behind. Which suited my teenage self fine, I suspect. Although I couldn’t really see through my fringe, so it was all moot anyway.

But put me in a suit… and instantly I feel uncomfortable. Partly it’s a size thing – I’m built like Spongebob Squarepants (nice legs, with a slab of butter for a torso. Ok, so that’s not Spongebob, but if I said Butterbob no-one would get the reference), but it’s mostly an attitude thing. I was a film student, briefly, and so I learnt about ‘tippage’ (the act of casting people who look like the profession they are portraying) and know the barest minimum (barely above pub quiz) about existentialism (something to do with Sartre and jumpers for goalposts). And whenever I put on formal trousers, or worse, a tie, I feel like a fraud. I feel like I’ve jumped class, or abandoned punk or something – although truth be told I’m the most conservative non-comformist you could find.

I have a similar problem with sunglasses. I can’t wear them. My pavlovian reaction is ‘ooh, look at me’, whereas the intent of the item is usually the exact opposite. I feel like I’m lying. I feel compelled to take them off and show the world what I’m feeling. Apprehension, mostly. I’m pretty apprehensive about most things. I used to think I was miserable, but now I mostly think I’m apprehensive. It’s progress, but only if you count it on some infinite scale of Marvins.

And I’m sitting here, with a fresh haircut, smart-ish clothes and feeling much worse than if I’d slipped on my Very West London Darling jeans (bought under duress, and with much flustering of the shop assistants in Gant with my utter cluelessness about the proper seat-riding/bottom positioning of ludicrously overpriced denim leg coverings). Because it feels like I’m trying. And I hate that. I like to be flip, and cynical, and think ‘yes, I could have got that/done that, but you know, next time I’ll try’. And the smart clothes, to me, are a very public sign of trying.

And why am I dressed up? Well, I have a meeting. A Nice Person has offered me some paid work (potentially), and it would be fun and interesting to do – and more importantly take my mind off waiting for the rejection slips to come back from the agents I queried (it’s funny, I’m almost willing them to be rejections – so I can wear them like a badge or something. Again – it’s a ‘trying’ thing). And with typical inverted snobbery, I have dressed up to meet my expectations of them – without really knowing much about the company. I do that a lot, and it’s something I thought I’d grow out of.

Anyhoo. Here I sit, trying but not trying; researching, but not learning; typing, but not writing.

Waiting, and yet not waiting.

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