Seldom have I ever been accused of sartorial elegance, and most of those few occasions have fallen in the last year, since I decided I was just too old to go on getting away with being... casual? louche?... no, just plain scruffy.
Not that I was ever really scruffy - at least I always shaved. The current fashion, for neither having a beard nor not, gives us the unedifying spectacle of 50-something Oxbridge academics desperate to deny their age and just ending up looking like they could use a bath; but I have had a chequered relationship with the fashions that ran alongside my life.
As a 60s teen I was a proto-punk anarchist, a bright soft tie worn as a headband in ironical reference to hippie style. I wore my hair down to my shoulders and felt I was part of a youth vanguard. A year later I cut it short, when I woke up to the fact that longhairs were not guaranteed to espouse radical, countercultural ideas, and so the longhair gesture was meaningless.
In the 70s I sported a leather flying jacket and, yes, for one season, a moustache. My 80s garb was an extension of the same basic style. In the 90s I started dressing up more - suits and military fetish for special occasions - but my everyday wear was, frankly, dull, with the curious dullness of stylistic indecision.
What happens when we have no idea what our appearance might mean? I sit in a bar and people look lost, at sea in images, young men, 20 something, fuzz of stubble, corporate clothes that refuse to exert a sexual male identity... they are blurred, out of focus, these metrosexuals in the pseudo-community of their Gap clothes.
Not to mention the fashion victim teens who wear their corporate hoods up in blazing heat, even when there are no security cameras to hide ostentatiously from... let's not even step into that style abyss.
Can we escape from the gravity well of corporate clothing boredom? What might it be like to dress in a non-corporate fashion?
We have to look to subcultures for answers to that sort of question; enter The Chap, http://www.thechap.net/
A Chap (and the description is not male-restricted) adopts a 1940s style, only barely modified at all for contemporary sensibilities, and - important distinction, this – not just for special occasions, but every day.
This makes sense on a number of levels. For instance, consider layers, and the British climate. That old style is well adapted to the world of energy shortages which we shall all need to get used to. We walk out, we have great hats and overcoats. We step into a heated room, we remove scarf, gloves, hat, overcoat. The room gets warmer, we remove the jacket. We still have a waistcoat or a sleeveless pullover on over the shirt.
This is not only intelligent but massively more stylish than anything current hoodie-sports shoes-jeans fashion can possibly offer.
And consider self-reliance: traditional clothes can be repaired, if not too badly damaged. We keep shoes clean and stretched with shoe tree, preserving both fabric and appearance. We throw less away. We look better than the most expensively-attired name-brand victim, and we got most of it from charity shops.
Bugger... That was the secret.