Back in the 1980s, when I was young and impressionable, I bought an item of clothing that my sister assured me was the height of fashion – a £220 long, brown leather trench-coat.
Even as I was looking at it in the store, I recall being unconvinced and when I paid for it I’m sure I heard the shop assistant mumble to a colleague, ‘well, blow me, I never thought we’d see the day someone bought that’.
Later that night, as I tried it on at home, my mum walked into my bedroom. ‘Blimey,’ she remarked, ‘have you joined the Adolf Hitler Appreciation Society?’
It hung forlornly in the wardrobe for the next seven years, worn only once (to decorate the back bedroom), and was then shoved in a bin liner and taken to the local Oxfam shop, where I daresay it remained on another hanger for another seven years, until they gave up any hope of selling it and burned it in the backyard.
I mention this because the topic of this week’s column is fashion, or at least one specific aspect of it: young people wearing jeans with great big holes in them.
At first I thought it was a shocking indication of how widespread the problem of poverty is in this country, but then I realised youngsters were actually deliberately dressing this way.
And we’re not talking small holes, I mean huge gaps so big that both knee-caps poke clean through.
I asked Mrs Canavan about it, for she sees herself as something of a fashion leader (though judging by the blouse she wore for work yesterday morning I fear she’s misguided).
“Yes, holes in your pants are all the rage,” she said, then flipped through the pages of one of the many magazines she buys and pointed to an article that began: “Be it skinny, mom, boyfriend or cropped, ripped jeans are the hot new denim trend du jour.”
I’ve since re-read that sentence four times and still have no idea what it means, but it must explain why every young person between the age of 18 and 30 seems to own trousers that have at least four or five whacking big holes in them.
Of course, though it may seem absurd and downright ridiculous to an old codger like me, let’s face it, we’ve all tried to keep up the latest fads and trends in our time
Other than my Uncle Alan, who I’ve never seen in any outfit other than woollen jumper and flat cap, people generally want to look good.
It happened way back in ancient Rome, during the Ming dynasty in China, it even happens in Rochdale.
And although today’s fashion tastes might seem a bit dodgy, odd sartorial trends have gone on since time immemorial.
The most dramatic change in European fashion, for instance – according to those that study the history of fashion – occurred in the 1300s when men suddenly stopped wearing calf-length over garments and changed to a dress that barely covered the buttocks.
Imagine that. The only person I allow to see my buttocks is Mrs Canavan and, when the rash flares up, my GP. The thought of being at the checkout in Home Bargains while having my bottom on display is, quite frankly, horrifying – especially if you’ve seen the clientele in Home Bargains.
That said, I don’t think the fashion industry has ever been more ridiculous and pompous than it is these days.
Leafing through one of Mrs C’s magazines, for example, I was confronted by an article titled Fall and Winter trends.
“It is all about the loud trends, with contrasting prints and lots of stellar content,” it began. “The combination of white tiger print crop sweater with bright turtlenecks and graffiti miniskirts is intriguing enough but then adding fishnets, socks and leopard print shoes to the mix and you’ve got a fireworks and rockets exploding.”
Which is, of course, utter nonsense, yet Mrs Canavan – as I read it aloud – sagely nodded and said, ‘yes, yes’ in agreement.
I think what it comes down to is that you are either interested in fashion or you’re not.
I am not, as Mrs C will attest, which is why you’ll never catch me walking round with my knees on display.
Fashion stops at comfort slacks
A radio programme the other day asked listeners to send in suggestions for signs that you are officially old.
There were some good ones, including having plans for the weekend that include defrosting the freezer and carrying a tissue up your sleeve in case of an emergency.
My favourite, though, was you know you are old when you visit a National Trust property without your parents.
In my experience, I also think you are officially old when you begin to buy clothing from those little magazine supplements that come with the Sunday papers.
On a visit home to see my mother the other day I noticed she had circled a picture of a lady wearing what I can confidently describe as the worst pair of trousers I have ever seen.
‘Feel comfortable in these stylish elasticated jeans, with two front pockets,’ the advert read, as if pockets were some sort of incredible advance in clothing technology.
‘An essential item for your wardrobe,’ it continued, dubiously. ‘They can be dressed up for an evening out or down for a day of lounging. Two pairs for £7.99.’
“Mother,” I said, bursting into the kitchen where she was on the phone to Talktalk asking why an Indonesian prince keeps emailing to tell her his nephew has died in a car crash and she has now inherited his fortune. “You are not buying those jeans are you?”
She looked sheepish and assured me she wasn’t, before adding: “But £7.99, not a bad price is it?”
I expect to see them hanging in her wardrobe very soon.