Saturday, 1 October 2011

Indian summer 1 - English fashion sense 0

I'm not entirely sure how  to react to the unseasonable weather. More worryingly, a lot of wardrobes appear to be having the same problem.

Normally, by the beginning of October we're plummeting headlong towards Autumn. It's one of my favourite times of the year. Mainly dry, but cold. You can put on a sturdy coat and boots and go tramping through the fallen leaves, if you wish. Or, if you're like me, watch the mists and mellow fruitfulness through double glazing, preferably with soup nearby.

So the fact that we're seeing temperatures approaching 30 degrees is a bit of a shocker.

I mustn't grumble, however. It's quite nice. The other night I drove home towards a spectacular orange and red sunset. I sat there, gazing in wonder at the palette of colours, the sky a perfect unblemished bowl above my head, graduating to navy, purple and black.  I thought how insignificant I was.

Mind you, I also thought that the previous week, and it was raining.

But as I've been dusting off the air-conditioning unit in the bedroom, so have my fellow citizens been doing the same to their wardrobes. And I'm sorry to say this, but we're not very good at dressing for warm weather, are we?

This was brought home to me in no uncertain terms as I was out and about this morning, performing various chores. I won't bore you with the details, as you would find them, well, boring, but suffice it to say I was brought into close contact with many examples of the Englishman In Heat.

I say 'Englishman', because ladies seem to be pretty good at this sort of thing. Good choice of fabric, nice floaty items, it just seems natural. But us chaps? No, we're pretty hopeless. It's not for me to pretend to be some sort of fashion guru. My hot weather outfit is essentially the same as my cold-weather outfit, just without a coat. But there were some deeply disturbing sights out there today.

I saw men who had clearly raided their summer beach holiday wardrobe. Pale white legs poked bravely from under wackily-designed shorts. Fine if you're a 20-something surfer, heading out to hang ten off Malibu. Not so appropriate for the queue at Acocks Green post office.

I observed a number of bare-chested gentlemen. This is not a good look. Pigeon-chested, bony-ribbed, beer-bellies, lobster sunburn, dodgy tatoos, the whole gamut of guts was on display. And I hate to be a social commentator, but there's nothing that says "I'm not in regular contact with the mothers of my children" quite like a bare chest, baseball cap and shellsuit trousers, is there?

An attack of the shudders was brought on by the sight of sandals worn over socks. This is beyond cliche, men of England.

They have the right idea overseas. On those occasions when I've been in hot countries during the Summer, the locals put us visitors to shame. We'll be there in rather too much manmade fabric. T-shirts with designs paying tribute to surf clubs that don't exist. Those thongy flip-flop sandal things, in which I maintain it is impossible for any grown man to have any semblance of dignity. I include myself in this number. Forgive me, I know no better.

But then we'll be shown up by the waiter at the bar, the taxi-driver, the local business-man on his way to the office. They cope so much better than we do; OK, they're acclimatised, it's in their culture. But they do linen trousers in M&S, you know.

So while it's great that we have this one last hurrah for the summer, there's a part of me that can't wait for the colder winds to start blowing. After all, I've got a lovely coat that has a few more winters left in it.

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