Wednesday, 19 February 2014


It's a blustery weekend in Dublin, and the missus and I have "randomly" taken shelter in a luxury department store. Some seriously big labels inhabit the floors of this building - Alexander McQueen, Mulberry, Bobby Valentino, including some other exotic ones which I didn't recognise, but I'm told are big in the fashion world. 

We stroll through past some watches which are expensively irrelevant, and some handbags which are as ridiculously priced as they are impractical ("You see, this one is €895, but you'd have to be so careful about what you put in it, so you don't scratch the leather or scuff the fabric, or stretch the handle, and really this could only work with one or two outfits I have... Let's just keep looking"), and eventually the inevitable happens. 

"Oh, I love this one!" 

It's an Orla Kiely (me neither) handbag, and, incredibly it's an absolute bargain! Just over what the government thinks I should pay for the privilege of owning a thirsty, rainforest-destroying Alfa Romeo, per year. It's a lot, but in the time it has taken for you to realise that the rest of this sentence is a just a bit of unnecessary filler, she's bought it.

We continue walking around the various departments, as she clutches her new product more tightly than you or I have ever been embraced by our own mothers, and eventually, we head down to the men's section. It's an exhibition of a lifestyle I can only dream of. Suits, shoes, accessories, designed by men with iconic names, made by men in Italy by the finest craftsmen and women, and worn by people who have "made it". Nobody knows what 'it' is, but I believe it's when you're rich enough to be able to buy a pint in London and not go "fucking hell, you could cure AIDS for that much!". They're the kind of people whom you don't care if they're late for an event, you should just be glad they're there so that you can bask in their excellence. The sort who throw in the odd french words in their sentence, and have a certain joie de vivre.

I am no such man. 

I trudge around the various labels, looking at suits I can't afford, browsing shoes I'll never wear. It's all so hopeless. The biggest giveaway that I couldn't afford a shoelace in here is that nothing was priced at something-ninety-nine. Not one item is "just €99.99!", it's €100. Whole numbers terrify me. It makes me wonder why our forefathers even bothered to decimalise currencies.

"Ah, wow, James you'd look incredible in this!" 

The missus is holding a blue, rather extravagant, Ted Baker waistcoat. It looks very, very nice, I might give it a bit of a try - wait what? HOW-fucking-much-you're-fucking-kidding-me?!

"Just go and try it on- oh, and this shirt would look great with it!"

What the fuck? The shirt's as much as the waistcoat's as much as the GDP of Luxembourg!

Sheepishly, I accept the shirt and waistcoat, and trudge off into the changing rooms to try them both on... Hm... I look alright in it. 

I look more than alright, I look like a bloody sexy bitch!

Or do I just look good because it's an exorbitant amount of clothing? Would I look good in any clothing that's that expensive. Would someone typically sartorial like David Beckham or Eddie Redmayne wear something like this? I look quite smart! But Jesus it's a lot of money. 

It takes an almighty, plaster-ripping moment for me to cave in. Fine, I'll buy these two ridiculously expensive items of clothing. 

"Ah, I'm so glad you are" said the missus, who seems to take some kind of sick pleasure in me handing over money, "you'll look so smart in them. It's the kind of thing David Bowie would wear".

My eyes light up. 

David Bowie!

A few years ago, and in the space of about 2 months, I went from 0-100mph in my addiction and affection for Bowie and all his alter-egos. I was, and still am, nuts about him. Even right now, as I write this, and probably as you read this, I'm listening to one of his songs. 

I return to the mirror. Maybe it is the kind of thing he'd wear? I don't really know, he's worn some pretty outlandish things in the past. This is probably a bit vanilla, a bit magnolia (I have been described as both before) for someone like David Bowie. 

Okay, I'll get it, but NO more spending for the rest of the holiday.

A scarf, two dinners, a jumper, countless Guinnesses, and a pair of sunglasses (in Ireland in February?!) later, we're back in Blighty. 

I unpack the clothes that started this whole mess and hang them on the back of the door. 

They do look nice. 

But now I cannot find an occasion that would warrant such an expensive outfit. Out for dinner - but with what money? What kind of looks would I get in Kev's Southern Chicken Parlour? To Mum and Dad's - I can see the conversation now; "How's things with money, son?" "Pretty good thanks" "Yes I can fucking see that, any chance of repaying us what you owe?" To work? - Ah, maybe!

We have a big client coming in soon, and they'll be sure to expose every flaw we have. We've got to be at the top of our game and, for me, that means - rather superficially - looking my best, and letting the little work I do around the place take care of itself. 

This is it! I now have the perfect occasion to wear my shiny new outfit! It shall be preserved until the sacred day, where I'll do my little turn on the catwalk (yeah on the catwalk, on the catwalk, etc.).

The big day comes, and I wheel out the shiny new fabrics. Cut off the labels (now there really is no going back), and pair the shirt/waistcoat with a pair of chinos I bought when I was, once again, under the influence of an intoxicatingly swish marque. And some boots I found in a sale.

I must impress that it's not often I do this, but, I admit, I did give myself a little twirl in the mirror that morning. Okay, I do it all the time, but who cares, I'm fabulous! I do look a bit like the Thin White Duke!

How do I look?

I 'accidentally' wake up the missus so she can see me. 

"You look great" she says, face buried in the pillow. 

That's all I needed.

Into work I strut. Listening to Bowie all the way. I could make a real stand here and become the office fashionista. Will they like the new me?

"Morning James!"
"Morning, Identity protected!"
"Interesting waistcoat!"

"Morning James!"
"Morning Colleague"
"Funny-looking waistcoat - you look like you should be a snooker player!"
Okay, that's two people now. That's two who like it (the missus and I) against these two philistines who have mocked it.

"Hey James! Been snookering recently?"

Now, there's nothing wrong with the fashion sense of snooker players, but they're hardly up there with the iconic man himself! Do I look that uncool? Snooker's not the most glamorous of sports. Is it that bad? Maybe the waistcoat is a little garish. 

I couldn't work it out either...
The rest of the day hideously knocks my confidence. I'm conscious of how I look everywhere I walk. But marketing's quite an edgy sort of business, isn't it? I've seen some pretty trendy marketeers. How do they do it?

They are understated. Black trousers, white shirts, black designer specs, white iPhones, black smart shoes - you see a theme here? A splash of colour is maybe channelled through a tie, or a handkerchief, but it's not Jackson Pollocked across the whole outfit. 

I look bloody ridiculous. I'm too colourful!

My 15 minutes of fame with a big new potential client is more of 30 seconds of shame, as I'm shown the door quicker than I had time to say hello to our possible new friends (all wearing very fashionable specs, none looking like they've been assaulted by a child with a handful of Sharpies). 

Mortified, the rest of the day goes by with my head bowed down, all communications done online, and at 5:31, I bolt out the door. By now, thankfully, it's dark outside and no-one can see this abomination. I barge in home, slam the door shut, lock it twice, close all the curtains and pour myself a drink. 

Missus enters, stage left
"Oh, you're early, how was your day?" 
"Never mind that, who do you think I look like?"
"Hm, a bit like a gay snooker player." 

It's just one of the side effects of being this avant-garde, oui?