Tag Archives: fashion

I am thinking of dying my hair. Is this a bad idea? Or am I past my sell-by date?

Could I be the new young face of 2012 British fashion?

In 2000, I shaved off my beard because, frankly, it was making me look older than I needed to look and we live in an ageist world. My hair has now mostly turned white rather than just greying, so I was thinking perhaps I should dye it.

Last week, I asked the suspiciously black-haired American comedian Lewis Schaffer what he thought about this.

“John, you’re bald,” he told me. “You have too little hair to color. No-one will notice. Except you will have hair color on your scalp for days after coloring it and that will look sad. Plus, when the grey comes back in, you’ll look sad.

“If you want to seem young, you should shave every day and thoroughly. At the moment, you shave like a old man. You miss the bit around the neck and errant old-man hairs come out of the tip of your nose.”

“You don’t think that’s a good look?” I asked.

“Shave every day,” he said. “It’s very important. And trim your eyebrow hair. Look at pictures of Barry Manilow’s or Elton John’s eyebrows. They look young.

“Trim your nose hair. Trim your eyebrows. Wear a suit. Lose weight. Exercise. Buy more current glasses. Or stop using glasses altogether.”

I thought this was a little harsh, as Sean Connery gets away with it, except he doesn’t wear glasses.

So, yesterday, I had a meal with my eternally-un-named-friend – well. OK, she’s an ex-girlfriend. We were eating spaghetti. I think perhaps one way to appear less old is not to eat spaghetti. I have always eaten spaghetti badly.

“Eyebrows are very important,” she told me.”A good pair of eyebrows will carry you through your baldness.”

“But my stubble,” I complained. “Lewis said I should shave every day, but all the Hollywood sex symbols wear stubble nowadays. I keep seeing them interviewed on TV with stubble.”

“But, John, you’re no Hollywood sex symbol,” she said, “and it’s clean, even stubble. Sometimes yours is stubble just because you’ve missed a bit and it’s much longer than other bits. You’ve got a tatty, moth-eaten look. The other day I told you there were three hairs that were half an inch long and you must have missed those three altogether. You can’t just have decided to cultivate them and shaved round them intentionally.”

“Why not?” I asked. “Perhaps I was trying to make a feature of them. Like flowers. People don’t complain about flowers sticking up in a garden, do they? A flower is just something that’s been allowed to be taller than the other things around it. People don’t say Ooh, when you mowed the lawn you missed that flower; chop it off.”

My eternally-un-named friend said nothing.

“And,” I continued, “Lewis said I should wear a suit. I feel uncomfortable in suits and ties.”

“Well,” she told me. “A suit looks good. I mean, you can go round slobbery in jeans a lot of the time but if, every now and then, you put on a suit, it reminds people you haven’t totally lost it.”

“What about ties, though?” I said. “I feel half-strangled. I’ve never worn ties.”

“Something smart,” she said. “Just every now and again. You wore a tie to that funeral the other week.”

“Well,” I said, “that was a funeral and he was of an older generation than me. I suppose I will increasingly have to wear ties because, at my age, I suppose more and more people I know will be dying off.”

“There’s going to be a turning point, though,” my eternally-un-named friend said, “where less people will be dying because most will have already died.”

“Can I be slobbish after they all die?” I asked. “ It might be in my interest to just kill them off as soon as possible.”

“You’ve gone weird now, haven’t you? she said.

“Why?”

“What’s happened to you?” she asked. “You’ve probably been reading the Edinburgh Fringe Programme again and nearly writing a blog about…”

“We’re not going to mention that!” I said.

“…marching down to the Fringe Office,” she continued, “and demanding your 400 quid back. Plus psychological damage and trauma.”

“So should I model myself after Lewis Schaffer?” I asked. “Is this wise? Is he the perfect role model, sartorially and facially?”

“No,” my eternally-un-named friend said, “but you could try to follow his advice. Martin Soan can also brush up well and he wears clothes well. You should be suggesting him to Nigel Hall as someone who could wear socks in their adverts.”

“I should?” I asked, surprised.

Martin Soan, an older man, but stylish in his Nigel Hall socks

“You remember?” she asked. “He was sitting in Nigel Hall socks, naked, in Lewis Schaffer’s radio show the other week. Martin looks very smart in just a pair of socks. I think it could be a brilliant wotsit. It could be one of those. A brilliant thing. Advertising. You know.”

“You think I look good naked in a pair of socks?” I asked.

“Not as good as Martin,” she replied. “You’d be too self-conscious… You don’t hold yourself… ”

“When you say I don’t hold myself…” I interrupted.

“Martin can do elegance,” she continued.

“What? In nudity?”

“Yes,” she said. “Shall we write to Nigel Hall? Their advertising Dept.”

“What?” I asked. “Suggest a naked man in a pair of socks?”

“Well, Martin Soan naked in a pair of socks,”

“You’ve been around comedians too long,” I told her.

“You keep saying that to me,” my eternally-un-named friend said, “but other people who aren’t comedians are funny… often funnier… and most comedians aren’t that funny. They do it for a job because they just know how to play a room, to hit a funny bone and create a claptrap.”

“How do you create a claptrap?” I asked.

“That thing of making people realise that they’re going Oh! – a sort of thing of recognition in their emotional baggage interior whatever and Oh-uh-ho! That’s funny! and clap. Further analysis later in the cold light of day.”

“You’ve decided you’re definitely not going to the Edinburgh Fringe in August?” I asked.

“You never know,” she said. “I might turn up there, but it’s too crowded and you all get a wee bit mental. You know. Obsessive. Charging around. Busy busy busy.”

“Perhaps Martin will be wearing his Nigel Hall socks,” I said encouragingly.

“You’re going to say I have stuff on my chin, aren’t you?” she said.

“No,” I said. And we continued our meal.

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Filed under Age, Comedy, Fashion, Humor, Humour

Response to those cheap Japanese jibes

This is a response to my last blog… by my friend who worked for a Japanese multi-national company in Tokyo…

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The shabby (I would say shiny) suits haven’t changed. I think it’s grossly unfair to call them shabby (particularly from you, John – dearie me, that’s rich) as these are a Western-influenced “uniform” all salarymen wear to look the part and have nothing to do with quality.

Japanese salarymen and women do not judge each other by how they dress in Western clothes, they judge each other by how they dress at home and at festival times when they spare no expense to buy the correct, quality clothing and accessories.

The other point to mention is that Japanese clothing and indeed culture in general is all about understatement. Minimalism. Less is more. So even the gorgeous kimonos can look very plain in subdued colours to the untutored eye, it’s the texture of the fabric and the particular shade of grey or brown that is important, the quality of the weave and so on.

So they don’t see a need to dress up as dandies and you’d never find New York stock exchange braces or pink polka dot ties and button- down collars. They act and dress collectively not individually. Their strength is in their unity and their sameness.

That’s also how they get through disasters.

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The British have always been a violent race

Once upon a time, an Italian historian told me this…

The British are a restless, disorderly race. They are not the cold people their stereotype implies. You rarely get anything as social as British pubs anywhere else.  German beer cellars are not the same.

The British like to fight.

If two Italians have an argument, there is a long period in which they just stand and insult each other – “You bastard! – You asshole! – Are you an idiot? – You son of a bitch!” – They shout a long string of verbal abuse at each other, but there is no physical violence. The shouting usually draws a group of people round them and, slowly, the two men get closer to each other and the insults get louder. Only at a very late stage might one try to physically attack the other and – immediately – the onlookers will separate them and hold them back. Real fights are rare. There is a saying in Italy – The one who strikes the first blow wins – because there is rarely a second blow – The fight is stopped.

The British fight in a totally different way.

If someone is offended, he turns suddenly and the most he says is “Fuck you!” then he immediately hits the other guy in the face with his fist. No-one has time to separate the two because, by the time they get there, a full fight has started. I saw it happen in a pub the second day I was in England and I have seen it many times since. Very few Italians have broken noses, but lots of English and Scots do because, with their sudden fights, there is no time to protect your face from the first punch.

The other facet which confuses foreigners is that so many British look like losers. They dress casually and shabbily, they don’t repair the legs of their spectacles for years and they look like they are past caring but, at some point, this apparently laid-back loser will turn round and break your nose. It is not a country where you insult someone lightly.

I was in a pub standing next to a stranger and he muttered something to this other guy who looked like a real loser, a real meek man. There was the tiniest of pauses and the meek guy just hit the stranger full-force in the middle of his face. His nose exploded. The stranger went straight down onto the floor and never got up and the meek guy turned quietly back to his pint of beer.

The Romans had twelve legions to control their entire Empire, stretching from the Atlantic to Mesopotamia. They had to keep two of those legions – two whole legions! – garrisoned permanently in Britain, because it was such a very difficult country to rule. The Germans, the Persians and the Arabs were all difficult too – dangerous frontier people – but the real problem the Romans faced in their empire was the Britons. In the 16th century, Cellini called the English “wild beasts”. Hippolyte Taine’s Notes on England, based on his impressions in the 1860s, said: “Friends and enemies alike described them as the most bellicose and redoubtable race in Europe.”

The British have always had a violent culture. And they have always displayed enormous tendencies to individuality. The British will walk miles to prove their fitness. They want to go to the North and South Poles and it’s the only country in the world where explorers’ biographies are enormously popular. The British are obsessed by Enduring and Surviving. They are fascinated – obsessed – by individuals. The British see the family as a collection of single individuals. In Italy, the family unit is everything. You have to be with the family. That is not the case in Britain. Individuality is everything.

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