You are what you wear, so wear what you like

22:21, Sep 10 2012

They were married in a London registry office, our daughter and son-in-law; now they're about to celebrate with a garden wedding. So much for the nonsense, often floated by marriage equality opponents, that the state shouldn't be interfering with a religious ceremony. It hasn't needed to be religious for a long time. But relax, this isn't about marriage equality. This is about the question of dress; the dilemma of what, and what not to wear.

He's a Scot, you see. From Kilmarnock. We guessed he'd want to celebrate his culture by wearing a kilt at the wedding. But no, he's in two minds. For starters, he doesn't want to look like a cliché, and then there's his ancestry. He's a lowlander. Was the highlanders who wore the kilts. The tossers. The caber tossers, I mean. So he rang his mother to ask her advice. Her response? "Just wear whatever you feel comfortable with, son."

Good advice, yes; but, clearly, not everyone agrees. Was only noting the other day the calls from Gisborne people for a bylaw prohibiting the wearing of pyjamas in public. Dress means that much to some. A reporter was booted out of court a while back for wearing inappropriate pants. And remember the stir created by the so-called "cosmopolitan" club in Manurewa? Blocked access to a turban-wearing Sikh on account of its "no hats" rule.

What you wear seems to be a serious business. And more serious to some than others. Having waged a lifelong struggle against wearing a necktie, this is something I can relate to with first-hand experience. There were a couple of problems with ties, in my mind, at least. First off, they'd become a badge of conformity, a membership card. We'd started to accept them as a sign of respect and credibility, when they were really just a strip of cloth.

Then there was the girth of my neck. For the fat-necked, ties can be a loathsome inconvenience. Just the sense of constriction; it's like dressing your throat in a corset. A couple of decades ago, when the decree went out at the Otago Daily Times for all male reporters (they weren't silly enough to instruct female reporters on dress) to wear "jackets and ties", I produced a medical certificate and claimed an exemption.

A couple of colleagues weren't so lucky but were still able to lodge a creative protest. Tony Smith, now with the Christchurch Press and Mark Thomas, slipped out to the Op Shop, purchased three-piece suits of the most garish colours and dated design, topped them off with the loudest and widest ties in existence, and returned to the newsroom to a standing ovation. The editor, I think it was Geoff Adams, knew when he was defeated.

Worked at Inland Revenue when I left school. Can still remember the time a young dude; a new arrival, dressed to the nines in a tailored, open-neck dress shirt, designer jeans and polished leather boots, was sent home to change into something more "appropriate". Yet sitting in front of him at the time was this slob of a man; his faded orange shirt darkened at the armpits with sweat; his trousers always filthy and flies in disarray. But? He had the tie. That's all that mattered.

Anyway, ties will certainly be optional at the upcoming wedding; have been assured of that. As for the kilt thing, the SIL is yet to make up his mind. Must say, I'm just delighted they sought my advice. Daughter asked the other night, as we discussed dress ideas: "What do you think about pants?" Well, I told her I was all for them. That they were a good idea. That I wouldn't be without a pair myself. Pretty sure she was impressed. But it's hard to tell.

She hasn't talked to me since.

» Read more of Richard Boock in the Sunday Star Times.
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