Put your best foot forward

16:00, Mar 22 2014

He needed to throw a party. Invite his trousers down to meet his ankles. They hugged his arse.

And not in a good way. Not in a yeah baby way. But in a We Need to Talk About Kevin way.

If you've read Lionel Shriver's discomposing book, or seen Tilda Swinton's screen version, you'll know what I mean. Everything was a size too small. Shrunken.

His pants were wool and they were plaid. There was a jacket to match. Single-breasted. And a bow-tie. Oh, and there was a beard, too. Matchy matchy. Woolly. Except that it wasn't too small. It was big. Too big for his face.

And while the hair on his head was brown - sparrow brown - his beard sprouted patches of ginger, revealing some Anglo Saxon ancestry somewhere along the line. He wore tartan and he was hairy. He was brave but he was no Mel Gibson in a kilt. He was a hipster.

We were at a do. A function. And too few men had made the effort. During the formalities my eye was trained not on the speaker, but the man seated in front.


He wore jeans and clumpy sort of tramping boots. I was in a cocktail dress and heels. Presumably he figured the collar on his polo shirt lifted his attire to the smart end of casual.

I'm not sure where he reckoned the rugby club insignia took it. Presumably he didn't care. But I cared. His jeans were unbelted and his splayed cheeks filled my vision.

He was among friends. It was a room full of men wearing garments as crumpled as if they'd come from the bottom of the laundry basket; two-tone nylon shirts brandishing some random company logo; white sports socks with black dress shoes.

At least the hipster in his too small suit had tried. That he was well turned out was enough to set him apart.

It puzzles me, though, this hipster look. It's not the beards. I like a beard. When my husband recently shaved his off for a fancy dress party, I was repelled by the softness of his cheeks.

In photos from my childhood, my father's beard is wild and untamed, yet he paired it with an open-necked denim shirt, not the clothes of a gawky academic low in social skills.

It is the combination hipsters get wrong, rather than any single element. They may be fashionable but they are resolutely unsexy.

And what is fashion about if not sex? It isn't about keeping warm or staying dry. About practicality or comfort. It's about being current, vital, of having both a finger on the pulse, and a pulse. Fashion should be about presenting yourself to finest advantage. Sexy clothes are clothes worn with awareness of the body underneath and of the occasion.

Unlike peacocks, men garner little of the glory when it comes to fashion. Men are but peahens in the shadow of women's magnificence. Increasingly, though, I find it is men's fashion that interests me. How do you stand out when your options are so restrictive?

At the Oscars earlier this month, two men stepped up to the plate. Stylish, fearless, sexy; they nicked the spotlight from the usual coterie of strapless, sequined gowns.

Matthew McConaughey wore a white tuxedo jacket and managed to both complement and out-hot his Brazilian model wife, Camilla Alves. Pharrell Williams brought a rare freshness to the red carpet. From the waist up he wore a conventional black tie, but below he threw caution to the wind, pairing dress shoes with tailored shorts.

From a young age my son has carefully considered his look. He places great stock in how his clothes represent him. He is inspired by others and generous with his style tips ("In winter I think young men should wear a maroon hoodie and a five-panel cap with the hood over it. They should wear a long shirt underneath with the tail hanging out").

He is diligent and enthusiastic, and I find it neither superficial nor unmanly. He is just putting his best foot forward.

Sunday Magazine