Dreams of velvet suits

How I stopped worrying and learned to tie a bowtie

A blue William Morris pattern bow tie

I take a great pleasure in dressing, although most people wouldn’t realise that: I don’t own a great amount
of clothing and most of it is worse for wear. However, the enjoyment is definitely there and I am ever deepening
my knowledge of fabric, cut and colour. It wasn’t always so. Here’s a short history that explains why.

As a teenager, I felt that the punx and other alt-kids would never accept me as I didn’t wear combat boots.
Looking back, this was probably more to do with my social anxiety than anything, although friendliness was definitely
not in vogue either. Then I came across a magazine article that went something like this:

I was a metalhead and we felt cool for a while. Then grunge came about, there were all these guys in worn out
second-hand jumpers and suddenly we felt stupid in our expensive leather jackets.

Having read this I realised that I could not be uncool if I put in less effort than everyone else. From
that point on I was gaffer taping the holes in my clothes (shoes too, bad idea: the tape rendered the soles very
slippery) and bought only second-hand. I also made a point of wearing the most ridiculous stuff gifted by grandma
just to throw people off (think white denim knee-length shorts with giant pink roses, so tight I could barely sit
down in them).

This continued as my MO when I graduated and moved abroad. Now I was living on the waste of society. Clothing was
coming from skips, friends or the street. The surprise factor was fun.

Fast forward to somewhere around my 30-ieth year. There’s more stability, some money, and the dormant longing for
finery emerges. I still have to work through my hang ups. It involves overcoming some latent sexism, where I’m surprised
to learn that I celebrate peacocking in men (because it pisses people off and so is praiseworthy) whilst denouncing it in
women (because it’s expected and so conforming). I weed that shit right out.

I rethink style. How it can flow from books and movies and paintings and the inner workings of the mind, rather than
Vogue or Instagram. How a preoccupation with it can be an antidote to obsessing over beauty norms. The fashion industry
is rotten but style is pretty egalitarian. It doesn’t demand a particular age, facial symmetry or physical proportions.
Experimentation is encouraged, individuality celebrated. It’s a way to wear your heart on your sleeve or to wear a mask,
whatever pleases. To me, it contributes the same flush of aesthetic pleasure as a visit to the National Gallery.

I am comforted by Lafargue, who assures me that luxurious goods are not inherently bad, it’s the denying of them
to everyone except for a small minority that is reprehensible. Bespoke suits for all! Finally, I learn that a pair of
dress socks doesn’t have the power to change my fundamentals. It’s not a value system, it’s only clothes. Here’s the happy ending.

Work in progress

A blue denim vest with a can of worms painted on it

I picked up this Levis vest in a charity shop and cut off the sleeves. My mother recreated her 'can of worms' digital drawing
on the fabric. I still haven't decided what I want next: metal studs, fringing, patches, chains, epaulettes? Should I write
'can of worms' under the drawing or is it too on the nose? Should I instead go with 'break free', which is an idea that came
to me whilst singing Queen in the shower. Do I want to lean punk, hick or 70s? I've been stuck on this for ages but hope to
work it out sometime soon. If I fail, I'll look like this:

An old magazine article titled Funky and featuring a blond guy in a weirdly decorated denim jacket

Take me home