Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Second Hand Linen

If anyone wants to know how to get away without being searched by the bouncers at a nightclub: it's easy. Be over 50, have grey hair and wrinkles and such a dignified air of aloof superiority that no young whippersnapper would dare feel up and down the inside of your trouser leg.

Actually my friend, who was on the till at the time, had told the bouncers I'd be coming. She said, "look out for my good friend Chris."

"But how will we recognise him?" they asked.

"That's easy,” she said. “He'll be dressed like Man at Oxfam."

She's right. I buy all of my clothes second hand. The only exceptions are pants and socks, which my family buys for me at Christmas, and shoes, which I buy new for myself. For some reason I don’t like the idea of wearing anybody else’s shoes.

I guess you could call me mean. Or maybe careful. Or maybe I just like the sense of adventure, the uncertainty of trolling round charity shops looking through racks of unusual gear for exactly the right thing, instead of buying identikit products brand new off the shelf. How boring.

If people want to give their stuff away, then I might as well buy it. Why not? Anyway, I hate shopping. This particular evening I was wearing a linen jacket which cost 50p from a jumble sale. Go to any conventional outlet, and the same jacket would cost fifty quid or more. Admittedly mine is too big and rolled up at the sleeves. But it's still linen, still cool and stylish, still eminently practical for the summer.

I have a particular taste for loud, loose, expensive shirts made from cotton or silk, which I simply couldn’t afford to buy new. And it’s great going into a charity shop and discovering something quirky and surprising to add interest and colour to your wardrobe.

Anyway, let’s face it, my face isn’t exactly brand new either. I need clothes to match my personality, not the other way round. So it’s crumpled, bad-tempered, patched-up and dryly sceptical clothes I need to give full expression to my inner being.

One day, maybe, some bright young thing will teach me how to dress. I'll be wearing Nike cardigans, Armani socks and Gucci earmuffs, no doubt. I'll wear my Marks & Sparks vest inside out to show the label. I'll make sure my Y-fronts are multi-coloured and I will wear them above the waistband of my low-slung jeans.

That will be when I'm rich and famous. I'll be spending my time with top businessmen and Rock’n’Roll stars, all dressed in the same immaculate gear. I'll hang around in the Groucho Club and, when Mick Jagger walks in, I'll say: "Hey, you're wearing exactly the same trousers as I am." That's the sort of profound conversation we'll have, comparing notes for a more fashionable future.

Meanwhile I'll stick to my second hand linen jacket. At least it gets me into clubs without the bouncers wanting to search me.

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