My beloved probably life partner, given my age and Kate Bush almost certainly not going to a) phone me b) lose 30 kilos c) look the way she did at 18 again, made a cruel remark the other day. It’s been repeated quite a lot.
My best conference suit, a fetching single-breasted, very dark grey Daks chalk stripe, would look good for someone going to a fancy dress party as a gangster, apparently.
I objected to this on several grounds. Firstly, word on the street, or at least, on The Sopranos, and I’m hip to that jive, tells me that actually, fairly ghastly pastels leisure-wear in XXXL man-made fibres are much more the thing, or were 20 years ago when it was made. Which is probably the root of the problem.
That suit was one of two I bought in Newcastle, en route to Oslo, via Kristiansand, so long ago that they still had a ferry there, sixteen years back. I had to take the ferry because if I flew there was a sporting chance of dying, or more of a chance than usual flying, light packets of flak over Bremen notwithstanding, after I’d managed to get five massive Deep Vein Thromboses from flying too much. I was going to a conference. Not the one where the Financial Times described me as ‘the Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen of market research’ in a piece I wish I’d framed. But after that one I ended up speaking at a lot of conferences and I didn’t have a thing to wear. Actually, I did. I had a rather nice lightweight blue linen job from Cordings bought very late in 2001 which I’m definitely not throwing out. It isn’t just the fact it’s got years of wear in it, nor that it was and is the sort of kit James Bond used to affect for hot weather jobs. That one’s just My Suit. It er, suits me, sir.
For my younger readers, that was the catch-phrase from a comedy show, again about a thousand years ago.
I had the dubious pleasure of being mugged by two Geralds exactly like this in Turnbull and Asser one Christmas. I’d gone for a haircut at Trumpers, where probably on behalf of the Jermyn Street Retail Association they plied the customers with free whisky while you waited for your trim. For not much – or it didn’t seem like much after the whisky – they did your shoes and fingernails while you sat and waited. I’m neither going to listen to nor accept any criticism of this whatsoever. You don’t get full employment any other way. Irrespective, haircut done, tip given to Young Adam, counsellor, confessor and barber, I lurched into the glowing dusk heading West. Which fatally sent me past Turnbull’s Christmas window. If you’ve never seen this then you’ve missed one of life’s considerable treasures. The east window was all ties. Silk ties. Brightly lit. Fantastic silk ties, woven, Italian silk ties instead of the printed Chinese rubbish in Tie Rack. Ties, in those days, at those conferences, mattered. Ten minutes later, after I’d been comprehensively Geralded, two ties up and £105 down, I was back on the street, more than slightly dazed. I still have them both. The ties, not the Geralds, you understand. A hugely brilliant yellow Paisley and a not such a good idea multi-coloured Cubist creation. The Paisley I’d still wear anywhere that needed a tie.
I bought loads of other stuff for conferences. A grey flannel suit by Crombie, which I wore so much it actually wore out. Unlike the wool and cashmere houndstooth check trousers they made which turned an evening in a taverna in Greece into something of a shining memory still. The suit I had to buy when British Airways managed to lose my suitcase somewhere between Heathrow and San Diego didn’t get much wear apart from that one interview I had to do with SURFPAC and then again with SPAWAR, the weekend Sadam Hussein was found in a drain and once again, too often in my life, someone very calm in a uniform seriously considered shooting me. It’s so rude, apart from anything. not what you expect when you go to interview someone by appointment. I’d already told the taxi driver to slow down and don’t approach the gate that had big signs on it saying ‘Do Not Approach This Gate.’ Reading didn’t seem to be part of his core skillset.
The three sets of Italian Super 110 black wool trousers, another Ian Fleming recommendation for hot weather suavery – am I really ever going to wear them again? In rural Suffolk? Seriously? The brown double-monk Lobbs, possibly anywhere. The blue suede double-monk shoes, maybe Aldeburgh on a dry Saturday. But black Super 110 wool trousers…. probably not. And it hurts to type that.
But what do you actually do with this stuff? It’s going to stay in a charity shop forever, unless someone thrifty suddenly decides they need possibly somewhat dated hot climate business kit, which is borderline unlikely. It’s far too good for the clothes bin at the fire station where they probably put everything through a shredder and re-spin the yarn or send it in bundles to Africa. If that still happens. Ebay beckons if I can be bothered to go through the faff of writing it all up and getting tough plastic jumbo size envelopes.
It’s remotely possible that the well-dressed gangster, and possibly even the well-dressed conference-goer, speaker or not, might maybe, just conceivably not wear
decent kit this stuff any more. I was moderately shocked when pilot cases were replaced by little rucksacks. I mean, really? A rucksack? And a water-bottle with a drinker thing on the top as if you’re still teething? Seriously? But time apparently moves on. I’m not doing conferences these days. Or market research – thanks to the Internet everyone knows everything now, apart from knowing that liars tell lies, obviously.
So a lot of my wardrobe is going to go. No reasonable offer refused. But not those houndstooth trousers. Nor the haunting strains of Some Enchanted Evening that seem to waft from the cupboard whenever I see them. I think it’s my age or something.