Paul Galvin's fashion manifesto
I've gone into the closet. I am a 31-year-old Irish male who's into fashion. And I play GAA. I feel a little bit like Ronan Keating when he mentioned in an interview some years ago that he was still a virgin. Anyway, I am -- into fashion that is. Always have been.
From as young as I can remember, I've been conscious of what I wore. Many is the battle I had with my mother growing up as she tried to force me into a pullover or a shirt of some sort to make me presentable.
If I didn't like what she was trying to talk me into, I'd refuse to leave the house. I'd stage a sit-in. Although, some days, I left with a sore ear and a lovely warm pullover on to keep me comfortably uncool.
When I was 11 or 12, I was in Tralee one Friday, shopping with mother. Passing Lifestyle Sports, I saw a class pair of Adidas trainers and got that feeling you get when you know you must have something.
I shot in the door of the shop and checked the price. Steep. £25 at the time. Too steep for mom, anyway, and she refused my request.
Instead, we went to a nearby restaurant for lunch, where I did some refusing of my own. I refused point blank to eat.
My reckoning was that I had £5 of my own and lunch was another £5, so if she put that tenner towards the shoes, they would only cost her £15. Simple maths.
I remember even today the to-ing and fro-ing between us in the restaurant as I pleaded for my shoes and she pleaded with me to eat.
After a 20-minute hunger strike, mom relented and bought me the trainers. Happy days. I was made up. The coolest cat in town. And I got my lunch, too.
Those trainers met a watery end not long after, however, as one evening I tried to jump a dyke playing chase and fell short. One leg landed in the dyke and re-emerged minus my beloved Adidas, which had been sucked off my foot. You can imagine my distress as I waded in trying to salvage my trainer. Alas, to no avail.
Fashion is for girls mainly, I know, but that's kind of why I'm into it too. My best friend Trevor had a cousin from London who used to come home to Kerry every summer.
She was taller, older and good-looking with an exotic cockney lilt, so of course we were all smitten. Lynda was her name, and every time she arrived I'd go straight home to change my clothes in an attempt to impress her.
I have to laugh now when I think about it: nine or 10 years old with my head buried in a wardrobe of clothes trying to find something to wear. And I wouldn't mind, but she was nearly twice my age!
One thing I did learn quickly is that girls like a guy who can dress himself well, who knows what he wants to wear, what he looks good in and what he doesn't. And, perhaps most importantly, what she looks good in.
Any man that can go out and buy his woman something she loves and feels great wearing, something on-trend, is on a winner. Expect to be given major kudos, lads. I'm talking hot dinners, hotter massages, nights out with the lads no questions asked, the TV remote -- it's your passport to a whole new world of credits that are fundamentally what any relationship boils down to. Debits and credits. Doghouse debits and funhouse credits. The key is to stay in credit, and I'm speaking from experience when I say that a little effort in the wardrobe department goes a long way.
And it needn't be an extravagant, credit-card-busting Phoebe Philo (though if you can afford it, then she'll so love you). Penneys consistently produces really on-trend, high-fashion pieces at less than high-street prices. Its in-house design team has taken the Penneys brand to a new level. Alwear is another place that's great for cutting-edge looks at reasonable prices. Its collaboration with the brightest young thing in the fash pack, MTVs Laura Whitmore, was a major coup and my favourite of all the high-street collaborations.
However, I digress. Ultimately, I'm no expert when it comes to la mode. Far from it. I just love what it represents. It's the ultimate expression of individuality, yet it is universal, like music, sport and art. In fact, it is art. I love the level of imagination and creativity that designers employ to bring a piece of soulless fabric to life.
Of course, one has to be careful not to offend the sensibilities of Irish people when embracing one's inner Kanye or Gaga!
For me, there are two dimensions to fashion. First of all, you have the visual aesthetic, how you look in what you wear. I like to think of this as fashion for others, for those who look at you. It's important and, of course, women in particular love to be complimented on what they're wearing.
A little attention to detail on a guy's part goes a long way. Guys like to be complimented on what they wear also but only by women, I suspect.
I exclude moms, as a compliment from a mom on what her little soldier is wearing is a) disingenuous, because she is just saying it out of bursting pride in her little man being able to dress himself all on his own; b) biased, and 3) totally irrelevant, because you simply can't tell anyone that your mom thinks you look lovely in what you're wearing.
On the other hand, an Irish guy complimenting another Irish guy on what he's wearing is generally viewed with suspicion and bewilderment on the part of the guy receiving the compliment.
What's more important, personally in any case, is the whole emotional aspect to fashion -- in other words, how what you wear makes you feel; that feeling of confidence you get from wearing something you feel great in.
That's why I embrace it. And I think more Irish guys should too.
European men -- the Italians and the French, for example -- take so much pride in their appearance. They celebrate fashion, embrace it and embody it, and are not embarrassed in the slightest by it. Even Scandinavian men are embracing it more. Stockholm is fast becoming Europe's most fashion-forward city, home to Jonny Johannson, Acne and H&M.
Sometimes I think Irish men are more concerned by what our mates think than what we think ourselves or how we feel about what we're wearing. We generally don't like to stand out from the crowd too much. It's time to move forward, chaps. The time has come.
Observing Irish men's street style leaves me breathless at times. It is a study in excess. Excess fabric abounds -- nothing fits.
It's XL here, XXL there, flared-leg jeans here, boot-leg there, shirt collars like the wings of an aeroplane, blooming shirt sleeves big enough to go on your leg. Small men wearing big clothes, their jeans not so much on them as following them around. I despair at times.
Of course, I'm aware that some men may have weight issues and are built a certain way, so they have to dress in XL or XXL as a result. I know men who find it difficult or embarrassing to go shopping for clothes that fit them, and it's important to be sensitive to that and not be flippant or dismissive or generalise on the issue.
Personally, I like to wear clothes that fit me. I'm not a huge guy. At 5ft 11in, I tip the scales at a little under 13 stone. When I'm training I put on a little muscle, but I'm quite skinny and slim so I wear skinny jeans and slim-fit shirts and blazers because they fit me.
I see so many Irish men with a similar build to me drowning in large shirts and XL jackets when, straight away, you know a small or medium size would be perfect. They are wearing enough fabric to dress themselves twice.
I have developed a theory as to why this is and I will reveal it at a later date. For now, I'll sign off with a call to arms: step up to the plate, overdressed sons of Ireland.
We need more Ryan Tubridys, more Danny O'Donoghues, more Jamie Dornans, more Niall Breslins and Mark Kavanaghs (aka Rasher), more Brendan Courtneys to take the game by the scruff of the neck and lead the charge towards bringing more and more Irishmen into the closet.
The revolution starts here.