independent

Thursday 24 April 2014

The Irish male and his many fashion disasters

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern lets the side down with his canary-yellow interpretation of smart-casual during a walk with world leaders at the 2004 G8 summit

Thank God for the rain. At least it means we are spared the usual unsightly images of Irish men gambolling ungainly in their shorts.

Ratty running shorts teamed with baggy logoed T-shirt or sweat-stained football shirt. Socks and sandals.

The Irish men's sense of style has come a long way in recent years but it seems that, when the sun comes out, fashion awareness goes out the window and the madness sets in.

Bertie's canary yellow linen suit worn in the guise of 'smart casual' is still seared into the national consciousness as the moment when we all groaned: "When? When will Irish men ever get it right when it comes to fashion?"

Perennial men's style guru Louis Copeland sympathises with the male predicament as they stand in front of the wardrobe in the morning and wonder how to cover themselves appropriately for a summer of such uncertain temperament.

"Nobody knows what the weather's going to be going to be like," he said.

When it comes to dressing for the potentially warmer months, Louis adopts a ruthless approach. T-shirts are out unless you're a slim male, preferably under the age of 30 and unless they're to be worn under a jacket.

"Sometimes Irish men have big bellies and T-shirts don't look great," he delicately suggested. If a man is of a heavy build, Louis suggests that they wear a loose shirt.

In fact shirts are better in general, he says, preferring long sleeves over short for men 'over a certain age'.

"If you want to keep cool, roll them up," he instructs, explaining: "It looks smarter."

"If you notice Barack Obama -- he always dresses very well -- and you never see him in short sleeves. He always has his sleeves rolled up. There could be an element of psychology there, that he's getting to work," Louis surmises.

Colours are important as well, Louis says.

The pink-toned Irish complexions means we can't carry off the vivid orange and red hues that our Italian counterparts sport so effortlessly and should opt for blues, greens and creams instead.

Louis is not so ruthless that he does not allow shorts. But to be classic and stylish, they should be worn just below the knee, in cottons and linens and in chic hues like khaki and beige.

On their feet, he suggests that they wear "a nice moccasin-type shoe" in leather, or sandals for the beach. "No socks," he shuddered.

He thinks Irish men are quite good at casual style but advised that they go for the advice of shop assistants rather than just take anything off the peg.

Alan Kelly of men's outfitters, Gentlemen Please, with branches in Malahide, Blackrock and Glasthule, agrees that Irish men should seek guidance when it comes to casual wear, saying that it is much easier to shop for orkwear.

"One suit in navy, one in black, with five white shirts, you can't go wrong," he says.

At the moment he is selling a lot of linen, much of it to men who are either getting married or are guests at weddings abroad.

"We're doing a lot of natural beige or chocolate browns which are very nice and a lot of cotton linen shirts with a stiff collar, to be worn without a tie."

Alan finds that Irish men pay special attention to dressing when they are going abroad and become a bit more flamboyant, taking more risks.

When it comes to casual style, he suggests nice cotton or linen trousers in a wider width, making for a more relaxed feel.

"We do T-shirts, Louis," he jokes, saying that his customers are looking for a casual look with a twist.

One mistake Alan feels is to wear clothes sporting obvious labels, as well as Bermuda shorts worn with runners and socks. He suggests Birkenstocks instead, which can look very smart teamed with cotton shorts and a nice polo-shirt.

WHAT TO WEAR

Linen trousers

Shorts just past the knee

Tasteful leather flip-flops

Moccasins

Birkenstocks

Well-fitting polo shirts

Linen jackets

Light-weight shirts with sleeves rolled up

Stylish sunglasses

Invest in a good raincoat

WHAT NOT TO WEAR

Sports shorts

Bermuda shorts

Cropped trousers

Tatty runners

Lace-up shoes with no socks

Socks and sandals

Baggy T-shirts

Too-small T-shirts

Wife-beater vests

Short-sleeved shirts

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