Monday 26 September 2016

Note to self: Trackie bottoms don't cut it

Published 01/02/2016 | 02:30

Trackies: Athleisure - the ultimate excuse for going around in your tracksuit bottoms and calling it fashion.
Trackies: Athleisure - the ultimate excuse for going around in your tracksuit bottoms and calling it fashion.

You swear you'll never let yourself go. But you do. There was a time I wouldn't leave the house without gel in my hair or a baseball cap on. My hair au naturel is a white afro, and not in a good way (if it's not cultural misappropriation to say that). Indeed it's beyond kinky. It's just fuzz.

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Neither was I ever the kind of person who goes around in a tracksuit. The whole athleisure trend - yes, it is a trend, though possibly gone out of fashion by the time you read this - passed me by. I'm not saying I always look sharp, but I at least try to look as if I still make an effort. I never wanted to be one of those men who has just given up. I think when you stop making an effort to have at least some kind of a look put together, then you are advertising to the world that a part of you has died. It doesn't even have to be a good look, but just an attempt at one.

But then you get lazy, and you start to break your own rules. So you might stop into the shops on the way back from the pool wearing shapeless tracksuit bottoms and a mismatched top, maybe even a booby thermal top. It's worse when you've been in the sea, because you need layers for the cold, so you can have all kinds of crazy combos on, topped off with a giant maroon, fur-lined hat. And once you cross the rubicon and start to let other human beings see you like this, then you tend to let it slip more and more. Until you get the wake-up call you need. Which is to see yourself through someone else's eyes. Someone you would care to look good in front of after 25 years of absence.

So I was coming back from the sea the other day, crazily and sloppily attired, and I thought I'd just pop into Marks and Spencer to pick up something for dinner. As I got out of the car, I was greeted with "Hi Brendan. I haven't seen you in years" - or words to that effect. I've blotted out the exact details.

She hadn't aged a bit since college and she was still gorgeous. I didn't know her well, but our circles intersected at times and me and my friends had all been quite keen on her then. I think she eventually gave me a sympathy kiss and a cuddle near the end of college. It would have been nice to chat, to catch up on how it all turned out and to remember briefly when we were young and were never going to get old.

I had a few worn shopping bags in my hand as well. The tracksuit bottoms had been on the go for a few days so they were even more shapeless than usual. The drawstring on them was gone into the ether somewhere. The wallets and phones and various stuff in the pockets weren't helping. Luckily, I was wearing undergarments. I suddenly became aware of all these things and in that split second several things ran through my mind. She was probably thinking, "I see he's not well. He's stopped looking after himself. He must have lost his wife and family. He has clearly taken to the drink. Maybe he's on drugs. He could be living in that car." Or if she had been keeping up with my life in any vague way, she might have been thinking, "Oh my God. He's really fallen apart now that he's not on the TV anymore. It must have hit him hard."

So I said, "Hi. How are YOU?" and I legged it. Then, as I ran, I realised that she had clearly been expecting some bit of brief chit chat. And I realised I must have seemed pretty ignorant. So when I spotted her down an aisle inside the shop, I considered approaching her and explaining that I didn't normally dress like this, that I'm fine really and things are going OK, and that I ran because I looked so sloppy. But I decided that she would definitely think I was a madman if, having initially run away, I then accosted her in the shop and started ranting at her. So I started avoiding her around the aisles.

I think it was my aunt Phil who I first heard say that you should always leave the house dressed as if you might meet the Queen. I now realise she is right. Even back in college there was always a kind of a poise about that girl. And if she did look at me and think I had let myself go, who am I to argue? I clearly have, in a sense. I need to fix up, look sharp.

There are queens everywhere, and you never know when you'll bump into one.

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