Paul Galvin: Transitional dressing
Can't work out what to wear when you get four seasons in a day? Then it's time to embrace transitional dressing, writes Paul Galvin.
It's very hard for a guy to write about fashion without sounding like a knob. In fact, it's hard for a guy to talk about fashion without feeling like a knob, for that matter.
It's a lexicon created for and designed by women, for women. Any man attempting to speak the language is automatically a tool. So it's best not try.
A top can't be very nice, it must be 'amazing'. Amazing -- what a thoroughly modern word. Not a word you'll ever catch me using. No sir. It's so contrived and overused.
Shoes can't be just the job, they must be 'to die for'. Many a woman has died for a pair of Zanottis. And they say cats have nine lives! Well, they may have nine lives, but they don't have size-five Zanottis.
It's all about having the 'key piece' that's 'having a moment' in your wardrobe if you're a girl.
A guy, on the other hand, could never die for a pair of shoes. He'd sooner kick the shite out of them first, then wear them to death. We're such a modest bunch, us men. Never ones for hogging the limelight. So while women embrace the latest catwalk trends as if they're going out of fashion (well, they are, aren't they?), men are slow burners.
It takes much longer for us to embrace a trend for a colour, print or particular fabric.
I'm waffling now, so I'll get to the point. Transitional dressing. More dangerous-sounding fashion terminology to confuse and threaten man.
What man in his right mind ever contemplates such a notion? Transitional dressing, he muses warily. If that's not something to do with transexuals then it's cross-dressing, he concludes, and swiftly changes the subject.
But it's a much safer, less risqué pursuit than that. Inbetween-season dressing is notoriously difficult -- going from spring/summer to autumn/winter in a country where we get the four seasons in one day. No wonder we're confused.
As we move from summer to autumn, I'm finding it a problem myself. In fact, I can't dress myself for toffee these days. It takes ages. I'm bored with everything I have. Summer wear, such as tees and shirts, doesn't feel right any more. It's too cold for T-shirts and too warm for overcoats and winter wear.
Because I'm stuck down here in the not-so-sunny southwest, far from all the shops, not to mention the Equator, it's not always possible to get the things you need to cope with the changeable weather. So one minute I'm shivering, the next I'm sweating.
I thought maybe I was getting sick, only for our very eminent fashion editor to diagnose the problem immediately. She informed me I was suffering from transitional- dressing disorder; that curious inbetween stage where you just don't know what to wear.
Of course, this is only an issue for men who care about what they wear. It's easily cured, thankfully, as we're blessed here in Ireland with a natural remedy: knitwear. It's time to start wearing your knits again, fellas. I'm not a big fan of chunky knitwear, nor gaudy-patterned knitwear, but for transitional dressing you don't need to get too heavy. I really like light knitwear. It's got that grungy, edgy feel that suits us north Europeans.
Light knits in the form of jumpers and cardigans, polo necks, gilets, trench coats scarves and the good old snood are the best ways to make the transition seamless.
Long knitted jumpers in mohair or merino are effortlessly cool and there's something really Irish about them. Throw one on over a T-shirt and jeans and all you're short of is a roaring fire, a pool table and a pint of Guinness for the ultimate Irish experience.
I love my polo necks closer to winter. Worn the right way, they're very smart. I have a few Pringle polo necks. They use extra-fine merino wool, which is comfortable and tolerable for those who can't stand itchy knits. Which I can't.
The colour schemes they use also work really well on the Irish: earthy greys, greens and browns. To balance the look, you can wear a blazer over your polo. It's a look I like.
Transitional dressing is all about balance, mixing lighter fabrics with heavier ones. Short duffel coats are also manageable, so you don't have to make the dangerous leap straight into winter coats.
Trench coats can be more appropriate than heavy-duty overcoats for September and October. Regular shirts can be replaced with heavier padded ones -- Levi's is doing really good checked ones -- and jeans or chinos can make way for cords.
I'm getting my cords back on right now. Warm, wearable and durable. Like us Irish men!
We're never short of homegrown knits, of course. Edmund McNulty is Ireland's answer to Pringle and is the perfect place to look for a light-knit jumper that's versatile and warm. He does knitwear for men, pulling from merino, cashmere and mohair in strong earthy tones -- the perfect place to start looking for the right jumper. Go on the Irish creatives.
Hackett is another store where you can find good transitional pieces. For an interesting take on the look, however, my favourite has to be Aubin & Wills. It's an English heritage label, like Hackett's younger brother.
Alex James and the precocious Róisín Murphy are the brand's ambassadors. They have released some very cool promotional videos where Alex James larks about in some great transitional pieces, including light-knit jumpers, padded shirts, trench coats and tweed blazers.
Róisín Murphy doesn't so much lark about as sit around, smiling and laughing at Alex's high jinks and generally looking beautiful and cool. The video is worth watching.
The clothes are ace, the people are interesting and the song accompanying the video is amaaaaazing!!! Ooopsy.