Strong opinions over the nonsense of business casual and the horror of clothes shopping have been aired only occasionally on the Hedgehog. But generally with appropriate vent and venom directed at how such experiences demean, de-bank and deepen a frustration that it is time wasted when one could be riding bikes.
Unsurprisingly then my bi-annual weary trudge into the 1960s Ross tailoring experience had the feeling of a small boy being dragged into boring shops selling scratchy unwanted uniforms. Even in these time of personal austerity, a trip to some warehouse/discount suit emporium is not an option for a man beholden to a body shape clearly assembled from the discarded limbs of proper sized humans.
Wrest me into a cheap suits and I have the look lot a man recently demobbed or released from prison. While donning an expensive suit suggests I shall be returning there forthwith to serve time for the theft of expensive garments.
It’s not much fun being a funny shape. Children regularly point and tug an embarrassed parents sleeve ‘mum MUM that man there, is he standing in a ditch?‘ on being confronted by my stumpy legs. Which when coupled with gibbon like arms and various non standard pointy out bits determines the only off the peg clothing item that may fit snugly is a black bag.
Not being blessed with easy dimensions, an almost entire adulthood of dragging bicycles up and down hills has left me with wide thighs, broad shoulders and a relatively slim waist making things even more tricky. Finally , large arse – model’s own – ensures I am bit of a project for even the most skilled man with a tape measure.
Trousers to match a wide fitting jacket finish about a foot south of my feet, and have a clown sized waist ready to pour custard into. Slim fitting troons cannot get past the fabric ripping girth of my thighs. A ‘tight gusset’ is never a good clothing experience, especially when a very camp tailor is having multiple reach-arounds to ‘bring sir into line‘*
This Ex-saville row man is a salesman of rare skill. Once he’s sized me up, he spends so much time selecting a suit that might not be appropriate for a sack race, my gratitude ensures the exorbitant cost never gets a mention. Which is good, as I really don’t want to know – handing my credit card over with one hand while hiding my eyes behind the other.
So happy – if financially sideswiped – with my purchases, I immediately washed my clean and sharp linen on facecloth**, whence predictable castigation began from friends who claim to have one suit bought for a wedding, and now used exclusively for funerals. Surely, they quipped, a largely self-employed man should be all non-too-corporate Richard Branson jumpers and booted jeans.
Well yes in theory, but in practice, not really.
Because all these casually dressed fashionisters have some product to sell. Those creative types can wander about dressed in cardigans and crocs still being taken seriously, because they are essentially a conduit to something a customer can see and touch. Me? I’m basically selling me. It’s not quite as dodgy as flogging houses on the moon or electrical warranties, but it’s still a bit of a reach.
Anyone who has worked in a consultancy organisation will tell you there are quite of lot of frogs to kiss. To be successful, customers have to feel absolutely comfortable with you as an individual. And to trust that you won’t spend their entire IT budget on asking them the time, writing it down and re-presenting it as an amazing new strategy. Essentially, especially with prospective clients, you are selling the shizzle. And you want to make sure they buy it from you and not anyone else.
Part of that is wearing the uniform. There are those who treat suits as a status symbol, others who don it as armour protecting them from their staff, even the odd conflicted individual who cannot undertake ‘work’ without dressing up.
I’m not like that; my preference would be for shorts all year round with a few fleeces thrown in for Winter. I’d love to turn up to a customer in ratty converse baseball boots and a frayed-T. But not as much as I would like to eat.
It is odd when you take time to think about it. We have uniforms at school, tribal wear from nursery onwards, more expensive uniforms for all our working life, and even pensioners seem to struggle to shake the habit***. Easier to be a sheep than a wolf I guess. Safety in numbers when you’re lost in the crowd.
For now, I’m following the herd. I don’t often wear a tie tho. Rebel without a cravat, that’s me.
* This old school shopkeeper stops just short of asking which was Sir dresses. But you can tell he really wants to.
** My favourite idiom for FaceBook. A guilty pleasure that has about the same intellectual value as looking out of the window.
*** Except for accessorising a shirt and tie with a hat. It must be a constant frustration to the milliner trade those most of their clientele are somewhere between a purchase and a funeral.