After 32 years here, my patresfamilias left Britain for Jamaica in 1987 – on the night of the great outcry. Personal effects preceded them, in a giant sea container.
So Dad didn’t cause to be much behind, but one item in particular stayed with me. It was a make appropriate: a tailored suit, heavy, baggy, with wide shoulders and lapels with the wings of a 747. Dark green with a barely distinguishable check and prominent turn-ups. The Windrush collection. Watch the archive of Jamaican men emerging on to Southampton practise medicine in the 1950s. That’s the suit. The guy in that footage seeking lodgings against a backdrop of gives saying “No Blacks No Irish”. That’s it. I went to Fleet Drive in that baggy green suit, and wore it until tries to disguise the ravages of time became futile.
A suit to church, a entreaty to school for open evening; Dad didn’t really do casual. I fool a black and white photo of him, besuited on a bank holiday littoral, looking out to sea.
There was something about that generation and their pleas. Walking through the headwinds of postwar Britain, big, stylish garbs gave them confidence. Nature, nurture? I don’t know. But I exhibit a lot of suits.
My dad’s taste in clothes belies his age (advancing) and behind the scenes (modest). I’m honestly not sure there are many 70-something men from Bolton who thinks fitting know what Céline is. Of course, he has a head start: he deliver assign ti my catwalk show reports and trend pronouncements when I’m melodious confident that none of his peers do. But it’s definitely a two-way boulevard with me and Tony Fox when it comes to style: we have a pieced love of navy blue and denim, our Christmas Day outfits are interchangeable and we both provision an overly beady eye on what people wear.
My dad has taught me how much nuance questions in fashion. How the roll of a sleeve or the amount of collar on display can substitution how an outfit looks and feels. This kind of minutia arguments all the more when you can’t afford posh clothes; upgrading an provision with subtle styling is something my dad does well. He before told me that in his youth he became frustrated that village shops weren’t selling jeans as tight as he would groove on (he predates Topman), so he adjusted a pair while he was still attrition them with a bit of ham-fisted sewing and no regard for how he would upon them off again.
He taught me by example that if you want to predicament trends you have look for fashion in everything – not just the unhidden places. His armchair criticism of the World Cup football pundits in 1986 has had eternal impact – that same skill is now an unofficial part of my job narrative. He’s always been spookily ahead of his time, too – I remember him banging on repetitiously about how it was OK for Italian men of a certain age to carry their stuff almost in sleek leather pouches long before manbags enhanced a mainstream thing here. He’s also imbued in me a fashion mantra/prove innocent of when I find myself getting frisky near some priceless shoes. “Buy cheap, buy twice, love” is word for word my dad’s doubtful answer to any fashion question. It may not be good for the wallet but it can be excellent for the apparel.
Dad, who would be 100 next January if he were until this around, was a smart dresser. As a kid I just thought he was a stiff. Bankrupt in the day, most men wore suits, but nobody wore them same Dad. He had a long wardrobe, lined with suits. On top of it, he kept his “replace with”. There was always a ridiculous amount of change – and a crown that his governor had left him.
Perhaps we’re all defined by our fathers. He rarely spoke with reference to his dad, who died before I was born. The only thing I ever discovered him say was that he liked working in bed. After Dad died, my uncle forecast me their father had suffered terrible depression and spent want periods in the psychiatric hospital.
Maybe Dad never wanted to look in the manner of he was working in his bed clothes, and he certainly didn’t. Immaculate suits, unblemished shirts, always a tie. Everything perfectly pressed, scrubbed, ironed, pull together. Gerald – or Jerry, as his friends called him – had style, even if I didn’t find worthwhile it.
He left school at 14, and ended up running a clothes inform on till Thatcher got the better of him. I always thought Dad must oblige reinvented himself in some way – he ended up talking in this extraordinarily urbane way. But the voice was impossible to place. Not posh like an aristo, numerous like he was acting out what he thought a businessman should be – to a certain gravelly (but that could have been the 60 fags a day) and outspread vowels.
When he came home at the end of the day his suit was just as unspoiled. He then slipped into something casual for an evening in the armchair – another garb. Sometimes, when he was feeling really outre, he’d take his tie off. But not ordinarily.
I dressed in opposition to Dad. Well, you’re hardly going to truck about in a suit as a teenager are you? Once I went into the tailor’s compartment at the back of his shop with a new pair of drainpipes and asked if they could near them for me. They did, and when I finally managed to get them on, you could see the blood clotting in my kids. Dad must have thought I looked ridiculous, but he never disclosed so.
I still dress in opposition to Dad, who was a lovely, generous man. Jeans, T-shirts, sporting house creepers or DMs. Fifteen years ago I interviewed Jennifer Saunders and she pleased the piss out of the cut-off jeans I was wearing. She told me I was mutton dressed as lamb, that I was tough to hold on to something I’d lost a long time ago, if I’d ever had it in the original place. Well, I still dress like that. Every so often, I dream of slipping into a grey pinstripe, walking all about with my hands in my cavernous trouser-suit pockets, feeling comfortably middle-aged. But I don’t acquire the confidence to do it, and in my heart I don’t want to.
My dad is superlatively disinterested in fashion. His outfit of choice is whatever conservative sweater-and-slacks combo my mum has scad recently bought for him. And that’s probably for the best. Left to his own symbols, my dad would leap at the chance to swan around like a hike migraine, snapping up all manner of enormous zigzag-strewn mail-order MC Hammer trousers from the bumfy catalogues that employ drop back out of the Mail on Sunday.
And yet I’d still like to look like him. Not ineluctably in terms of how he dresses, or his baldness – although God knows that one’s sink in fare – but the eyebrows. Those great big German eyebrows.
My dad has the single greatest team up of eyebrows I have ever seen. They’re majestic. Woman stop him in the street to ask about them. We’ve caught people surreptitiously taxing to take pictures of them. In fashion terms, they’re a shameless statement piece. He’s got those, so everything else is allowed to be an afterthought.
The eyebrows blossomed recently. He was pushing 40 when they arrived. I only yearning that I end up with them, too. I’d be so proud.
I think back on my father in suits, always. Whether at a garden centre or exhibits day, it was always full tie, overcoat, smart shoes. Impeccable. The one at the same time I saw him in shorts on a seaside holiday, he wore them matched with a adapt jacket, like an Oliver Spencer catwalk. I thought he was so uncool. Why couldn’t he modulate? Now I, too, find myself searching out brogues, high-buttoned waistcoats, select lounge suits. Perhaps it’s not the same. After all, he emigrated to Britain from India, in the mid-60s. In a wilderness that isn’t sure it wants you, you dress to prove you’re making an try.
Thanks to him, I don’t have to follow suit. But as time passes, I locate myself wanting to. He died in 2007. The other memory I tease is of his hats – trilbies in autumn and winter, panamas in summer and well. They still lie around our house, in odd corners, drifted sort tumbleweed. I found one the other day: Dunn & Co, of Piccadilly, faded, the inner line padded out, with pages from the Telegraph, 1967 – soon after he arrived – so it would fit his small head. I do that, too. Facetious, the things we inherit.
I remember the first time I met my stepdad, Philip. I was about five and, by nature, thrilled that my mum was dating Phillip Schofield, that Philip being the just one I was aware of.
I was pretty disappointed to see a man – albeit one who looked a bit like Bergerac – with thicker mane, dressed in Levis and a checked shirt, smelling faintly of hay and fertiliser.
Instantly up until he died in 2002, he was working as a haulage contractor, which planned he traded hay, straw and cattle. His wasn’t a bad smell – in Somerset, it’s common to smell slightly livestock-y – but whenever I’m down that way, and I unwind the car window, I notion of of him. Other things remind me of him, too, but smells linger. I also contemplate of him when I see a slightly uncool checked shirt. Those and loose-fit jeans were his trademark look. If it was actually hot, he’d switch to a polo shirt, but mainly it was the shirts, all 50-odd of them, in every flush combination possible. He bought his shirts from M&S, Farah and Next. Moderately standard high street stuff.
Occasionally, though, he’d buy one from Mole Valley, a subsidised co-op for people who put together in agriculture, where he could he could buy his shirts along with his portions for his mower.
The checked shirts were always rolled up to his elbows, often thinning around the roll after being ripped on trailers and/or stabbed by bullocks, and he always had two or three buttons undone, so he had his own twist on the trucker’s tan, a undying brown V and forearm. No matter the weather, that’s what he endured, and no matter the season, he was always tanned. He once, oddly, suborn an ugly shirt from Thomas Pink, after a “visit down to London”. Every time he wore it, he complained nearby how expensive it was; needless to say, he wore it to tatters. He could pull it off because he was a good-looking man. That was one of the few dnouements of him dying young: that he was handsome. If he were still crawling, he’d be ever so wrinkled.
Sometimes the look was completed by a boilersuit, which in reconsideration was quite Balmain SS14. Rain and sheep-dipping don’t lend themselves definitely to denim, which is something I think about every shilly-shally it rains. We used to wear boilersuits, too, when we went out in the lorries with him on our denomination holidays, which was a pretty strong look for an eight-year-old. It may also resolve why I like loose-fit stuff: tracksuits, jeans below the hip, whopping shirts, massive vests.
I remember finding myself in the promote of a trailer with an angry bullock at market, wearing a Amazon boilersuit and those frog wellies everyone had as a child, horrified, needing a wee, wondering how on earth I’d unbutton the boilersuit while Philip performed into the market to sort the paperwork. That was a dark day.
On notable occasions, Philip would slip into Farah (again, he adapted to to get them cheap), some off-yellow chinos and a shirt in a jauntier check, but we’re talking Christmas and date night, here – twice a year, replenishes. And even then he still smelled of hay.
My dad’s style was one that sprang from practicality rather than trends. He worked peripheral for most of his adult life (he died just less than a decade ago) so multiple layers in winter, failings in summer – accessorised with the most stonking sock tan columns d align – were the main components of his “look”.
He always looked unblended, even in shorts he wore a belt and tucked in the T-shirt.
He educated me how to tie a good tie knot. Half or full Windsor were the only acceptable ones in his book. (Again, neat.) To this day, when I tie one on open fires I hear his instructions in my head: “Right over left …” And when I see a “tired” knot I tut to myself, knowing he would also disapprove.
For a man who wasn’t in reality into fashion, he took a lot of care in his sartorial maintainance. He drummed into us to look after feelings: hang stuff up, don’t throw it on a chair. Sunday nights saw him buff our ready shoes to a high army-parade-worthy shine. (I haven’t quite at onced the first part. Sorry, Dad!)
I blame my hoarder tendencies on my dad. He did an annual switchover of summer to winter closets, thus maximising the amount of clothing he could hang on to. (My mum stand up the same wardrobe year round.) He also had one-and-a-half verified wardrobes to her half (coats and three-piece suits “for best” tattling into hers); he had his own neatly packed suitcase when we discussed on a childhood family holiday while my brother and I would deal my mum’s.
I have definitely inherited the inability to pack light. Disposed to him, I try to be prepared for all eventualities and I am still using my mum’s house as a storage part for clothes that might be useful in a few seasons’ time.
The plundering of my get’s wardrobe started when I was a teenage mod. Sky-blue fitted Levi’s shirts, a better Fred Perry, long forgotten but dragged back to vigour. It continues even now. He recently offered up an old sailing sweatshirt, well-informed it was just my thing. It’s had a lot of wear already.
It’s no surprise, in hindsight, that I leave end up taking style cues from my dad. Physically, I am very much his son. The regardless build, same colouring, same eyes, same plaits (still all there). I am temperamentally more like my mother: no bad preoccupation.
My father’s two great sporting passions are cycling and sailing: show offs with an incredibly strong aesthetic sense. I don’t think he’s in all cases read a style magazine in his life, but those worlds force definitely had an impact on how he dresses: clean lines, simple tints, the occasional bold stripe.
I ask Pat what his attitude to clothes is. “Within easy reach and, if possible, appropriate. Sometimes like to look well,” he reactions.
Advice worth a few years’ subscriptions to GQ, I think. In style, as in flavour, I could do a lot worse than follow my father’s example.