Something most distressing happened to me the other day. I went shopping. For pants.
I don’t often go shopping for pants. Throughout most of my life, pants have just appeared out of the ether and then stuck around until they were cruelly discarded by Mrs 23thorns for developing a few minor gaping holes. But this was an emergency.
I had to go through to our head office to do vaguely serious and important things, and so I had put on some vaguely serious and important clothes. It was all going fairly well. I was feeling vaguely serious and important. Then I dropped the girl-child off at pre-school. As I got out of the car to walk her in, I was alerted by both a chilly breeze in an untoward place and a high-pitched shriek from behind me that all was not right in the world.
“DADDY! I CAN SEE YOUR UNDIES!”
And indeed she could. As could the rest of the parking lot. Fortunately, a few short months ago the girl-child helped Mrs 23thorns flash the same parking lot by attempting to climb the hem of her tube-top dress, so I get to hang onto my title as the dignified one in the family. In the land of the blind…
My pants had fallen victim to denim fatigue, and were now sporting a four-inch gash in an unfortunate spot.
But fear not, gentle readers. Help was at hand. The clothing shop round the corner was having a 50% off sale. All I had to do was sidle into the shop with my back to the wall, like a navy seal infiltrating a terrorist lair, and my day would be on track again. Or so I thought.
I had, up until that moment, felt that I had a fairly solid understanding of how pants worked. All you had to do was find a pair with the right sized waist, and gravity took care of the rest. Not any more, it would seem.
I found a few pairs that had the right sized waist, and nipped off to try them on. It didn’t go well. The first pair I tried on appeared to have been designed by an off-duty condom manufacturer. The waist fit me just fine, but the rest of the pants clung to me like yoga pants on a woman whose gym outfit had more to say about her positive body-image than it did about her current reality. Right. So these would be skinny jeans then.
I’m nobody’s expert, but I had always assumed that the “skinny” part of skinny jeans referred as much to the emaciated hipsters wearing them as it did to the pants themselves. The designer of my current pair shared no such assumption. Anyone who feels that someone with a waist the size of mine should be nipping around with the equivalent of rubber fetish-wear gripping their southern hemisphere like an angry python must be criminally insane. No.
This was when things turned truly nasty. As I tried on the next pair, things were looking good. They were comfortable. Spacious. Some might even call them baggy. Until, as I reached the bottom half, my feet were suddenly funnelled into narrow tubes with the dimensions of a garden hose. WTF?
I hauled them on out of morbid curiosity, and stood to admire myself in the full length mirror. Jesus! I am not easily embarrassed, but as I stood alone in that tiny, cold, impersonal cubicle, I felt thoroughly ashamed. At the age of forty, I had somehow been duped into putting on a Justin Bieber man-nappy, and now my life would never be the same again. I looked like a man whose calves had been squeezed so tightly that he had soiled himself. No.
In the end, I found a piece of fashion that worked for me. They were called “low-cut” jeans. They were specially designed to save valuable yards of denim for the manufacturer by lowering the waist by two inches, ostensibly to show off my six-pack to full effect. I don’t have one of those.
Providentially, though I happen to be entering that magical phase of life when I will soon have to make the all-important decision of whether to buckle my pants above my belly like Peter Ustinov or Tweedledee and Tweedledum, or below it like a portly gunslinger. That decision has now been taken out of my hands. Bang bang.
I left the pants shop feeling a little put out. Not because I had been duped into putting on Bieber nappy-pants after exposing myself to a field of toddlers and their mothers. No. Round here that passes for an ordinary Friday. I had, though, been reminded of the strange but fundamental power we have all handed over to that shadowy and sinister group, the fashionistas, and the curious ways in which they abuse it.
This is not about pants. It’s about the things these people won’t let us have. Just as they have arbitrarily declared it cool to wear pants that cut off the circulation to your feet while leaving room for at least nine ferrets below your crotch, they have taken the very best ideas in fashion and destroyed them.
So what am I on about? Observe;
I have worn glasses since my early teens. Which has been character building, because in the eighties, glasses did not look like this;
They looked like this;
Which, I am sure will agree, could never be mistaken for cool.
Unless you replace the clear lenses with darkened ones. Then they look like this;
It hard to believe it’s the same guy! I could never be that guy, though. It just wasn’t practical. I need glasses to see, and dark glasses don’t work so well inside. So wearing sunglasses would have involved managing two sets of expensive prescription glasses. I can’t even manage my car keys.
And then a miracle happened. I discovered photochromatic lenses. They are a wonder. You spend the day wandering around in a normal, clear pair of glasses without a care in the world until you step out into the sunlight. Bam! You’re wearing sunglasses, and people keep mistaking you for Tom Cruise.
I rushed out and got a pair. I rocked. Indoors, I was a mild-mannered bookseller. Outdoors, I was a sun god. A babe magnet. I was cool. Or not.
My photochromatic glasses led me to make a rather unpleasant discovery; my own home had been infiltrated by the enemy.
Yes, good people. I am sorry to be the one who has to tell you this, but Mrs 23thorns is a secret fashionista. A spy. A double agent. And the fashionistas had decided, for reasons which have never been made clear, that photochromatic glasses were uncool.
Mrs 23thorns set to work immediately on a cunning plan. She launched a clandestine campaign to convince our friends and neighbours that I was a secret policeman. Odd things began to happen. One of my colleagues reported his brother-in-law to me for keeping three dogs without a licence. Our neighbour started locking his children in a hidden room behind his upstairs shower, and only letting them out to play in the garden when I was away at work. I started to grow suspicious.
Things came to a head when I popped down to the park for a stroll one Sunday afternoon and a man in a raincoat and fedora sidled up to me and announced that “the troubled lark has flown westward with the dawn”. I asked Mrs 23thorns what the hell she thought was going on.
“I have no idea.” She said, as inscrutable as an owl. “Maybe it’s all somehow connected to your shaving your head at the same time as you started wearing Spetsnaz glasses”
I stopped wearing photochromatic glasses.
Yup. The people that sent someone sashaying down a stage like this;
have decided that this;
just doesn’t look right.
Oh, well. I would just have to buy some prescription sunglasses. No biggy. I could just carry them around in a case that clipped onto my belt.
Cases That Clip Onto Your Belt.
I could not carry them around in a case that clipped onto my belt.
Why could I not carry them around in a case that clipped onto my belt?
Because it would be too @#$% easy, that’s why.
I like multi-tools. What could give a man more pleasure than a pair of pliers that has a knife blade and a tiny saw folded into the handle, and has a special metal spike at one end designed to dig small stones out of horse’s hooves?
Have I ever had call to dig small stones out of a horses hoof? I have not. But if that day ever comes, you can be damn sure I will be prepared!
I have about ten multi-tools. I have a Leatherman. I have a Gerber. I have mini-multi-tools and enormous ones. And I don’t just limit myself to pliers, either. I have scissors. I have a shifting spanner. I even have a tiny axe. Overkill? I think not. Should a tiny tree ever fall across my path, I will not be daunted. I will whip out my tiny axe and set things right with a few tiny but well-placed blows.
Why ten? Am I a collector? No. Am I mentally ill? No. It’s the fashionistas’ fault again.
Every single multi-tool I own came in a handy black webbing pouch. With a belt loop on it. Brilliant. You could slip it onto your belt next to your sunglasses case and cell-phone holster! Your handy little friend could be permanently within reach, always there should you need to disarm a bomb or sort out a lame horse or tighten a series of bolts in a variety of sizes for a damsel in distress. Ideas that simple but elegant leave me speechless.
The same cannot be said for Mrs 23thorns. “No.” She said.
“You are not allowed to wear things clipped to your belt.”
“It’s the rules”
“Oh. No multitools.”
“But I can carry my sunglasses case there?”
“Don’t make me laugh.”
Ha! I am not one to get pushed around by a covert fashionista. I am, however, one to get pushed around by two covert fashionistas. Mrs 23thorns made this person;
And then set her to work stopping me from carrying things on my belt. Ten multi-tools? At any given point I have only ever been in active possession of one or two multi-tools. A loose-bolted damsel in distress would not be all that impressed if you spent the first five minutes deciding which tool you were going to use to tighten her loose bolts.
And then, a couple of years ago, my multi-tool went missing. No biggy. I tend to lose things. I bought a new one. It disappeared. I looked around for a while, and then got another one. Two weeks and it was gone. I bought another one. And so on.
And then, about six months ago, I decided to clean out my daughter’s room. Under her bed, I found a nest of tiny handbags with Barbie and Hello Kitty on them. The budding fashionista had obviously decided that Hello Kitty bags just don’t look right unless there is something inside them. The bags were all stuffed with an odd assortment of items that left me thinking she might be developing some sort of psychological disorder.
All of the bags had stones in them. Those little grey stones they mix with tar to pave roads. There were sticks, empty make-up cases, broken sunglasses, odd little offcuts of material, and multitools. All of my multitools. Maybe she had been using them to dig stones out of the road while we thought she was napping.
Fine. I know when I am beaten. No more clipping cases onto my belt then. I couldn’t even be too cross with the girl-child. She was a mere pawn in a far larger game. I detected the fell hand of Mrs 23thorns in this. Why?
Because she and her henchpersons, who would stand and clap when presented with these;
Had decided to declare war on the hideousness of this;
I am one of those fortunate souls who came of age in the eighties. We had the best music, we got to do fantastic things with hair gel, and our clothes regularly caused epileptic fits and unprovoked magpie attacks.
Into this golden age stepped a fashion revolution.
Being a man isn’t easy. We have things to carry around. Wallets. Car-keys. Cellphones and multitools that would be more conveniently CLIPPED ONTO OUR BELTS. We have pockets, of course. Yay! Someone attached tiny cotton sandwich bags to the inside of our pants so we could conveniently carry around our house keys, car keys, cellphones, wallets and sunglasses. Lucky us!
We could, I suppose, carry these things around in masculine, stylishly understated leather and canvas bags. But we can’t. And I can’t even blame the fashionistas for this. They think masculine, stylishly understated leather and canvas bags are just super. Nope. This time it was the “blokes”.
The sort of people who attend formal occasions dressed in Manchester United football shirts and carry their sunglasses around on their necks decided it was unseemly for men to carry bags around.
So now the only people who can carry around masculine, stylishly understated leather and canvas bags are the sorts of people who work in the creative departments at advertising companies and wear those glasses, and hippies, if they put some tassels on them.
But I digress. The eighties. The fashion revolution. May I present, good people, the moonbag;
They were brilliant. Not only did they hold all of our man-stuff, but they were stylish, too, made of the same sleek black leather as the jackets we all coveted (but are now only worn by Eastern European internet-bride salesmen). For once, we were allowed to have something that was both practical and fashionable. It was too good to be true.
The fashionistas stepped in. No more moonbags. But they were not solely to blame. Yup. I’m looking at you, America!
The moonbag revolution was destroyed by the United States, because they don’t know how to speak properly. “Moonbag”, you see, is a South African term. The good people of the States took one look at our moonbags and decided that they must be destroyed.
“Let us,” they said, “call it a fanny pack.”
No, America! That is not what that word means! And you’re not fooling anyone. You know as well as we do that the moonbag is worn in the front, not the back.
That was it. The fashionistas could not let them live. Can you imagine this year’s fall collection being paraded down a Paris runway subtly accessorised by something called a “fanny pack”?
That was it. Now moonbags are reserved almost entirely for portly middle-aged tourists who feel too self-conscious to walk around the back streets of Rio in T-shirts with “PLEASE ROB ME!” written on the back, but don’t want to miss out on any of the fun.
To recap; the people who celebrate this;
Will not tolerate this;
I am a loyal and faithful husband. For nearly two decades, I have remained devoted to Mrs 23thorns. But I have a confession to make. Every now and then, I fall in love. With another. It happened again the other day.
I was walking past a camping shop when something caught my eye. And when I say caught my eye I mean reached out, grabbed my eyeballs firmly in both hands and choke-slammed them into the ground. Behold!
Is that not a thing of surpassing beauty? That, my friends, is the Swiftwater Croc, and it is a gift from the gods. Picture the scene; you are trudging through the mosquito-harried shadows of a forest, the shrill scream of the cicadas driving you ever forward as your feet disintegrate into blood-soaked tatters of loose skin held together in an iron-hard leather prison when it happens. A puddle. Right there in the middle of your path. Bugger. Your outdoor time is over. Time to turn around and go home. Your could, I suppose, power forward through the puddle, but your socks would get wet, and then you would get granny-finger toes, and your feet would smell like a skunk got stuck in a teenage boy’s laundry basket.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Picture this; you are skipping through the dappled sunlight of a forest glade, the gentle hum of the insects lulling you into a near meditative state as your feet nestle down into a soft, enveloping cloud of foam when it happens. A puddle. Right there in the middle of your path. Yay! You skip through the puddle like a happy toddler to emerge on the other side with almost instantly dry feet as the water sluices out through the open weave waterproof mesh uppers of your Swiftwaters. You emerge into a sun-drenched meadow filled with daffodils where you flop to the ground to eat Black Forest Ham and gherkins, and spend the rest of the day taking photographs of butterflies.
They are making all terrain Crocs! And I want some! I will not, however, be getting some. Yup. The fashionistas took one look at how comfortable and practical Crocs were and immediately blacklisted them.
I had some Crocs once. Not all-terrain Crocs, but close. They were camo Crocs. When I wore them to mow the lawn, it looked like I was floating an inch above the grass. And didn’t have any feet. I once wore them out to the park along with my camo shorts and camo hoodie. All you could see were my legs from the knee down to the ankle. I kept the kids entertained for ages by simply walking through the flowerbeds. Sadly my shins were attacked by a pair of unsecured and short-sighted corgis, and we had to dash off to casualty, but it was fun while it lasted.
But apart from the odd myopic canine related incident, my Crocs made me happy. Whatever minor style infringement they caused was more than made up for by the fact that they were insanely comfortable.
They did not, however, make Mrs 23thorns happy. She refused to go out in public with me when I was wearing them. She pretended it was a fashion thing, but in truth I suspect she was uncomfortable with the way my feet kept disappearing when I walked across patches of grass.
In the end, our bloodhound resolved the issue. I came home to find a pile of camo foam chunks lying on the lawn. Curiously enough, the chunks smelled rather strongly of bacon. I asked Mrs 23thorns about this, and she said she thought the dog was ill. I asked what sort of illness smelled of bacon.
“Biliary” she said in a strange, strangled little voice. You learn something new every day. I wanted to find out more, but Mrs 23thorns was clearly deeply upset. Her lip was quivering and I swear I saw a tear roll down her cheek.
That was that for my Crocs.
To recap. Good;
Removable pants legs.
Johannesburg has a funny old climate, especially in winter. The mornings and the evenings can be bitterly cold, but the days can get uncomfortably warm.
The warm winter days thing is quite nice, but it makes getting dressed a bit tricky. For most of my life I have had to settle for putting on several layers of clothes in the morning and then leaving various items at various people’s houses as the day warmed up. This works just fine until about four o’clock, when you find yourself wandering around semi-naked with temperatures rapidly dropping back down toward zero.
Most of my life. Not all of it. For a golden winter or two, I chanced upon a perfect solution. Cargo pants with legs that detach below the knee. They were a gift from the gods. I would set off at dawn with toasty, well covered shins. At about eleven, when others were beginning to shed items of clothing and sweat up a storm, I would reach down and unzip my pants legs and pop the lower halves into a pocket. Smugly. It rocked.
And then things just got better. I found a pair where the legs were held on with Velcro. If you have never sat down next to a complete stranger, leaned conspiratorially close and whispered “I hope you don’t mind if I slip into my shorts”, and the slowly pulled off your pants legs with a slow, tearing “hhhhrrrrrttt” sound while maintaining unbroken eye-contact, you have never lived.
It was too good to be true. Mrs 23thorns and her kind took against them. This time, at least, we were spared any nasty confrontations. The bloodhound fell prey to another bout of biliary and ate the legs off my convertible cargo pants before Mrs 23thorns could swing into action. The garden smelt like bacon for days. Mrs 23thorns was devastated. When I asked her about the incident, she sprayed coffee out of her nose and had to leave the room.
I may have made the odd outrageous claim in the past, but this isn’t one of them. This is real. The fashionistas are messing with us. And if you aren’t quite feeling it, consider this.
Skinny jeans are the most fashionable men’s pants right now.
Apple makes the most fashionable cellphones right now. Their latest model is the iPhone 6
Fashionable men are not allowed to clip their iPhone 6’s onto their belts.
The iPhone 6 bends
Coincidence? I think not.