Sunday, 3 April 2011

The Man With The Yellow Trousers

*WARNING* Contains shallow class-based generalisations

On Thursday morning, the man sitting opposite me on the train was wearing a magnificent pair of yellow corduroy trousers.

In this photo, the colour is not displayed in all its true and dazzling vibrancy on account of the glare through the window. But believe. Daffodils. Buttercups. Colman's mustard. Cartoon bananas. Yellow peppers. Yellow crocuses. Other things that are way yellow. That is the kind of yellow we are talking about. He had the yellowness turned up to yellowven. I'm sorry. I haven't done this for two weeks. Forgive me.

Being acutely aware of my recent period of non-posting, I thought I may have found the perfect way to break my drought. I would become for one day only – or possibly more if it went, like, really really well – a street style blogger (like this or this). Here is a genre that's really hit a peak since I began this blog three years ago, and there's nothing I like more than being slightly late to a party. As I travelled through the city that day, I thought to myself – all the way from Dulwich to Islington and back again – my trusty yet furtively operated iphone camera would capture the fashion flashpoints of all those idiosyncratic tastemakers that make London the coolest city in the world. Apart from Tokyo. And probably New York. And I should point out that I've never actually been to Split, so for all I know they could really be pushing the asymmetrically cut style envelope over there.

Two basic problems here.

Firstly, I kept getting distracted and failing to notice what people were wearing. Secondly, when I did remember, I didn't really see anyone else wearing anything so worthy of a double take. Really, people do mostly wear bland shoes and black and denim clothes. Although I did like these ladies with matching hair, who I saw while I was waiting for my lunch dates at Angel station.

So then I was left with a photo of a man in yellow trousers and a desperate need for a new blogpost.

So I kept thinking about the yellow trousers – and the man inside them. He had a certain air of well-to-do about him. Distinguished, I might say. You may be able to discern this yourself from the sturdy brown shoes visible in the photo. To me, they say, 'I'm just going to take a relaxed yet purposeful stride around my vast country estate', as well as, 'Then I will put on a striped shirt and a blazer and enjoy an evening of light orchestral music in the expensive seats of the Royal Festival Hall.' He is also carrying a classy-looking leather binder (just seen, as we say in the world of fashion-photo captioning), which may contain information on his portfolio of stocks and shares, or perhaps just a copy of The Beano or a cut-out crossword puzzle from the Telegraph.

It occurred to me that apart from the young, skinny and hip, the only other men I had seen wearing below-the-waist colours of this intensity were... well... a bit posh. I know this is a gross generalisation. You were warned. But a former neighbour of mine was a good example of this correlation. He was a lovely man, plummy but poorer than you'd expect, primarily as a result of spending his working life trying to make things better for people less fortunate than himself which, as it turns out, doesn't pay quite as well as one might think it should. I provide this information so you will understand how he was my neighbour, and thus living in a one-bedroomed Victorian terraced flat conversion in southeast London, and not, say, a glass penthouse in Chelsea Harbour. Anyway. I would often hear the front door slam and look out of the window to see him striding in the direction of the bus stop wearing a pair of pink or scarlet jeans, as bright as a tulip.

What is the connection between the posh and their lurid pants? I welcome your theories. I have three of them:

1) I wonder if it is related to the innate, achieve-anything confidence that often seems to come with what someone in a BBC costume drama might call 'good breeding'. "Who says that just because I am not technically young, skinny and hip, I can't wear these trousers? It is my BIRTHRIGHT! And now I will climb The Matterhorn! And then do some motivational speaking. And then I will buy a 6-BEDROOMED house in FULHAM."

2) The reason posh people have money is because they are deeply, and secretly, thrifty. They only buy clothes that are heavily reduced in the sales, which means they only wear clothes rejected by the majority of shoppers who – as I have established during my street-style blogging research – plump for black, brown and denim. Not yellow, green and hot pink.

3) It is some tiny act of rebellion against the charcoal and tweed, traditions and tedium, of their social strata. 'I may have lived a childhood of rules and repression at boarding school, and still feel the need to ask permission every time I go to the toilet, but LOOK AT MY TROUSERS. I'M SO ALIVE!'


Anonymous said...

Tom Wolfe christened it the "go-to-hell" aesthetic, for Americans at least:

trashsparkle said...

I like to think it is reason 2, and probably 3 too. It can't be a mere matter of pulling the Wrong Trousers out of the wardrobe in sartorial confusion - at some point they've gone and bought the damn things somewhere. Bought them THEMSELVES, as men get given jumpers, socks etc as presents, but never trousers...Miss Jones, I salute your spy credentials and sneaky, up-close use of the iphone!

Nicky said...

It can't be reason 2 - look at this!

Alison Cross said...

Possibly a Rupert Bear fixation?

Ali x

Waffle said...

And in one photo, I am instantly transported back to dress down Friday in the city law firm where I spent so many unproductive hours, trying to escape from billing my incompetence to any clients. On Fridays, every man over 40 in the corporate department that shared our floor wore variants on these. The red were most popular.

InvisibleWoman said...

Or colour blind...did you see the chap on University Challenge last night? The winners (Oxford) had to collect their trophy - orange trousers I tell you. Posh beyond words.

Alison Cross said...

Miss Jones - award for you over at mine, if you'd like it.

You should have a billion followers, but I only have an award to give for those under 300. if you want to pick it up :-)

Ali x

Betty M said...

These men tend to favour jumbo cords too, also Liberty print shirts and cravats. Very hobby (as opposed to real) farmer/ city chap with place in the Cotswolds. I think it is mostly 1 with a dash of 3. But these types never think they need permission for anything so wouldn't dream of being prevented by some rule of hipness from wearing trousers just like Daddy's.

Norfolk Dumpling said...

Many Dutch men -- particularly posh frat boys -- are also bizarrely enamoured of brightly colored trousers. Red, yellow, anything that woulld clash with their curly red/yellow/orange hair. Most odd.