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Saturday, 18 September 2021

The ragged-taggle gypsy

Something new, then. Unexpected and uncharacteristic.

How about my relationship with clothes?

I’d like to say I don’t give a damn about what I wear but it’s not entirely true. I’’ve retained a casual shirt (see pic) for almost thirty years. Long sleeves, dark colours; I can wear it for weeks without laundering. The cuffs are ragged, showing the lining. Any stiffness has disappeared and it hangs on my body like a sack. My affection hinges on the fact that the inner surface of the lapels are contrastingly blue-and-white striped; they do something for my face and scraggy neck. Don’t know what.

I wasn’t sure I’d get the half-promised job in the USA in 1965 and had to be prepared for further interviews with other US publishers I’d written to. I decided to sell my Englishness in these chats and bought a speckled black/white three-piece suit from Hawkes of Savile Row in London. Bloody well cut. Though I say it myself I looked suave, even wealthy, quite unlike the real RR. As it was, I got the half-promised job so the suit was never truly tested.

Other than cheapness anonymity has been my goal. While still employed my outfits were just about formal. Retired, I lapsed joyfully into shabbiness. My trousers are either beige chinos or black jeans – the latter with tight-fitting legs concertina-ed into wrinkles. My winter shirts are single-colour fleeces, so light in texture they are utterly shapeless. The sort of clothing worn by a chronic invalid who finds getting dressed a chore. Yeah, there’s irony.

Have I become vain by striving to avoid vanity? It’s a possibility. My socks all have highly visible holes and my family constantly point this out. I am chuffed by their disapproval. I last wore a tie… do you know, I can’t remember.


  1. And here is the proper soundtrack for you:

    1. Sabine: I was singing Raggle Taggle Gypsies (at school) before any of those Oirish fakers were born. Even questioning the music master about verb usage in the lines:

      And she would in the street
      In her bare bare feet
      All out in the wind and weather, oh!

  2. Ah, Roderick, I see we share this raggle-taggled acceptance of old torn clothes and holes in the socks. I haven't worn anything but old clothes and hand-me-downs for years. My sister-in-law brought me new jeans and three new blouses for my birthday because she knew I would never shop, not at a store or online. Clothes have a much longer lifespan than we usually believe. And, style means almost nothing to me.

    1. robin andrea: A wholly admirable attitude state of mind although you haven't gone the whole hog. Choosing to mew yourself up in a rural fastness, rather than flaunt your rags on urban streets where criticism would be more likely. Also you don't care to suggest you copy me when it comes to laundering. Don't forget I've lived in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia as well as London (where sartorial eccentricity is less rare).

  3. I have to join in with the joys of retired shabbiness. I only want to wear old, well worn, comfortable clothing. My husband has worn white t-shirts and cargo shorts I think every single day for the past 8 years. A bad day for me is when I have to wear leather shoes. I hope you had a few opportunities to wear that "speckled black/white three-piece suit from Hawkes of Savile Row in London."

    1. Colette: Oh I did, especially since I was "being shown round" to Pittsburgh's aristocracy during those initial few weeks.

      Here's a further fashion detail: the suit trouser legs were tapered as was the fashion in those days. To match them I wore black ankle-length boots with elasticated sides Thus I was dressed to kill when I entered the headquarters of the Carnegie-Mellon bank to open my account on money I'd previously transferred from the UK. The C-M is real swanky, lots of muted yellows and browns, plus lots of welcoming easy seats. My case was handled by a ravishing woman in her thirties unlike any banking woman I'd ever met in the UK. I was wont to play the big cheese.

      Everything was going well until she suddenly noticed those boots. She laughed ringingly: "I've got a pair of slippers just like them." And laughed some more. Verily, verily I had moved into a different universe. I stopped speaking familiarly and adopted a formal - very English - tone of voice. As I recall she stopped laughing.

  4. Humility warring with pride?

    Some of my favorite clothes are the ancient comfy, though...

    1. Marly: Can't say I've ever had any truck with humility. It always seemed like a coded word for keeping one's mouth shut. A world where conversation had been replaced by "improving" monologues.

      Meek's a fair synonym for humility and we know what the Beatitudes say about meek. Who on earth in this day and age would want to inherit the earth? What would be a "meek" response to the situation in Afghanistan? Or the forthcoming oil shortage? Both political matters you might well say and therefore to be abhorred. Well, yes...

    2. Hah, I'm not surprised... amused, yes.

      Surely any average citizen with common sense (meek or not meek) would have known to stick to the pre-Biden plan and draw down in winter, pulling out citizens and then interpreters etc. and military last. And not to give up a wealth of weapons and the better air base. Etc.