At Christmas I provided readers with a seasonal treat; a glimpse into the world of my bias, my style pet peeves and personal partialities. Now that it is summer, new sprouts of prejudice eat away at my fragile patience. For the summertime may well be a time for natural beauty but there are some awful human errors that stain the summer landscape. Such blunders hardly go unnoticed. I remember last summer, reading countless articles in newspapers and glossy supplements, pleading with style-conscious wives and girlfriends not to let their sartorially challenged husbands and boyfriends make an embarrassment of them, and poor old Blighty, when they step onto the continent. For nowhere is it more apparent that they are tagging along with a chap with all the grace and elegance of a squashed plum than among the elite of the destination they choose for a European holiday where, they are able to compare, side by side, how other men dress in warm climes; how they manage to look calm and cool despite the heat and humidity and how they manage to look chic and inventive despite their perching atop monuments anciens, relaxing after a rocky climb.
This is the childish title I have long used for those Velcro sandals that, for me, characterise the Northern European on holiday. I can accept that they are useful and certainly comfortable footwear but that is all I can say for them. To me they are the most hideous lumps you can attach to your feet. They are juvenile and graceless and have those terrible logos and ridiculous model names like ‘Source’ or ‘Xtreme.’ The way the straps wrap around the foot is neither appealing nor flattering; it is like one is preparing one’s foot for a rollercoaster. I remember being in Pompeii recently and seeing a family of four all wearing the wretched things. Though sandals were an appropriate choice for the dusty streets and terrain of the ancient city, wearing such ugly versions seemed almost sinful in a place that possessed such glorious beauty.
Mistakenly referred to as the ‘men’s Capri pant’, the ‘clam diggers’ have neither the shape nor the refinement. When I see someone wearing them, from a distance it looks as if they are wearing makeshift trousers fashioned from fishing nets or jute sacking which, in actual fact, would at least possess more charm than the toggled ugliness of the real ‘clam diggers.’ Unlike the Capri pant, the mere clam digger trouser swings awkwardly around the calves unless the toggles are used, pulling the material crudely into the skin. Either way, it is difficult to see how anyone has designed these and had approval of the aesthetics. I would even call their practicality into issue. Their name is derived from the real ‘clam diggers’ – people who would stand in shallower water and literally dig for clams, the small depth of water requiring them to roll up their trousers, or chop them off completely. However, they are rarely used so practically. They are now worn as a summer fashion trouser – something between shorts and proper trousers. Why? The mind boggles.
The third gross faux pas, as far as summer fashion is concerned, is the propensity for certain men to wander around streets and boulevards with nothing on their backs but lashings of sun cream. A shirt or t-shirt might swing from their belt loop but they think nothing of shuffling around streets at home and abroad exposing their sweating torso. Despite what they might think about people passing them glances of admiration, the shock of seeing such an exposure of flesh away from the swimming pool or beach is considerably shocking. The overall effect is always of a man ‘half-dressed’; all onlookers willing them to possess the decency to put a damn shirt on their backs.