Coming at the end of the rally season, it's one of the bigger events on the calendar and it has been one of those days out that I've enjoyed since I was a kid. Now in its 42nd year, Haddenham steam rally is full of traction engines, classic cars, commercials, motorcycles and far too many ancient tractors. There are assorted demonstrations and displays, lots of food joints, a funfair, the inevitable trade stands, and thankfully a very well stocked beer tent. Throw in some surprisingly good weather and ample opportunity for people watching and you have the recipe for a decent day's entertainment.
One such piece of entertainment came along as I was sitting on a crappy plastic chair outside the beer tent enjoying a wonderful pint of Pickled Pig cider (a local brew), in the form of an elderly gentleman. He must have been pushing ninety, but clearly still quite sprightly as he trotted along with his cane in his hand. What did it for me though was his attire, which consisted of a green tweed jacket, shirt, tie, and a pair of shorts in the same material as the jacket and of similar length to those worn by footballers in the 1980s. Finish that off with a pair of brown Jesus creepers combined with socks and a pair of legs that with all due respect we really didn't want to see and you've pretty much got the picture. If this ensemble was ever in style it must have been back in 1904 and the old chap had obviously decided that things really were better back in the 'good old days' and that was where he was determined to stay.
Your average old bloke tends to shuffle around in a particular sort of style that is instantly recognisable as a standard uniform for the retired man. Lots of nondescript beige items teamed with shiny brown shoes. I still don't know where old men buy their trousers because I've never seen anything like them in the shops - I can only assume they're mail order via Saga or something.
The question is, at what point does such clothing become expected? Is there some sort of cut-off age when society expects you to dress differently or is it just a natural evolution of the sort to be found in Darwin's 'Origin of Species'?
More importantly perhaps is this question: when does it become unacceptable to wear jeans?
I never normally see cotton-tops wearing jeans, and on the rare occasion that I do I'm struck by just how odd it looks. It's like a Morris Minor with racing stripes - it just doesn't belong.
This puts me in a bit of a quandary. Although I think I can still get away with jeans I know that before long I'll end up looking strange, like ageing rockers who still wear a pony tail even though the front bit has gone bald. So what to do then? I really don't see myself in beige pensioner slacks, and most of the trousers I like tend to be of a more gothic or military persuasion - very black with shiny bits or combats with many useful pockets. Neither of these are any more appropriate for an old goat than jeans.
Solution? Buggered if I know, but if I start wearing beige, a pork-pie hat, or anything made of tweed then I know it's time to end it all.
Gary Oldman - probably the only guy to remain looking cool despite wearing beige.
(from the excellent movie 'Leon')