Sunday, 20 March 2016

Short change zero

The other day on the way home from work I had the radio on for a change.
The presenters began discussing a list that had been published of the top ten things men over forty shouldn't wear, so my ears pricked up as I wondered just how many of these things I would be guilty of.
Amongst the items decreed to be unsuitable for me by the fashion police were t-shirts with the name of a band on them, track suit bottoms, football shirts, tracksuit tops, and the biggest no-no is apparently a hoodie.
Now trackie bottoms I have issues with - they're an item of clothing with two sets of rules, a sort of bi-polar apparel. If I'm out in the big wide world, the last kind of thing I'd voluntarily wear would be trackie bottoms.
OK, so that's not entirely true - I'd rather be seen in trackie bottoms than a dress, or lingerie, or Jo Brand, but when it comes to going out in public wearing some sort of trousers, they're not even on the radar. However, apart from lounge pants, trackie bottoms are the very best thing for slobbing around the house in.
Football shirts were never going to be an issue because I'm basically allergic to football and would never wear something that marks me out as being a Carlsberg-drinking, Seat Ibiza-driving lout who enjoys pubs with fruit machines and Sky TV.
Although I don't currently own a t-shirt with a band on it, I really don't see why this would be an issue. Obviously a forty-something wearing a Taylor Swift t-shirt would look rather strange, but if the band in question was more age-specific like Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd then I really don't see the problem.
I do admit to owning a hoodie though. I can't really explain why this happened, and god knows I shouldn't have to, but after hearing that article on the radio I'm suddenly feeling a bit self-conscious about wearing it.

Why is it that social rules change as we age?
Why do we feel the need to conform to certain stereotypes that are appropriate to our age in order to fit in?
Someone in their twenties would see nothing wrong with hooning around in a Mitsubishi Evo, testing the laws of physics with their arse on fire, whereas someone in their fifties would feel a complete tit doing the same thing and quite rightly so.
By that age society expects us to have grown up, become sensible and be plodding around in a beige Toyota Auris.
While the teenagers are wandering around with their trousers hanging halfway down their arses, middle-aged man is debating the pros and cons of an elasticated waist band to deal with that fine balance between comfort and disguising the inevitable belly bulge associated with a slowing metabolism, too little exercise and too many bacon sandwiches.

No matter how much we like to kid ourselves that we're the same person on the inside as we were when we were nineteen, the reality is that eventually we do change in many ways.
When I was about sixteen I felt great wearing a pair of white trousers and mirror sunglasses. It was the eighties and Miami Vice was all the rage, so it seemed only right to pay homage to Don Johnson in some way that didn't require the purchase of a Ferrari Daytona. If someone forced me to walk the streets wearing that outfit today I'd die of embarrassment.
Driving with the windows wound down and Snap's 'Rhythm is a dancer' cranked up was all very well in the early nineties, but now I'm more likely to have the windows wound firmly up listening to Steve Wright on BBC Radio 2.
As far as beer is concerned, I started out on Grolsch and Kronenberg before becoming 'educated' in the delights of real ale. Lately however, my tastes have changed again, abandoning the 'Old Speckled Hen' and 'Hobgoblin' in favour of lighter lagers such as Corona, Sol, or Asahi.
Today I realised that my previous favourite Americano from Costa had come to taste overwhelmingly bitter and that I actually prefer tea (a good mug of Assam) to coffee.

As a teenager I was still the proud owner of a 28 inch waist, an absolute certainty that I knew best, and yet was terrified at the prospect at having to address a group of people or try and converse with just one woman because they were obviously a completely different species that needed special handling that I hadn't yet read the workshop manual for.
Now I'm struggling to stay within the confines of 32 inch waist trousers and I realise that for the most part I know sod all. On the other hand, I have no worries talking to large groups (as long as I know the subject), and the realisation that women are actually human after all has meant I no longer go into a complete mental shutdown whenever I encounter one.

Even tastes in music evolve with the passing years. I still listen to stuff from my teenage years, because I suppose those years of growing up were so influential and a lot of music from that time is associated with strong memories. Paul Hardcastle's '19' and Pet Shop Boys 'West End Girls' remind me of the school sponsored walk and finding my own tastes in music with influence from my peers rather than my older siblings. Depeche Mode's excellent 'Violator' album and The Shamen's 'Boss Drum' send me back to long evenings tinkering with motorbikes in my mate's barn, punctuated by trips to the nearest petrol station to stock up on supplies of Nik-Naks and Skittles.
But although I used to listen to lots of heavy rock like Judas Priest, Guns & Roses and Iron Maiden, I very rarely drag that sort of music out now, and when I do I quickly tire of it.
It's a similar story with films. When I was younger I couldn't get enough of action movies. If it involved Jean Claude Van Damme or Arnold Schwarzenegger as a one man army beating the shit out of the baddies then I was all for it. Now such things generally bore me to death and I find myself preferring something French with a good story like 'Amelie', or anything with Audrey Hepburn as long as it's not a musical.

So things do change - our personal tastes and even our outlook on life. When we're young we might think we're important and invincible, but life teaches us that actually we're vulnerable and mostly irrelevant.
Even though our basic personality may be set early in life, our experiences continue to mould and shape us throughout our lives, ensuring that there will always be a market for beige slacks, tartan slippers, coach trips to the Isle of Wight, and the Honda Jazz.


"That Matt Munro's wicked, innit? Nah wot I mean?"