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Notes from a tailor - The Courageous Man

28 April 2016

A wise man once said, “The fear of taking a chance is trumped by the hope that it might be the last chance you have to take.”

… Okay, that may not be entirely true. The sentiment is most certainly true, sure, but I couldn’t in good conscience tell you if whoever said it was wise or not due to the fact I saw it daubed on the side of a telephone box in Covent Garden. Now, far be it from me to question the sagaciousness of a vandal, after all, I own a copy of Banksy’s Wall and Peace, I get it. The free thinker has never been afraid to break the odd rule, to live ever so slightly outside the restrictions of social norms and to dance merrily to their own dragging beat. But it got me to thinking, would the people of ancient Greece have taken “Courage is knowing what not to fear!” quite so seriously if Plato had spray painted it on the side of the Parthenon? Free expression of the self is one of our birthrights, surely, but what if people don’t agree with what you’re saying or how you say it? What you’re wearing or how you wear it? And to that matter, what is it to be truly original any more? Is there anything more uniform than the legacy The Ramones left of matching leather jacket’s and ripped jeans? Growing up, punk meant ‘no rules’ but try wearing a three-piece tweed suit to go see The Exploited at The Underworld in Camden…

Alas, I digress. Walking towards Tavistock Square, my mind keeps skipping back to the phone box. I’ve seen many a memorable piece of art in a phone box before, most notably around Soho, but this one has taken me from a slightly different angle. How often do I take a sartorial risk? How do I compare to how others see me? Do others see me at all? Do I even meet the perception I have of myself? Time for a reappraisal… I Dress, Therefore I Am.

Prince of Wales jacket? check. Baby blue cropped trousers I had made but was always afraid made me look like a flaming queen? Check. Crisp white shirt, cutaway collar? Check. The tie goes back into the draw, the leather double monk strap shoes stay off, filled today only with shoe-trees. Pure white trainers? Check. Slipping them on, knowing full well I will be meeting MDs in Canary Wharf and Barristers in Temple today, I feel like Joey Ramone. In this instance I am Sid Vicious. These trainers are my vandalised Parthenon’s. But then, the first wave of doubt creeps in, “What will the boss say?” Joey turns the amp down and looks sheepishly at the audience. “What will my client’s say?” A Public Support Officer has Plato scrubbing the paint from the walls before remanding him with an ASBO. No no, be strong my boy, to thine own self be true. Get up, walk towards the door, one air cushioned-sole step at a time. Make it across the threshold and you’ll be out, out into the big wide world, no turning back…

My 11am fitting in Canary Wharf looks at the trainers the second he sees me. He’s approaching me from across the reception. It takes him a couple of seconds before he finally looks me in the eye. I’m about 15 yards from him, traversing the lobby of the bank. Both of us are so in our head’s trying to make sense of the situation that we’re not concentrating on how our actual faces look as we maintain awkward eye contact. 10 yards now and we’re staring at one another as if trying to read the other’s mind. 5 yards now, fear is coursing through me, ‘What have I done?! Okay, recover this. Lie, say they’re orthopaedic. Say your real shoes are being re-soled, someone stole them, anything!’

“Good morning _____, good to see you” Shake hand > Apologise for the footwear > Hang head in shame. But before I can say anything…

“Very cool look by the way”.

…Nailed it.

Maybe this bank was not the correct platform to unveil myself. Maybe this is not the last risk I will ever have to take. Maybe my client had humoured me and is, at this very moment, calling into question my previously accepted expertise. Questions I might never know the answer to, but maybe they’re answers I am not supposed to know. It’s none of my business to know what others think of me, just as how I dress is none of their business. As I leave the building, I approach the huge revolving doors and the closer I get, with every revolution of the glass before me, I catch the sight of my reflection, sporadic and momentary like a strobe light. I look just exactly as I want to look. So, what if people disagree with what you wear or how you wear it?

Who gives a…

HR

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