Tuesday, June 05, 2007
These man things - hats, bags, sheds, kayaks - seem to get you going, so let me chuck one more into the pot - waistcoats. Americans call these 'vests', of course, and, I notice, 'sweater vests' are frequently regarded as another attribute of the old like ugliness. I would have mocked the colonials' use of this word, but, apparently, it is correct - Pepys called them vests when Charles II introduced them in October 1666. I have several waistcoats and, partly at my wife's insistence, I wear them often. I also leave the lowest button undone. This, I now discover, is a solid English tradition which, like standing during the Hallelujah Chorus, was ordained by a King. Edward VII, who presided over the greatest English decade, grew fat and left that button undone. This was taken as a style statement, rather like those huge, creased baggy cargo shorts which were actually a manufacturing accident but which are now worn by young men all over the world in an earnest attempt to look as dumb and deformed as possible. Anyway, here's my point: waistcoats are The Thing, The Man Thing. They can be worn in sheds, kayaks or as a dashing accompaniment to bags and hats.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 6:12 am