I am addicted to black. I should go to Black Wardrobes Anonymous. I am the woman who buys black dye thrice yearly to ensure all my blacks are equally black and avoid the hell of ‘clashy black’, which looks crap at the best of times, but especially so in Summer. Only science understands the suffering we black addicts endure in the pursuit of the blackest of blacks.
Sometimes I wear stripes. Black and white stripes. On rare occasions I venture into chocolate brown. Eyebrows are often raised.
It came as absolutely zero surprise to anyone that I chose to marry in bright, uncompromising red, as the natural accompaniment to all things black, and my favourite lipstick shade of all time is the legendary Ruby Woo (or Rouge Coco in Gabrielle, depending on the colour of my hair).
But black is my first love. I currently sit in a grubby train station waiting room, cheerful in the knowledge that my black trousers are almost grime repellent and my leather jacket harbours so many germs in its folds that only the hardiest of muck would be brave enough to venture near.
It wasn’t always thus. There is (thankfully) limited documentary evidence of me wearing a yellow suit (ill advised) and a purple lace dress (over jeans. Veh early 2000s). Not on camera are the rocking paisley frock I wore to Love Parade and near-fluorescent pink, knee-length Indian cotton waistcoat that was perfect over hotpants in my raving days. On this limited basis alone, it is perhaps a Very Good Thing that I have stepped away from the colour wheel.
But I was always drawn to glamour of the woman in a perfect black dress and immaculately drawn-on red lip. To my young mind, it was elegance personified and has stayed with me all my life.
I’ve thought about this a lot lately. Too much. I’m incredibly busy and it really doesn’t do to spend my valuable time pondering trivial matters of fashion. Especially when the world is going to shit and we’re all going to find ourselves dying untreated on trolleys or vapourised as collateral damage in ludicrous wars. But there are few enough joys in life (especially if you listen to Radio 4 every morning, as I do. It’s no wonder I suffer from anxiety), so it’s nice to not think about the inevitable and noodle around the lighter things in life. Except, we’re in a time where daily glamour is the reserve of the super rich and untouchably famous and of these there are few real icons.
Everyone else wears trainers. With everything.
Don’t get me wrong, I bloody love a good sneak and am currently rocking my eternal favourite Nike Cortez Epics (From Net A Porter, black and white, natch and tragically impossible to get in my size, over which I am bereft) for a day at a tech conference in London. But it seems that it’s now perfectly acceptable to rock out a pair of kicks anywhere. Every other person on my train is wearing them, even with suits. I am hopeful that this is à la Melanie Griffiths in Working Girl, but suspect not.
However, this is where I draw the line.
Athleisure (as someone, somewhere, possibly a fellow copywriter, has coined. No one’s perfect), has become all-pervasive. You can’t walk from one end of a street to another without encountering someone who, despite looking like they’re heading to the nearest David Lloyd, is probably just going to the shops.
Practically every store I set foot in or browse has some measure of these heinous crimes against fashion in stock. It is entirely possible to spend several hundred pounds on a pair of sporty-looking leggings that will likely never even waft within a hundred metres of a gym.
When I see boys in sweat pants and girls in two-stripe leggings sat in McDonalds, I make no apology for the fact that it makes my skin crawl. It’s the antithesis of glamour and everything I have been hard-wired to believe is right.
As a child and young woman, I felt pressured to always be immaculately turned out. I suspect that this was a statement on the part of my mother. She was exceptionally fashion-conscious and as a single parent in a time and community that regarded lone mums as a disgrace, she felt the pressure of ensuring we were utterly immune to criticism. I was dressed in the best, most expensive clothes she could afford. My hair was long, usually braided, and kept in perfect condition from regular visits to a charming Italian hairdresser who, as cliched as it sounds, shrieked “BELLA! BELLA!” at me as I entered the salon.
My shoes were always polished.
I’ve taken this with me, particularly in my adulthood, where, on the solid advice of That Fashion, I’ve developed something of ‘wardrobe to face life’. And that wardrobe is blacker than my heart and accompanied by the reddest lipstick known to womankind. If it’s good enough for Paloma Picasso, then it’s good enough for me.
Yet, here I am on a train at 8am in trainers, culottes and a stripy t-shirt. One might be tempted to suggest that I am slowly being assimilated by the Athleisure Army and becoming part of the problem. Give me strength.