AI? No thanks, I'll stick with actual intelligence
Winter at last is over, spring has sprung, the temperature is rising… but instead of obsessing about what I’m going to be wearing now that I can finally throw off the thick sweaters, I’ve been thinking about men. They, too, can put their weighty overcoats back in the wardrobe for another season. So, what should they be wearing?
No more ‘working from home’ jogging pants and sloppy sweatshirts, please. The pandemic is done. What needs to make a comeback is a suit. Take 2023 BAFTA and Oscar nominee Bill Nighy. My contemporary at the age of 73, he knows exactly what makes a man look marvellous.
His collection of blue suits is renowned. He apparently turned up at a recent magazine photoshoot with an impeccable set of Savile Row suits from tailors such as Anderson & Sheppard and John Pearse. And he has allegedly turned down film roles because they would have required that he doesn’t wear a suit.
Surprisingly, his obsession seems to have nothing to do with being grandiose. “They just give you some kind of oomph to get you through the door,” he says. “I think there’s a certain age after which you can’t look, however self-consciously, unmade. You have to look made. I tend to overdress because I can say to myself, “Well, at least I’ve got the suit. It may have me in it, but there we go.”
He is, of course, not the only shining example of how attractive an older man can look in a good suit. We’ll be seeing a great deal of King Charles as the date of his coronation looms. Also in his early seventies, a well-cut suit emphasises his broad shoulders and slender physique. It makes him look powerful.
No more ‘working from home’ jogging pants and sloppy sweatshirts. The pandemic is done.
But even a great suit can’t compare with a uniform. Not that I’m expecting the blokes with whom I’m familiar to go around in military dress, but there is something about a man who does. I have no doubt it was my husband’s look as a naval officer 40 years ago that bowled me over. These days, I have to make do with a suit and a slightly bigger tummy. But a well-tailored jacket hides a multitude of sins.
There is some evidence that young men are learning the power of a good suit. The actor Paul Mescal, another Oscar nominee, has sported one recently and looks kind of smart, but hasn’t quite got it right. A suit needs a good shirt and tie, and he tends to wear a white vest under his jacket. A bit too Stanley Kowalski, although Paul was brilliant in the part in the recent production of A Streetcar Named Desire.
I’ve no doubt my fondness for a man in a suit began with my grandfather, Walter Jones. Walter was a working-class Yorkshireman who was a winder in one of our local pits in Barnsley, winding men up and down the shaft and bringing up the coal they’d hewn from the seams underground.
Work meant overalls, but when he came home it was straight into the bath and dressing up to pop out for a pint.
Into one of his suits he would go, perfectly put together. His shoes glistened. He would stand in front of the mirror, ask me if his hair was sticking up at the back – it never was – pick up his silver-topped cane and off he would go, promising to be back in time for dinner. He generally was and was never drunk.
He never wanted to be seen in public after work without being immaculately dressed. Each year, my parents and my grandparents would take me for a week’s holiday to Blackpool. Grandma would wear a pretty dress and a cardigan. Mum wore a frock and sandals. Dad, who taught me to swim, wore trunks and I, of course, had a swimsuit. Grandpa? Shirt, tie, socks, shoes and a suit to sit in a deckchair on the beach. Bit much maybe, Grandpa, but you taught me dressing well would be good for me and was, in the end, good manners.