I know it’s a bit old fashioned but, once spring makes its appearance, I generally adjust my wardrobe to suit the season. That is to say - I put away the woollen things and bring out the cotton. This process usually involves some fresh evaluation; for example when I can no longer convince myself that a particular item fits me, or even looks as if it belongs to the right fashion era, then I purpose to seek a replacement. I was engaged in this task recently, when a necktie snaked its way off a hanger and slid onto the floor. It’s one I am very fond of: the floral pattern is subtle and I rather imagine, had I the services of a personal colour-consultant, I would be advised that it tones in wonderfully well with my complexion. This necktie, however, is lonely. It has no shirt with which it can comfortably pair. It fights with stripes and checks, loses its lustre against competing colours and looks positively morose against grey, so it never gets an outing.
Later that morning there was a conversation, between sessions, down at the gym. Teacher, who was wearing white jogging pants seamed with thick vertical stripes representing the national colours of Brazil, was describing her fashion preferences to the ladies. I was reminded of my lonely tie and decided I would find it a partner that very afternoon. It was an unremarkable Tuesday, so I guessed that the shopkeepers would be pleased to see me; and so they were - up to a point.
In empty shop after empty shop, I explained my dilemma to assistants whose desperate mission was to shift their mountains of recession-bound stock. One of them feigned a real interest by suggesting that it would have been a good idea to bring the tie with me. He had a point. Another tempted me with a massively discounted shirt which almost passed muster, yet didn’t quite convince. A third insisted that a white shirt would do the job perfectly. “White” I said, “is just too formal for the tie. It’s looking for a more bohemian partner”. I judged, from his expression, that I had tested the limits of his empathy, thanked him for his interest and steered myself elsewhere in search of inspiration.
In Marks and Spencer’s, the shiny cellophane packaging of the neatly displayed rows of product did not give the laid-back, relaxed impression I had fixed upon and I realised I had reached a low point in my quest. The urgent priority I had allocated to my mission began to seem absurd and my resolve started to weaken. I reviewed my options and decided to return for a second viewing of the bargain shirt. This time round I was more easily persuaded and I left the salesman relieved, if not exactly happy, to have made a sale.
Mission accomplished, I sat at the window seat of a bar I had often walked past. The Chablis, like the shirt, was not quite convincing though I supposed it was all I deserved since I had allowed mediocrity to have its way so far that day. I tried, as I sipped, to convince myself that the shirt would be a useful addition to my collection, even if the tie rejected it utterly. I briefly considered taking it back for a refund, but I didn’t really want to put the assistant to any more inconvenience, or myself through further humiliation.
I observed the passers-by and tried to console myself with the theory that their shopping experience would be just as unsatisfactory as mine. One of them, wearing a hoodie and very distinctive jogging pants, paused to look into the window of a clothes shop. There was something familiar about her figure so I watched and, as she turned and took the cigarette from her lips, I recognised Teacher.