Summer – at last! But is there any way to look stylish in the summer?
Sadie, north London
I'll tell you one way not to look stylish, Sadie: by taking your clothes off. What is it with the British? Allegedly such a buttoned up, prim and proper people, crippled with self-consciousness – but as soon as the temperature tips over 20C, the men whip off their shirts with the enthusiasm of stars in a regional production of The Full Monty. Have some decency, for heaven's sake! Just because you want to walk around half-naked does not mean you should.
Look, I'm a fast talkin', fast livin' New York chick. Well, I live and I talk anyway. So I ain't no prude and I don't insist on covering up piano legs out of modesty. But it is just extraordinary how British men love nothing more than taking off their shirts. The majority of the public have no wish to see a strange man's bare chest, and it is simply rude to thrust it so wantonly in their faces. It is like people who eat smelly food on public transport, or listen to their personal stereos so loudly that anyone within a 50m radius can not only tell that they're listening to Roxette but which Roxette song (ideally, The Look or, of course, It Must Have Been Love. I have very strong feelings about the oeuvre of Roxette).
We all share our personal space, people, so, just out of courtesy, wait until you get home to eat that Big Mac and do not stride down the high street showing all and sundry your sweaty chest. The human body is a beautiful thing but, you know what? Unless someone expressly asks you to disrobe – in a life drawing class, say – then keep it covered. It doesn't matter how much time you spent in the gym obsessively working on your stomach muscles – nobody cares. Save it for the one you love. No wonder the British summer seems increasingly fleeting, scared away by all those smelly chests.
Not that women are immune to this sudden abandonment of any sense of modesty. Did women always wear bathing suits while lying about in the park or is this a new thing? Because in my local park this appears to be suddenly de rigueur this summer, and I cannot approve. The only time it is acceptable to wear a bathing suit is when you are actually bathing. Unless you are one of those impressively hardy British ladies who goes swimming in urban ponds and rivers, dodging the discarded shopping trolleys and Red Bull cans, then it is unlikely you will do any swimming in the park, hence there is no need to wear a swimming costume. I saw two women in the park the other day cycling on Barclays bikes while wearing g-string bikinis. This is not even hygienic and if it is legal, it shouldn't be. Though obviously Boris Johnson won't legislate against it. Obviously.
Ladies, consider: a park is not a beach. A park is one giant dog toilet. I've seen mothers changing their baby's nappy on the grass in parks, and fair play to them. But do you really want to be lolling about with so little material between your person and such matter? Have you not considered the possible infections and bouts of Victorian-style illnesses? I have spent many an hour lying about in parks, but always fully clothed and that is why I have lived to a grand old age in my fourth decade without a single case of park-induced skin ailments or urinary tract infections. Clothes, ladies, clothes! Make friends with them!
I appreciate that the "season" of summer lasts about two weeks in this strange Nordic country, but that does not mean that for those two weeks we should all walk around as though we lived on a semi-nudist beach in Cannes. Summer clothes are wonderful, wonderful things and it is just absurd to pass up the chance of wearing them in order to loll about semi-naked in puddles of dog wee. For the ladies, I have recently fallen in love with Kate Spade's summery clothes, which aren't cheap but are gorgeous, beautifully made and will make you feel like Joan from Mad Men on one of her good days. Denim shorts with a pretty top are just brilliant – revel in the opportunity to wear them.
As for men, I have spoken before about my fondness for knee-length tailored shorts and summery trousers paired with deck shoes, a combination that makes any man look like a modern day Jay Gatsby. Light summery trousers are always good, too. This is the look a chap should aim for in the summer as opposed to the usual British male summer look which is either to pretend summer isn't happening or to dress like Ray Winstone in Sexy Beast.
Fellow Britons, the British summer is like a rare and beautiful flower: a vision of rarely seen perfection, one that makes this country seem like the best place in the world, but it is one that is sadly short-lived. Treasure it. Enjoy it. And, most of all, respect it. Put your clothes on, people.
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