"A couple of months ago, a contributor to Mumsnet posted an innocent query. “Why do older ‘posh’ gentlemen always seem to wear red trousers? Is it some secret rule?” she wrote, adding – with the irrepressible sense of humour for which the parenting forum is known – “tongue in cheek thought”.
She was instantly set right by a horde of savvier mums, directing her towards the website “Look at my f——— red trousers” (LAMFRT), which has made an intensive study of the red trouser phenomenon. It might once have been confined to the posh elderly and their haunts – regattas, point-to-points, county shows and the like – but it has recently made an unexpected bolt into street fashion. Or at least, a detour into celebrity notions of street style, as modelled by the Manchester United footballer Rio Ferdinand, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Justin Bieber, to whose innovative droopycrotch peony-coloured kecks we will inevitably return.
Everyone knows that whatever concerns the power-matriarchs of Mumsnet will soon preoccupy the nation; and YouGov recently embarked on some timely market research, asking 2,000 people what was the first word that came to mind when they saw a chap in red trousers.
The results were discouraging for fanciers of grenadine strides in general, and for the 11th Hussars (resplendent since 1840 in scarlet uniform trousers) in particular. Half of those polled said that on sighting a fellow with crimson breeches, their first thought was “idiot”, closely followed by “prat”.
This censorious reaction strikes me as harsh. After all, what’s a chap to do when the British summer comes along (as it does every decade or so) and wrongfoots him in his sober daywear? Everywhere you go at the moment, there are women of all shapes and ages flitting about, swathed in diaphanous draperies like so many more-or-less graceful hummingbirds.
And then there are the men. When Thomas Hardy wrote that spring was the time when “maids come forth sprig-muslin drest”, he failed to mention chaps coming forth red-trouser drest. And not just because it doesn’t scan. With certain exceptions – small children, rock stars, dignitaries of the church – men’s clothes are, frankly, more boring than girls’.
A lawyer I know used to subvert the grim grey garb of his profession with daring jolts of colour – a vivid flash of purple silk lining to a sober broadcloth suit; an orange or scarlet pocket square artfully chosen to echo (but not match) the fancy tie that is the office-bound male’s only means of sartorial self-expression. (Some try to communicate personality via socks – invariably a grievous error.)
There is another set of men – often, as the astute Mumsnetter observed, on the posh side – whose experience of racing silks, the lurid waistcoats of the Eton Society and the Gilbert and Sullivan allure of Army mess kit has left them fearless of the hotter end of the spectrum.
The LAMFRT website contains a vibrant selection of pictures of these types, including an arresting image of the Chief Whip, Sir George Young, whose rubicund behind, lightly resting on the bonnet of a tomato-red sports car, tends to support the notion that men who wear red trousers do so for the same reason that mandrills display their cheerfully coloured bottoms – to indicate that they are creatures of substance, especially about the nethers.
Still, I’m not convinced that the phenomenon is as bad as all that. Justin Bieber may look as though he is wearing a ruby-coloured nappy with his zippy crimson gilet, but dear old Blowers from Test Match Special rocks the look (plus matching hatband and bow tie) with enviable equanimity, and Rio Ferdinand looks sweet in his natty strawberry skinnies ’n’ blazer combo.
Let them have their moment of vermilion glory, I say. The long, chill winter of sober suitings will be upon us soon enough.”x
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- briannalafayeshhwanson said: I saw the words THOM and RADIOHEAD and thought to read the whole thing. But what the fuck is this?
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