backstory – jumper

Preston College Students Union office, before “the troubles”. A friend of mine has suggested I am in someway showing off by turning up, head to toe, in clothes bought that weekend with my wages from my first ever job. Maybe I was. No, scratch that: I was not. Assuming it was a joke, (it was a joke), showing off was the last thing on my mind, given I was wearing a fisherman’s hat, skin-tight army-print t-shirt and a corded jacket. Jeans, certainly, but they were old. Or so I assume.

But purchasing clothes, then and now, is not something I do with great haste or enjoyment. It is something of a chore, like buying shoe-polish or replacement lightbulbs. I remember the incident with a grey jumper really clearly, not least because my mindset (behaviour?) remains fairly similar now.

The store was Officer’s Club, which exists today but not where it once was. The original store was tucked away in another part of the Fishergate Centre, above what once was the cafe (what was this called? The Station? No…The Platform? No…It was called, WhistleStop, I remember now. There was a miniature train which ran along a track fixed to the ceiling. It did not whistle. Or stop.)

So, then, Officer’s Club. It was from there I bought a blue jumper, sky blue, with a design like a jagged rainbow on the front. “Oh Jesus,” said my dad. “Oh God,” said my sister. My dad was not one for bothering with the purchasing of clothes, with the kind of attitude suggesting that any bloke who spends more than a few minutes down the market buying a jumper is showing the kind of behaviour which would have him expelled from the army. At the back of my mind then and now such a forceful piece of Wiganer logic remains. Absent-mindedly checking out the fabrics and prices of every rack in the store is a worrying trait in anybody not a grandmother or teenage girl.

So, the jumper. I had walked in, spotted the familiar sense of feeling ‘watched’ and ‘scrutinised’, and how awkward I felt being in a clothes store, even if it was Officer’s Club with its constant discount offers and endless sales. I would have liked a grey jumper, found one, bought it, left. On discovering it was sleeveless, a kind of tank-top affair, my mother did not take “It’s fiiiiiine” for any kind of excuse, taking me back to the shop to exchange it for something more suitable. She actually said to the guy behind the counter, “He thought it was a jumper”. Maybe I looked away at this point, studied my shoes. Else I was already looking away.

Lessons have been learned, but not heeded or remembered all the time. Only two years ago I returned from a retro clothes store in Manchester with a yellow-and-blue Adidas top (and very nice it was too), in the size “oh eck this is a bit tight”. Refusal to try clothes on in store (for fear, and it is fear, of resembling someone who wants attention from staff) will forever be my downfall.

Dad was right, though.

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Because packing CDs away is too easy a discussion topic…

My wardrobe, somewhat paradoxically for someone far removed from the shallow world of fashion, bursts out at all possible directions and from all containers. There’s a look of the teenage “floordrobe”, the abandoned charity shop, the transit or movement of bodies. One washing pile waits to be stored, another to be washed.

Any fair or independent audit would conclude my dress-sense is the result of starting each year with the intention of choosing a new look to follow exclusively. Checked shirts seem quite safe a choice, although the faded blue-grey graph-paper style one only seems to suit the kind of look which goes with trousers pulled up to the bellybutton while sitting in a nursing home. Plentiful Primark hoodies, zips bust on all, clutter one side; a real but in-need-of-wash Adidas jacket is the current ‘old faithful’. Before this there was a plain red woollen type affair I once wore to college as part of an entirely red ensemble which made me look like the most self-conscious eccentric in history.

There are numerous t-shirts, some creased to such an extent they could be considered awfully chic. The “Jesus 13” longsleeve affair from the kind of ultra-swish store in Manchester, back when I could afford to buy such things, served by a swept-fringe doll with the expression of a bored porn star. Smart jeans seem to be in a perpetual state of argument with tatty, well-worn comfy choices. Like men of a certain age, I am no longer drawn to the conclusion that jeans can be a cover-up for all of the sins of gluttony and sloth; if I am indeed my father’s son, I will embrace the strained button and fading colour of the old favourites.

Packing everything away in boxes, as must be done at some point in the coming months, should see me deciding that I do not need corded flares, or a plain green polo-neck jumper which looks like a surgeon’s smock, or anything like that. But like most men of a certain age, I will promise myself the time to look at them at some point further in time. I don’t need over-sized skater pants, or grey hoodies with bust zips, or tight yellow t-shirts, or over-sized pink-striped shirts still looking for cuff-links, but why not take them to another house to decide then?

Exactly.