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Writings of Albert Morris
Article 58 - Best suited to blend tastefully into the broad cloth of civilisation


SOMETIMES, when I want to examine the fabric of my life, I inspect the sartorial content of my wardrobe where my suits and jackets hang like battle banners with which I have fought and run away and lived to run another day.

Here is a Clackmannanshire tweed suit, the tailoring equivalent of "Clyde built," which descended the cutters’ slipway in 1959, in a pattern favoured by old-time bookmakers and music hall comedians, constructed, in a cloth, reinforced, I believe, by steel wool and built to last, like the national flag, a thousand years, the battle and the breeze. With it, would go my Officers’ Mess dress tie of the Third Squadron, Albanian Bicycle Lancers.

Here, in what is termed, "cavalry swill", in Sudan sand brown, is a suit of dashing military cut, issued to me at an Army demob centre and in which I still could, if so commanded, form into column of threes and change step diagonally on the march. Topping that would be the walking-out neckwear of the Tsarina’s Own Rasputin Rifles or, more appropriately for me, the field-service grade tie of the Royal Army Mobile Stationery Corps with its motif of crossed pens on a background of paper-clips, two sergeant clerks rampant and its battle-advancing motto, Non Sequitur.

There, are two time-warped suits, formidably double-breasted, heroically buttoned and with trouser turn-ups that gathered more dust, fluff and matchsticks than a vacuum cleaner in which, tightly-wrapped as a rolled umbrella, I bore down on the flinching ranks of Scottish girlhood at Edinburgh dance halls and, trying them on, metaphorically, for size, asked them if they would care to slip with me into the next unseemly grapple.

Some, looking as if confronted by an erratically-moving, black worsted beetle, answered cuttingly that they had long-standing, pressing engagements with other partners while others, regarding me as an off-the-peg, run-of-the-mill shaky mover, resignedly went through the gyrations of the waltz’s double-spin scissors’ lock with shoulder-pad-clutching variations or the button-thread and bra-strap-straining sinuosities of the exhibition paso doble.

I regarded these suits, with their reinforced gussets, as in-valuable, not just for decoration-al but also for protective purposes as on occasions like rugby club dances that were not so much movements set to music but more like games of water polo played in spilled beer.

I have had other suits that formed my "Sunday best" en-sembles which made me and others similarly clad, look like stiffly-bound hymn books and some that seemed specially constructed for office executive boardroom battles, with heavy lining, probably stab-in-the-back resistant, and deep breast pockets, so useful for storing dining-out bills in expense claims.

I have holiday suits in travellers’ check and seersucker and, of course, several sports’ jackets - what sports wearers are supposed to engage in, has never been clear - that have all the allure of a peat bog but are probably resistant to any destructive element except a direct hit by shellfire. It is, however, my older suits that have pride of my tailoring place - garments that were not picked off mass-production hangers and nipped and tucked afterwards, but carefully-crafted by muttering tailors and cutters, in a flurry of pins and needles and chalk marks on cloth, to produce, after three fittings, almost a second skin to cover one’s peculiar contours.

Such bespoke suits, and even production-line ones, are, in my cut on the bias view, statements of authority, probity and social responsibility, designed to make the wearers blend tastefully into the broad cloth of civilisation.

They are, therefore, not to be scorned, as is reportedly happening in London and other British settlements where at clubs and bars, suit-wearing city gents, reputed to be loud, rude, often drunk and aggressive, are being buttonholed by bouncers and told to leave. De rigueur are expertly-torn jeans, professionally distressed T-shirts and factory-fragmented, limited edition trainers.

There’s a silver lining behind the dark serge shining. Many British and American companies are ending "dress down" Fridays for staff because they are said to be bad for morale and produce an adverse effect on customer relations. Casual garb will be replaced by formal wear.

I believe that anti-suit, fashion Fascists will swiftly become turncoats when the smart, and mostly well-behaved set take their custom elsewhere. Meanwhile, I will keep a single breast of the times and continue to suit myself.


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