Laughing at thoughts of how we dressed in 1975, I caught sight of my jacket on the back of the chair. It is Donegal tweed and is warm and comfortable, but is past its best. It cost €5 in the parish fete in 2003; one of the best buys ever. The lining is now so worn that there are holes in places and it is frayed along the bottom edge, but no-one sees the lining.
There are regular complaints about the jacket, ‘You’re not going out in that are you?’ and I wouldn’t wear it on Sundays, for which there are two sober black pin stripe suits, but it is adequate for the rest of the week. Anyway, does anyone really notice?
Working in a community where workday dress is about warmth and protection, style and elegance are not often considerations. Maybe there comes a point in life when no matter on which community you live, you don’t worry too much about the externals. Cleanliness? Yes. Tidiness? Yes. Style? Why?
The stereotypical image of the old country rector is someone in a baggy old cardigan and grey flannels, sitting at the fireside in his study smoking a pipe. It’s the sort of image people find reassuring; clergy are not meant to be sharp-suited threatening characters. You cannot be avuncular while dressed in designer labels.
Maybe I should do something about the lining of the jacket; can you get a jacket relined? But maybe there is something reassuring in the slightly down at heel look; it conveys a sense of security, a sense of being at ease with oneself.
I once knew a solicitor, a partner in a major firm, a man whose house could have provided items for an entire series of the Antiques Roadshow, a man whose land would have been worth the price of a small town (not that he would ever have considered selling his family’s home). Professionally, he wore tweed; at home, it looked more like stuff from a jumble sale. Calling one day, he was feeding horses in an old anorak that was torn to the point where a big patch of the white lining was revealed at the back. His expenditure on clothes was hardly exceeded by his expenditure on cars, he went around in a twenty year old Citroen that was definitely not a collectors’ piece.
Why are we so subject to the tyranny of petty opinion that tries to dictate how we should look? It’s a tyranny that is predominantly female; look at the fashion magazines, not too many men queueing up to buy them.
Aren’t there a hundred more important things than how I dress? If someone judges me on my jacket being old, then do I really want to know them, anyway?