Category Archives: Fashion

Debits & Credits

The cost of relocating to London has caused me manys a sleepless night. Before I even set foot in the office of my new employer, I owe a couple of grand. This unnerves me. To ease the pain of cash flow issues, I decided to apply for a loan from Ulster Bank whom I’ve banked with – but never bank on – for the last six years. I made an early appointment in the Athlone branch one Monday morning.

Helen, the lovely customer advisor, and I sat in her cubby-hole office, equipped with printer and photocopier. I clutched a large coffee and marvelled at the blandness of her small space. Numerous sheets of paper churned through the spool of the printer. Helen highlighted and narrated the legal jargon on each form. I confirmed my personal details and she responded, clicking and tapping on her keyboard, throwing a cursory glance my way.

She paused. “Hmmm, that’s strange,” she said.

I sat up in my chair. “What is?” I asked. Paranoia was evident.

“The system has instantly declined your application”. Line by line, she scrutinised the information on screen. She clicked again. And again. “Have you any financial issues you’d like to tell me?”

Blood rushed up my neck. My cheeks glowed. “I may have missed the odd credit card payment here and there.”

Helen thought for a moment. “That’s not serious. It shouldn’t prompt an instant decline. There must be something wrong with the system.” She shrugged it off. She pulled a glossy blue and white application form from her drawer and reached for a biro. She completed the form on my behalf. “Have you any shares? Have you a car? Do you own any property?”

I answered each question negatively.

Completed form in hand, Helen turned to her computer. “Ah,” she said. “It is as I guessed. The reason you are getting an instant decline is because the system doesn’t like you.”

“What do you mean?”

“It doesn’t like your details. In the interest of being open and upfront, I will talk you through it. Stephen, you are twenty eight years old. You earn quite a good salary. You’ve exceeded your overdraft limit twice in the last six months. You have no savings! Where is your preparation for the long-term? Have you no interest in owning a property?”

I sighed. “Sorry if this offends you, but you now sound like my mother.”

“I often hear this. Your mother is right. What do you have to show for all this expenditure?”

“Helen, I live quite a good life.”

“I bet you do, Stephen.” She laughed. “It’s reflected in your bank balance. You could turn your position around in three months. Set some money aside each month and start saving!”

I endured the remainder of Helen’s lecture before leaving her cubby-hole disheartened. I have never been good with money. I have an amazing ability to rid myself of debt, but like the typical Irish person of the Good Times of Old, I fail to appreciate a bank account with a credit balance; why debit when you can credit? I need to redress my views on finances. Helen’s words echoed through my mind for days. It was, while sorting through clothes for the move, did I come face to face with my problem. Hanging in my wardrobe were jackets and coats, ranging in price from half to a full month’s rent. I felt anger.

Screw you coats and jackets. It’s your fault! Helen is right! I have nothing to show for all that money I spent. I have nothing, but a wardrobe of coats. Exactly how many coats do I need? Who am I, Johnny Fucking Forty Coats?

I left my bedroom sickened by the sight of those tributes to thoughtless frivolity. I visited the kitchen for a glass of water to quench the hot, fiery anger in my belly. Within seconds, I was back in my bedroom.

Sorry, coats and jackets. I caressed their sleeves fondly. I really didn’t mean it. Helen is wrong. She is very wrong. No matter what happens we will always have one another.

A Close Shave

The sudden realisation you are single is a severe blow to the psyche. Obviously, the worst part of any break up is the emotional stress. A break up roughly tosses you naked from the warm, insulate cocoon of a relationship onto the cold, concrete street of the Singleton. Casually dismissing the emotional turmoil of a break up, there are other superficial considerations that a Singleton is presented with; you have to give a shit about your appearance again.

Admittedly, it is grossly unfair to impute couples have given up on their appearance; there are many beautiful, well dressed couples, but I know that while in a relationship, I regularly opted to sit with a tube of Pringles in my pyjamas rather than join my friends for a night on the town. Perhaps, singledom encourages one to make more effort in their visual appeal for obvious reasons. Since my break-up, I’ve changed my hair, lost weight and had my teeth done. While I might have considered all this while in a relationship, I can’t say would have done anything about it.

When I turned single last year, the consensus of my friends was I should get back on the horse, firmly believing the best way to get over was by getting under. Well, in hindsight, they were all wrong. Wrong! The best way to get over a breakup is by locking yourself in a dark room, meditating for hours on end and unravelling each and every emotional issue on the list you spent weeks compiling. Only then, will you be exorcised of the demons from your previous relationship. However, back then I did not know this. I obsessed with finding a new horse.

“It has been a while since I was on the horse,” I told Brian one evening, walking through the after-work hubbub of O’Connell Street. “I misplaced my saddle.”

“Giddy up,” chortled Brian.

“I am a bit out of practice and there’s another matter I must address.”

“What is that?”

“Let’s just say, I am sporting a full bush.”

“Ah I see. Get yourself to Boots and buy a Philishave.”

A Philishave is a body grooming device found in the beauty-maintenance kits of most gay men and some straight men too, I presume. It is a shaver which grooms, trims, sculpts and tidies body hair. This process is referred to as “manscaping”. There are a number of advantages to manscaping. The main benefit of maintaining a tight shave in the pubic region is that it makes a penis appear larger. This factoid will encourage a flurry of men to visit Boots and purchase said body groomer. Another benefit to muscular men is that less hair causes muscles to seem larger and more defined. I’ve never had a discussion on manscaping with any of my gay, male friends, though I am interested in the frequency they do it and the areas of their body they attend to.

As necessary as it is, I hate manscaping. I have no patience for it. The stupid Philishave comes with a number of clip-on devices that allow you apply the blade to varying degrees of tightness. I guess one is meant to gradually apply the tighter blades until happy with the result. I never do this. I generally just go for it, regularly resulting in a sparse result. I often undertake a manscape at the most inopportune moments – an hour before I am due to meet friends or just before I embark on a date. My most comical incident was when the battery died about ten minutes before I was due to meet a guy. Let’s say, had the date gone well, there would have been an interesting topic of conversation later that night.

I went on a date last Thursday and in true form, decided to manscape before leaving the apartment. I took up the buzzing blade in my hand and without hesitation, ran it across my stomach. I examined my work. I had just left a clear hairless line across my stomach.

I screamed aloud. “Why do I always do this? Agggghhhhhhh”

From experience, the worst part of such a mistake is the follow through. You have to shave off all remaining hair or risk looking odd. I am now completely bare-chested. I stood in the bathroom, looking in the mirror, chewing my lip.

“Whoops. Fuck it anyway.”

The date went well and yes, he saw my bare chest. He laughed when I explained myself.

I dismiss the embarrassment of such a mistake, but what does fill me with horror is the likelihood of ingrown hairs, which I suffered from when I waxed my chest years ago. I am moisturising and exfoliating like a man possessed by chaetophobic demons.

You couples have it easy.

I Must Have #2

Another jacket!

I have spent the last year desperately searching for a ‘reasonably priced’ trench coat. The Burberry brand is synonymous with macs and trenches, but at a cost of €1,200, such a high-end purchase is sure to sting.  A compromise comes in the form of this jacket by London based brand, Jaeger.

I am justifying this purchase with the following –

  • It is my birthday this month; my gift to me
  • I have exams in May. I will save money by not socialising
  • This is an investment piece;  simply timeless!
  • I don’t have a trench. I’ve wanted one for the last year.

Do I need more reasons?

I Must Have #1

I aim to get clear the outstanding balance for my orthodontic treatment by March 2010. Bring it! This goal will have a catastrophic impact on my purchase of clothing for the next few months. Wardrobe budgets have been slashed.

I have not been for a casual mosey around the City Centre for months for fear of seeing something I must have. When money must be saved, I require blinkers.

If next month’s budget can take a hit, there is one item I really, really want. I want a second pair of Acne jeans.  My last pair, my grey slimmy jeans, are probably the best jeans I’ve ever owned.

I want them in blue.

De-Galvinising

Paul Galvin first came on my radar last year when there was speculation he would take Sean Munsanje’s position on Xposé. Until then, I had never heard of him. I ran his name through Google to see what I could find. Certain sites discussed the controversy of his behaviour on the GAA pitch; his unfavourable tendencies towards aggressive antics. I Google Imaged the Bejaysus out of him and learned he was not only handsome, but also a sharp dresser. This compounded his allure.

The rumour that Galvin would replace Munsanje on Xposé grew legs when the GAA star took a sabbatical from his teaching job. Media pundits reckoned Munsanje was dropped when TV3’s research revealed he held little appeal towards the show’s dominantly female audience. Xposé fans lustfully looked towards a tall, dark (and supposedly straight) fashionisto to replace him. Hardly surprising. Since Galvin’s step into the media limelight last year, he has featured on the Late Late Show and been the subject of a documentary on RTE, cleverly entitled “Galvinised”. His appearance on the Late Late can only to have been to promote himself and upcoming documentary. I unintentionally tuned into Galvin’s interview on the Late Late to witness his enigmatic façade slowly rinse away.

During the interview, Late Late host Ryan Tubridy went on the offensive, ticking off a list of items he wanted to address – Galvin’s personal mantras, bad boy image on the pitch and his interest/obsession with fashion. Galvin’s slouched manner irked me. His answers to questions initially rambled and were monotone. The Late Late aired VT of Galvin’s upcoming documentary, portraying him strutting around New York, his supposed bolt hold, in a pair of too tight skinny jeans and low-cut grey hoodie. The final blow to his attraction came when Galvin revealed he owned seventy pairs of shoes and had spent weeks planning his outfit for his television appearance.

Galvin’s interview on the Late Late completely eradicated any attraction I once had towards him. Needless to say, I didn’t bother watching his documentary for eye candy. For me the biggest turn off was the sheer effort he puts into his clothing. The snippet of “Galvinised” featured a man who clearly holds himself in high regard. I like a well-dressed man as much as the next lady or gay, but I would never for a moment want a potential suitor’s appreciation for clothing to outrank me. As a gay, I am qualified in saying this, but Galvin’s interview did nothing but make him look like a woofter. Any woman in his bed would hope he were thinking of her and not about his ensemble for the next day, as he admits he regularly does.

Perhaps, Galvin’s side step from relative nowhere into fashion has been successful insofar that he is now on my radar. It probably does not bode well that my focus is on whether he has gone beyond the clearly marked boundaries of Metrosexuality to Poncedom, as I very much think he has done. Admittedly, he is a good looking guy with decent taste in threads, but I take comfort in knowing he has a day job to return to.

Get the Boot In!

The recent bout of inclement weather encouraged me to purchase boots on Monday. With warm, cosy feet did I realise the ease boots allowed me to walk over snow and ice, indicating an all too rare marriage of fashion and function.

The fashion collections of Autumn-Winter this year featured countless men strutting the catwalk in boots. The only way to wear boots this winter is to tuck your jeans into them, enhancing the prevalent military look that remains since last year. This look has been termed “tuck ‘n’ roll”.

Lanvin for H&M

Emer reckons I shouldn’t buy any more jackets. “You could sell jackets at this stage,” she repeatedly says. So I shall heed her words and not buy a jacket. Instead, I shall buy a coat. Let it never be said I don’t take advice.

Last month, I was all set to splurge on my lovely All Saints coat until I missed my flight from London to Dublin. The cost of a replacement flight and booking a suitcase could have bought two thirds of my coat. As a punishment for my insane stupidity – at confusing departure time from London with arrival time in Dublin – I decided not to buy the lovely coat. You can wait for it you fool, I angrily told myself.

In the mean time, I learned Lanvin collaborated with H&M on a range of clothing, which is due to arrive in store 23rd November. I browsed the range and was rather smitten with a trench-coat (as modelled below). This style is very much all the rage at the moment, but it is certain the trench-coat will be in and out of fashion for coming decades. A good investment if you ask me.


Hey Mumble, Mumble Italiano

Two Fridays ago, I felt the need for a good night out; a few drinks, laughs and a dance. A few texts later, it transpired my friends, Shane and Brian, intended doing the same. I agreed to join them later that night. To offset the calorie value of a night on the beer, I decided to hit the gym before joining my friends. One must watch those sneaky beer-calories, y’know.

Following a brisk workout, I marched home to shower and change. Brian and Shane, already in town, instructed me to join them at my leisure. I showered, shaved and rifled through my wardrobe. I had few clean clothes. I threw on a shirt – too tight for my liking – that I had acquired in a sale for €7. I pulled on my jeans, tucking in the shirt, and fastened my ensemble with a brown studded belt. I ran for the door in untied brown shoes, intending to tie my laces in the lift.

Hogan’s was busy, filled with its usual mish mash of well dressed and funky characters. Shane and Brian were, as usual, in good form. We chatted, howling with laughter regularly. Two “swiftys” later, I crossed the road to the Dragon, to boogie until the wee hours.

Shane and I performed our usual ritual of flamboyant dance moves on a sparsely occupied dance floor. Brian watched and giggled. Now and again, I left the company of Shane and Brian to scope out the talent on offer. While standing on my own near the dance floor, a guy approached from my right and tapped my shoulder. He was average looking. His wrinkled shirt, which he had nicely paired with bad shoes, hung loose over his jeans.

“Hi,” I said in expectation.

“Hi,” he replied loudly, to compensate for the loud music. He moved in front of me, obviously determined to have a deep and meaningful. Despite his close proximity, he continued to shout. He bellowed “where are you from?”

“Ireland,” I replied shyly.

“Ireland?” he responded with obvious surprise. “You look Italian. Your clothes and dark hair make you look Italian.”

“Oh right.”

He attempted to quash my obvious confusion with a compliment. “It’s a good thing.”

I side stepped to the left. Fighting the urge to sprint, I maintained eye contact and smiled. “Grazie mille,” I called as I moved away from him.

I shared the details of this interaction with Shane and Brian. “Why would he think I’m Italian?” I asked.

“It’s the hair,” answered Shane.

Within an hour of my awkward deflection, another man approached me. This fellow was much younger than the last guy. He was tall and gangly, demonstrating a slight stoop as he leaned in to talk. He seemed inebriated. He blasted words into my ear as we made tedious conversation.

“Your English is really good.” He leaned back, smiling, in expectation of some appreciation for his kind words.

“I told you I’m Irish,” I said in an unfriendly tone. “I’m from Dublin.”

“I know, but I don’t believe you.”

We continued to talk for a minute more, before I used a well-practised dismissal. I touched his forearm and smiled warmly. “It was nice talking to you. Have a good evening.”

“Same to you.” He turned and rejoined his friends in the corner.

I remained near the dance floor. What the fuck? I asked myself. Am I giving off some Italiano vibe or wha? I ventured to the bathroom to make sure I hadn’t subconsciously painted the Italian flag to my face. I checked myself in the mirror. My hair, which I had earlier spent seconds spiking, sagged and appeared slicked back. This particular hair product has a habit of making my hair look darker. The ill-fitting, tight shirt, tucked into my jeans compounded my Italian appearance. I shrugged. Meh, what of it? I thought. I returned to my standing place near the dance floor.

Within minutes, another potential suitor, a man in his early thirties, greeted me. I checked him out. His cheeks were flushed and rosy. His hair had no particular style. I knew he was in the club alone. He resembled someone separated from his friends, during a night out in the “Big Shhmoke”, who happened to stumble upon a gay bar. I looked down at his feet, expecting to find wellies.

“Hello,” I said in return of  his greeting.

He leaned in. He shaped his mouth into an “O”, as he over-pronounced his words, loudly, and slowly, in that unmistakeable manner only used by English speakers when addressing foreigners. “Where are you from?” I sighed and thought for a second.

“I am-a frrrrom Rrrroma” I cried enthusiastically in my best Italian accent, ensuring I used stereotyped hand gestures.

“Really?” he asked with raised eye brows.

I rounded my answer with a higher pitch. “Yesss-a.”

“Why are you in Dublin?”

“I am-a ‘ere for learrrrning my English-a.”

“Your English is very good.”

If I genuinely were foreign, I would definitely be insulted by this condescending fucker. I smiled proudly. “Grazie,” I said. “I learn-a my English-a in schooool-a forrrr five-a yearrrs-a”. I held five fingers in front of his face.

“It’s really very good. How long have you been in Dublin for? Are you in college?”

“I ‘ave-a been in Dublino forrrr two months-a. I am-a working ‘ere.”

“Do you work in a restaurant?”

“Yesss-a!” I exclaimed loudly, to stifle a laugh. “I work-a in-a restaurrrrant-a.”

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

I nodded. “Yesss-a, I ‘ave-a an Boyfrrrriend at home-a in Rrrroma.”

“Do you? And do you like Irish men?”

I held myself for a moment to give the impression of a pensive stance. I flicked my hand in front of me with an extended finger. “I like-a Irish men not-a-so-much-a.”

My new friend looked curious. He came closer. “Why is that?”

With my arms stretched both sides of me, as if delivering an operatic finalé,  I proclaimed “they drrrink-a toooo-much-a”.

My companion, with no good bye or parting words, turned and left my side.

Winter Warmer

Year after year, when Winter sets in, I fail in tracking down a good, stylish coat. It seems style is compromised for warmth. The trend for layering still lives on among high street fashion, making it difficult to buy a warm coat that won’t make you look as if you’ve just returned from a Himalayan expedition.

My little fashionista friend, Eimear, told me to take a look at All Saints when I described the “warm, but funky Winter coat” I so badly want. I took a look and found the below.  If it fits, it’s mine.

Nip, Tuck, Straighten and Pluck

I hate my thighs and ass. When I put on weight I develop an ass that would give Beyoncé a run for her money. In my teens, I was tall and slender. Into my twenties, my subconscious prepared for a nuclear Winter by stockpiling lard in my thighs, hips and ass. I would kill for the silhouette of a male model as opposed to my shape, which resembles two or three models huddled together. Three or four years ago, I achieved a body I should have been proud of. I was lean – I had a flat stomach with good definition. My arms, shoulders and pecs filled a T-shirt nicely. My legs and thighs were solid. I obtained this physique by spending roughly ten hours a week in the gym, doing cardio, weight lifting and spinning. I calorie counted on a daily basis. My obsession reached its peak when I used an excel chart to graph my fat, protein and carbohydrate intake. I allowed myself treats now and again, compensating with an extra push during a workout. In my head it was all worthwhile; in my opinion I looked great. My friends disregarded my broad shoulders and bulging biceps, paying attention to my sunken eyes and ashen palor. Only when I regained weight did honest opinions emerge.

“I am putting on weight again,” I moaned to Joanne one day.

“You look great Stephen,” she comforted. “You were too thin!”

“Too thin? I looked great!”

“No, Stephen, you looked sick. You looked ill.” There was an unexpected firmness in her voice.

I was taken aback by Joanne’s comment. I was obsessive with weight loss yet I don’t feel I had an eating disorder. I question the reason for this distorted self-image. Advertising and media are often criticised for bombarding women with unrealistic portrayals of beauty, encouraging eating disorders. The same accusations can be made at male orientated media, perhaps to a lesser extent, since it traditionally did not focus so much on the male physique. Historically, actors such as Marlon Brando and Rock Hudson carried significant influence on the interpretation of male image in the 50s and 60s. Both actors – albeit through their portrayal in movies – appealed equally to men and women alike. Today’s portrayal of male and female beauty has more in common than ever. The portrayal of male beauty centres more on physical body – muscles and weight – than actual “manliness”. This is illustrated in men’s magazines that contain information on achieving the despairingly elusive washboard stomach. Countless men’s magazines boast secrets for the “killer abs”. In reality, a six-pack is achievable only by maintaining a relatively unhealthy body fat, rigorous approach to healthy eating and good genealogy. The facts are ignored by thousands of men who purchase these magazines on a regular basis.

I know many vain men. Gay men after all are perhaps the most narcissistic sub-category on Earth. However, increasing numbers of straight men are following suit in the amount of care paid towards their appearance. The modern portrayal of male beauty can be blamed for the advent of the metrosexual. David Beckham, undoubtedly the most famous metrosexual, was iconic for both his athletic ability and high ranking in the style stakes, during his hay day. His prowess on the football field reinforced his ability to be daring in his choice of attire. He popularised countless hair styles among teenagers around the world. Roll forward ten years and Beckham – and his modern equivalents – are role models for working-class teenagers. Cue the creation of the chav. The male chav, associated dress code and hairstyles, is a massive reinforcement to metrosexuality and an attack on the manly man of old.

As comfortable as I am discussing my own body-issues, I was surprised when one day Best-Friend and I openly discussed our personal hang ups with our appearance. Men – gay or straight – rarely do this. I recall mentioning how happy I am to have pursued orthodontic treatment. The conversation eventually turned to what we would change about our bodies, if we could.

“Once my braces come off, I’m getting laser whitening. Think Donny Osmond!”

Best-Friend admitted an insecurity, again prompting my turn.

“I am going to look into laser hair removal for my monobrow. I pluck so much I’m afraid a chunk of my face will one day come off.”

Following a discussion of cosmetic surgeries, it was revealed neither of us would consider anything more drastic than Botox. Walking through Stephen’s Green, I pointed to my crow’s feet and prominent frown lines on my forehead. I have no issue with age. I can’t wait to go grey. It just seems that for a certain amount of money I can pay to treat an insecurity. My once crooked teeth will be Hollywoodesque within two years. I can rid myself of a monobrow for €130. Should I develop a deep furrow, I can “fill” it, costing €300. For the first time in history cosmetic alteration is available to the public at large. Instead of dealing with insecurity we can simply spend to dispose of it. We do so because we can. Considering the proliferation of cosmetic treatments among the wider public, it’s no surprise increasing numbers of men invest in their appearance. At the height of the recession, Debenhams, London recently reported a doubling in the number of men availing of eyebrow – or “guybrow” – shaping. The Celtic Tiger was partly responsible for the expansion of the Grafton Barber franchise, a styling and grooming service offered in the guise of a traditional barber’s. Despite increasing sales of men’s hair straighteners in Europe, few men openly admit to owning one.  Society has progressed to allow man take pride in his appearance, only if he does so in a “manly” way. If he does it in a “pansy” way, he should keep it to himself.