Fashion by Numbers


Fashion is no place for zombies and conscientious objectors…


You all have hazy memories of being a young child. It was, broadly speaking, a simpler time in your life. When your pride and joy was your colouring book and nothing could distract or part you from it. You sat there, probably on the floor, tongue poking out, putting 110% into staying within the lines.


It bears stark contrast to life in the adult world. At the moment, your time is mostly spent scouring Excel spreadsheets for the bastard formula that is screwing everything up. The only thing that comes close to provoking the tongue-poking-out consternation of yesteryear is the endless, and frankly fruitless quest for the female G-Spot.


Choosing the perfect shades, staying inside the lines, not spilling your Um Bongo juice (The drink of champions) on it – it was all so important. That magic moment when you finished was as depressing a day as it was glorious. The completion of this herculean task, met with the thought of “what next?”


As everyone knows, The Colourists were split into two distinct schools of thought. There were the Freeform Artists – able to roam the page without rules – and then there were the Colour By Number kids, whose duty it was to create what the Colouring Book dictators had decreed was appropriate.

Here is how I like to see the kids who were fortunate enough not to have the numbers:

1. They were free spirits, allowed boundless freedom to express themselves in whatever way they felt. No boundaries, no expectation, no pressure! If they wanted orange grass, why the heck not? Maybe God missed a trick when he made grass green!


2. They were trusted to be smart enough to forge their own colouring book destiny. Finished pieces might not be to the taste of every trained eye, but they were masterpieces in a world of subjectivity.


Now, lets look at the kids with the numbers…

These were not individuals. Thought by their parents, teachers, society-at-large and a cross-section of disinterested au pairs, to be so lazy or stupid as to need a step-by-step guide explaining how to make a picture look half decent, these poor children fell subject to the rules and prescriptions of people who thought they knew better. Now I am no sensationalist, but in some quarters this flagrant disregard for individuality would be considered child abuse.


Skip forward to today and this is where the fashion part comes in. Increasingly, I have noticed the Colouring by Numbers attitude creeping into the nation’s fashion conscious (or unconscious as the case may be). Only, instead of picking the red pen for number 8, they’re picking up the burgundy chinos as seen in the shop window.


As a Londoner, I am proud to belong to a place that prides itself on being a hub of creativity and style and the birthplace of such fashion dignitaries as Westwood, Moss, and McQueen. Correct me if I’m wrong, but has the world not come to expect a certain level of panache from the British gent? Are we not called upon to write the rules of the Sartorial Handbook, rather than mindlessly following them? The Scots invented the brogue, for goodness sake – if that doesn’t place them in the canon of greats, I’m not sure what does.


Currently, we seem to be slipping off our fashionable perch, whether it be in the suited-and-booted or in the casual-wear department. Taking a stroll through town, one ends up in a sea of checked-shirted, oversized beanie sporting, skinny jeans wearing zombies, hell bent on eating away every last vestige of dressing prowess that the Brits might have been clinging on to.


Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any moral objection to the checked shirt (though oversized beanies should be burned in their thousands). It is the complete lack of resistance to conformity that offends me.


Your average Joe walks into Topshop, sweaty palm clutching two hundred quid, and walks out with exactly the same outfit as the man before him in the queue, just in a different size. And there you have it, The Colouring Book Dictators have won again.


I am not saying I expect everyone to search for their inner Elton or Gaga before they leave the house – there are probably more pressing matters to attend to, such as figuring out just how you are going to survive another brain-searingly bad hangover at work or discovering your first grey pubic hair. However, is it too much to ask that people attempt to be, at the very least, “same, same but different”, as opposed to bowing to the subliminal messaging and becoming a carbon copy of the mannequin in the shop front?


Pondering who to blame for this clone-isation of the Brits at large, I’m tempted to blame everyone from the high street brands and celebrity “role models”, to the government for letting us all fall into some sort of social parasomnia. On the other hand, can you really blame the brands for jumping on a lucrative trend among their customers to want every cheap copy available? And none of us were ever crediting the celebs or government with much wherewithal.


So, it must be us then. Lazy, uninventive and too easily seduced by convenience and instant gratification.


Fashion might not be about to solve world peace in the space of an afternoon, but that doesn’t make it unimportant. It isn’t just an expression of ourselves, but, in a democratic country, it’s a sign that we are at liberty to buck the trend, make our own choices, be creative and different. When we step into the voting booth we have the options of Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, Green, UKIP even The Monster Raving Loony Party, and so in fashion we have Turn ups or boot cuts, Vans or Blazers, top button done up or a slit to the navel, cravat or Windsor knot. Choices great and small are still choices.


So, tell those Colouring Book Dictators to shove off and say no to Fashion by Numbers. There is more to life than fitting in. The high street may not thank you for it, but the sartorial Gods will rejoice in the house of Tom Ford with powdered noses and champagne.

Nivaldo Arruda (Flickr)

Nivaldo Arruda (Flickr)

Words: Michael Thomas

Featured Image: david.nikonvscanon


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