The benefits of dressing up

So they're still filthy scum but, just to make sure, City workers now should Dress Down
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
WHAT WERE you wearing to work last Friday? I know what I was wearing. Nice pair of brand-new Calvin Klein underpants, rather lovely butter-coloured suede moccasins and an elevating and seductive cloud of Anick Goutal's Sables, just the thing to raise the spirits before dealing with a crowd of absolute, intolerable schmucks in suits from yet another pig-ignorant publishing company which thinks it's a good idea not to pay its writers. And they wonder why we can't pay our debts? Feh. You bet your life that these snivelling little tight-arsed ratweasels get their salaries paid in, bang on the nail, and none of that despicable bollocks about Oh we never got the invoice or Oh we can't find the original commissioning form or Oh Debbie's out of the office at the moment or Oh come on, you don't think we give a damn, do you? We've got our money so what we suggest is, why don't you fuck off?

Well. So much for the lovely world of commerce: a few telephone calls, a threatening e-mail, make some low-grade snivelsby miserable and crank the bastard's blood pressure up a notch towards aneurysm pitch, and ... nothing changes. So then it's into the rather lovely butter-coloured glazed cotton trousers (to go with the moccasins) and the cornflower-blue linen shirt from Hayward of Mount Street, my Leica M6 with Summilux-Aspherical 35mm/f1.4 lens over my shoulder. Not mine for much longer, however, since we're off to sell it to pay the bills and it's important, under those circumstances, to look nice, to look as if you don't desperately need the money, to look as if you're just another rich guy in a cornflower- blue linen shirt who has just sort of tired of his camera and figures he might as well cash it in, you don't get to be a rich guy in a cornflower- blue linen shirt by not cashing things in - cars, houses, business, wives - when you get tired of them.

And what did you wear last Friday? If you worked in the City of London, if you were some git financier, some yellow-toothed merchant banker with tasselled loafers and sweaty yob genes; if you were a licensed thief, a basement lard-ass with a hypertrophied spread-sheet finger; if you were a Partner or a Fee Earner, a reception-desk morlock; if you were any of these things, last Friday would have been difficult. International Day of Action, you see, targeted to coincide with the G8 Summit, a day of protest against globalisation and the corporate hegemony of the known world.

First of all, City workers were told by the police that the protesters (scumbags, out-of-town nobodies with dreadlocks and cheap dogs and cider and body-piercings) would know their targets by their suits. Seemingly paradoxically, the City of London Plod said they should abandon the ancient and hallowed institution of "Dress-Down Friday" in which, having been told what to wear the other four days, grown men and women allow themselves to be told what to wear on the fifth day, too. Why? Because it would be "helpful" for the Plods "to be able to distinguish demonstrators wearing casual clothing from City workers wearing business clothing," ie, so that they would know whom to hit.

Then the Money Police changed its mind. "Demonstrators," they said, "have purchased suits from second-hand shops so that they blend in with City workers." Second-hand, do you see? So they're still filthy scum but, just to make sure, City workers now should Dress Down.

To recapitulate: Plan A - the Money Police hit anyone not in a suit - had been superseded by Plan B - the Money Police to hit anyone in a suit. OK? Any problems with that? Any, what's the word, ethical problems? Listen: one lot's got the money, the other lot haven't got the money. Hit the ones who haven't got the money. That's got to be right, right? I mean, that's what the Government does, and that's got to be right if Mr Blair says so. Right?

But isn't it a little unnecessary, this fiddling about with clothes? I was up in EC2 the other day and saw them, the City workers, the ones who won't get hit. They've worked out what counts. They're doing it for the money. And what a miserable lot they are. The men hunched, scowling, living for the weekend in their nasty suits, the women purse-lipped and cross and not one of them you'd want to tie across a bollard and do till she fainted. You could have put them all in rags and anoraks, handed out buckshee dogs on ropes, given them copies of Socialist Worker, and you'd still have known them for what they were. Why bother about their clothes? The money leaches into the soul, and marks the body from within. Its stigma is unmistakable. But I still want mine; and - to hell with Third World Debt - I want it now. After all, I've my cornflower-blue linen shirt to pay for, and my Leica to buy back.