Man of substance: Matthew Paris

For writer, broadcaster and wit-about-town Matthew Parris, absence of style is a positive virtue. He has no time for his appearance - aside, perhaps, from a sneaking concern that he may end up one day looking like an old tortoise

I don't actually set out to be without style, I just never think about appearance. I have no style, but no style is quite different from bad style. It's very important not to make a point of being scruffy, or that then becomes a style in itself, but instead to demonstrate complete carelessness as to style - which means sometimes being smartly dressed, and sometimes wearing the wrong trousers with the wrong jacket, and giving a general impression of carelessness and confusion. I do this because I just can't be bothered with clothes.

If people are very smart I suspect they might be hollow. It's only a presumption and it can be rebutted - I do know some people who dress well who are also worthwhile, but on the whole I assume that a great deal of attention to appearance in a man indicates a lack of substance. For instance, if men have shiny shoes I think, "Do you really have nothing better to do than get your shoes shiny?"

Similarly with men who have complicated topiary on their faces. The two acceptable treatments for facial hair are either to be clean shaven or not to bother, and have a huge John-the-Baptist-like beard. Both to me indicate a desire to spend the minimum amount of time with the razor, it's those people who clip and trim little moustaches and beards who strike me as weird.

A key to all this is time. If there aren't enough hours in the day - as there oughtn't to be for someone who's engaged with the world around them - it must be a strange set of priorities that cause you to spend more than the minimum time on the shape of a moustache or the cut of a jacket.

I sometimes feel like disowning the gay community for its obsession with looks and bodybuilding and gyms. But it seems straight men are becoming such poofs now as well. They are all into styles and clothes and scents. I may have to become a lesbian. I'm probably a lesbian trapped in the body of a gay man, as far as style is concerned.

I don't like ageing, but that's not to do with appearance. It's a sign of the approach of death and, like the summer holidays, I don't wish life to end; when I see wrinkles it's an intimation of mortality, and mortality vexes me very much.

Rather like Bertrand Russell, I'm going to pass straight from looking like a boy scout to looking like an old tortoise, without passing through the central stages of comfortable middle age, and I'm just on the cusp now between boy scout and tortoise.

When I was an MP my constituents rather despaired of my dress sense. I had a nice grey suit that I liked very much, so when it got a bit worn I took it to a tailor in Clapham Junction and asked him if he could make another one just like it. And he did. My friends called it my postman's suit - it was a rather heavy flannel.

I never like to have more than three suits on the go at the same time. At the moment I have two and a half, although, admittedly, the half is a bit of a mess. I've got a horrible pinstripe suit that [current affairs programme] Weekend World bought me from Gieves & Hawkes. It's my best suit, although it's now about 11 years old.

I have a problem with white shirts. Shirts should cost no more than pounds 20, but they all seem to cost pounds 30 or pounds 40, which I won't pay, so I've got hundreds of very old white shirts with frayed collars or cuffs, and some have huge collars from the Sixties. I only buy new ones if I see them in a sale. I'm not, I hope, an ungenerous person, but I really resent spending money on things that don't give me any pleasure - and clothes don't.

I really like to wear jeans or shabby old trousers. I still have a jacket that I bought in 1970. Even though the lining's in tatters, I still wear it and I'm very fond of it. I do get fond of very old clothes.

I don't want to give the impression that the visual world means nothing to me. The visual world is a complete marvel, it's just the part that my face and body play in it that I regard as rather subsidiary.

The paperback of `The Great Unfrocked' by Matthew Parris is published by Robson Books in September, at pounds 8.99

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Facilities Manager

    £21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of educat...

    Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

    £18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Tradewind Recruitment: Year 1 Teacher

    Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is a small friendly village prim...

    Ashdown Group: Development Manager - Hertfordshire - up to £55,000

    £50000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Development Manager - Wel...

    Day In a Page

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

    Pot of gold

    Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
    10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

    From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

    While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
    Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore