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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
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

    Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

    £45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

    Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

    £60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

    Ashdown Group: Accountant - London - £48,000 - 12 month FTC

    £40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: International Acc...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power