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

Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
world cup 2014
Popes current and former won't be watching the football together
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

    £60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

    Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

    £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

    AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

    £600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

    E-Commerce Developer

    £45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial