Portrait: His harshest critic
As a food writer, AA Gill is renowned for his withering turn of phrase, but, it seems, he reserves his most merciless judgements for himself
Saturday 24 July 1999
Men either don't care about clothes at all - they'll wear their shirts inside out and trainers until the environmental health officer comes and says, "You wear those again and we're locking you up" - or they're quite fussy about clothes. I'm one of the fussy ones.
One of the worst things about being a man in Britain is that the summertime is a real bugger to get dressed in. Men's clothes in summer are ghastly. I pray for wet weather, when I can actually dress like a man again, so I spend a lot of time looking for very lightweight suits or material to have suits made up.
I have two tailors. You should always have two tailors because it keeps them on their toes. I go to Doug Hayward and Ozwald Boateng. They're both incredibly nice blokes, and Ozwald's so funny, and I'm absolutely one of his stock sizes - a perfect 38. I buy Oswald's suits off the peg and Dougie makes them for me. I choose women's headscarves for the linings and they're always very colourful. Dougie's one of the best cutters and suit-makers in this country. Going to the tailors is one of the great pleasures. If I didn't go I'd have to have counselling. It's my own personal form of retail therapy.
I have a kilt fetish, but I look like every shortbread tin you can imagine, squared. At the moment Kinlock Anderson have a kilt whimpering for me in their kennels. It's in the Gill tartan, really bright. I wear nothing underneath them, and it's so much nicer.
I used to wear a monocle, which I loved. It hung round my neck so I never lost it. Then my other eye went and a man with two monocles looks even more stupid than a man with one, so I got rid of it. But I'm very bad with spectacles because I have such a pathetically small nose, and they always fall off.
You probably get the face you deserve. You grow into it. Your face must be formed by your experiences. We look at people's faces and we make strings of assumptions about them, the most important of which is, `Do I want to fuck this person?'. So you look for all the things you associate with being attractive and then you look again, and you go, `That's a really nice old face, it looks like that person's had an interesting life.' So age can be fantastically attractive. Youth can be extremely beautiful, but it's often supremely bland.
The great thing about British looks is that they come accompanied by a voice, and that voice, that soundtrack, changes everything. I have this particular voice - and God knows where I got it from - that immediately makes people go, `Ugh, something vile out of Wodehouse.' But I've had a much more eclectic life than people imagine.
I've always felt quite differently inside from the way I actually look. I often wonder what I would think if I met a man who looked like me. I think my style says about me: fussy closet gay, middle-aged man having a crisis. Sometimes I catch sight of this person in shop windows and I go, `Aagghh, who's that?' And it's me.
I've got lousy teeth and I hate my smile. I went to the school dentist, who trained under Laurence Olivier and fucked up my teeth. So when I go to parties with Nicola [Formby], there are always photographs of her looking absolutely stunning and me with this terrible nerdy smile. What I like best about my looks is that Nicola can live with them. That she found me not so hideously gopping that I'd have to be The Man in the Iron Mask. In the end, that's what it's about. They're there as an advertisement and, you know, if you ever get a punter you're pleased, and I'm jolly pleased that she found them attractive enough to get on with.
AA Gill's novel `Starcrossed' is published by Doubleday at pounds 9.99
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