Warning: This product may contain a stupid warning

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The Independent Online

According to my copy of The British Journal of Ophthalmology (I get it for the "Spot the Ball" competition), men are in terrible danger of ruining their eyesight if they - no, it's not what you're thinking - "wear their ties too tight". Constricting the jugular vein of the neck increases the pressure in other veins and makes your eyeballs go all funny (like Christopher Lee's in Dracula Has Risen From the Grave) and leads, if you're exceptionally careless or unlucky, to glaucoma. They've tested this sensational theory in rigorous laboratory conditions, by putting 40 men, some glaucomoid and some not, in a room, dressing them in neckties that are way too tight, and checking them after three minutes.

I'll admit that I've had some odd experiences with ties in the past. For a while I wore a bootlace tie whose metal clip was shaped like a buffalo skull; the horns tended to poke disobligingly into my trachea every time I nodded or looked down at my feet; so I stopped doing both for a time, thus giving everyone the impression that I was both stubbornly negative and chronically haughty. But I've never consciously put on a tie that threatened to cut off my bloodstream. A trouser waistband that's too tight? Hell yeah, we've all been guilty of that ("34 inches? Of course I'm still 34 inches round the middle - and if not, I'll just lose a stone in the next two weeks"). But none of us, surely, is stupid enough to wear life-threatening garments.

I'm more alarmed by the implications for the fashion industry. Because I sense this is the beginning of a new trend in consumer paranoia. For two weeks I've been trying to digest the news that whisky and gin bottles may have to carry a cigarettes-type warning ("Drinking Kills". "Drinkers Die Younger". "Drinking the Contents of this Bottle May Make You Fall Over, Sing Maudlin Irish Laments and Tell the Joke About the Elephant's Foreskin"). The day has already come when loaves of bread in Sainsbury carry warnings on the polythene wrapping indicating: "DANGER: Nut Allergy Sufferers. This walnut loaf may contain slight traces of nuts". And now, mark my words, it'll start to happen with clothes.

From Gap to Warehouse, from Harvey Nicks to Marks & Sparks, from Naf-Naf to Jigsaw Junior, minatory labels will appear on all manner of clothes. Such as:

"This traditional Maori horsehair bracelet may restrict your circulation and cause gangrene (especially if you're over 40 and should know better)."

"These £320 Jimmy Choo mules are not attached to heels or ankles and may cripple you if you're over five feet tall."

"To enjoy these red braces to the full, do not wear them in the vicinity of children, drunken friends or workmates, who will snap them painfully against your nipples."

"Wearers of super-baggy, skater-boy denims do so at their own risk. Don't blame us if they come off your skinny hindquarters while you're rushing down an escalator."

Sometimes, of course, it will be a matter of taste: "DANGER: Horrible Midriff Warning. This item of clothing shows a lot of midriff. If you've got a tummy like a pregnant manatee, think twice. We don't want people vomiting outside our nice changing-rooms".

Or - and the next one is, I think, well overdue:

"WARNING: the chief medical officer has advised that this thong will slice through your perineum if you're not careful; and on no account should you wear it with jeans, for fear it will appear three inches above your waistline and make you look like a trailer slut."

"NB: This day-glo Spandex jumpsuit is for personal use only, and within a scientifically-controlled interior environment. Wearing it out of doors may damage the retina of passers-by and cause them irreversible blindness."

"CARE NEEDED: This hooded sweatshirt may make you look like Eminem, but somebody is bound to yank the drawstrings and leave you looking like a wizened Eskimo."

See what I mean? Furthermore, I'm sure they experienced similar problems in the past.

Those ruffs beloved of the Elizabethans always made the wearer look like a whiplash victim and probably strained the cervical vertebrae. I was never convinced that codpieces were a happy invention, nor chain-mail helmets, nor those ballooning pantaloons worn by Greek nationalists and Vatican guardsmen. But only in our civilisation will clothing warnings be deemed actually necessary. Just think of the last person you saw wearing leather trousers and you'll know what I mean.

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