There is something un-British about good weather. Our knee-jerk response is to bare as much skin as is legal and never mind the sunburn or skin cancer. And, I’m not just talking about socks with sandals.
We’re a bit wary, especially, of men who do make the effort: those who sport linen and cotton, dare to wear pastel (especially pink) and go sockless in loafers.
Such males are either “a little bit gay” (yep, you still hear it) or, said with a vaguely disparaging tone: “European.”
The old stereotype of the British male was that he never changed what he wore, whatever the heat, and just put a knotted hankie on his head. These days that era seems exactly what it was: another century, as we survey parks, high streets and beaches swarming with flip-flops, singlets and cropped trousers that haven’t been near an Egyptian cotton field.
There is suspicion of famous males who, despite their prowess in the macho sporting arena, like to cut a dash off the field. David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo have come to epitomise the stylishness other males are wary of, or even get angry about. Could it be a projection of our own insecurities?
Britain still hasn’t entirely come to terms with the metrosexual male – look at the ridicule heaped on Joe Hart’s head for his shampoo and shaving ads. I’m very aware there are two Britains here: urbane, metropolitan big cities (not just London), and another world where fashion stood still. Every time I write about style, at least one reader writes in to say “I dare you to try that on the streets of Middlesbrough.”
Of all things “European” it’s the sockless loafer that elicits the most suspicion. So, real men must wear socks? It’s funny that this small glimpse of male skin can elicit such antipathy. The male fashion revolution has a long way to go before the “continental” style is as ubiquitous in influence as it has been in the nation’s welcome food revolution.
But, as Gandhi once said in a lot more words: we can all be the change we want to see in the world. So, before you go out, look in the mirror, swap that football top for a cotton polo shirt, ditch the cropped nylon trousers for some fitted linen shorts and lose the socks. It’s liberating, I promise you.
Stefano Hatfield is editor-in-chief of High50