Katy Guest: Why don't men take a stand against wearing a tie?

Share
Related Topics

The recent photograph of the four ex-prime ministers meeting the Queen showed a particular example of the British idea of dressing for summer. With the slight exception of Tony Blair, in a midnight-blue tailor-made number, the men wore ill-fitting black suits and shoes, with their hair slicked and their ties done up tightly. As temperatures reached an annual record high, even the Queen left behind her usual ugly, square coat-dress, and instead wore an ugly, square jacket with white gloves and a swingy skirt. But the men dressed exactly the same as if it had been -5C outside.

The four ex-prime ministers belong to a class in which men must wear ties, that uniquely pointless instrument of male oppression, and can all get to work in air-conditioned cars. Those who must walk, bus or Tube to work have to come up with more practical solutions to the heat. Even more inappropriate than men in woollen suits are young women who come to work in teeny tiny hotpants and thin white polyester tops that show the washing instructions on their bras. Or cyclists who wear their sweaty Lycra to meetings.

In the literary set in which I often mingle, crumpled linen is the summer solution. At the Hay literary festival in early June, a navy blue linen suit is obligatory, and creases are a badge of honour. An old rule of journalism states that a reporter must always dress as though she might at any moment be summoned to court/Lambeth Palace/an interview with a grieving parent. But as a literary editor, my clothing must also be suitable for emptying dusty Jiffy bags, hoicking around crates of hardbacks and glamorous book launch parties. That's why I am always dressed wrong.

Nonetheless, at the end of a sticky Tube ride home, the summer dressing dilemma makes me relieved to be a woman. Men of Britain, you have my sympathy, and if ever you want to borrow a floaty cotton frock you only have to ask.

Use your loaf

A friend recently took me to his favourite posh café, where there was a cockroach on the al fresco table, a hair in the pizza bianca, and it cost a fiver for a bit of old bread with bits in. It's for people like him that Tesco is boosting its "artisan" bread range, having sold three million more specialist loaves this year than last. This hard bread, like couscous (aka the sweepings from under the fridge), is eaten only by the very posh and very poor people who can't afford real food. I prefer a sliced loaf with cheese and Branston and absolutely no beetles.

Marked for life

Judy Steel, the wife of Lord Steel, has revealed she had a tattoo for her 70th birthday. The chatterati are alarmed, but I'm not sure why. Lady Steel is old enough to know her mind, and has followed all the rules of How Not to Regret a Tattoo: make it small, make it personal, have it somewhere that won't sag with age and is usually covered by clothes, don't choose it from the tattooist's window (you'll regret it when Samantha Cameron turns up with the same unimaginative design) and don't, whatever you do, make it anything that reminds you of a current, ex or future boyfriend. Since you ask, mine is a lizard, on my toe; it reminds me of my best friend from school and I haven't regretted it once.

Secret success

An old friend of mine used to hang out with the beat poet Allen Ginsberg, who apparently told him that "a secret is something that you only tell one person … at a time". I'm a big fan of the Ginsberg philosophy, but get a warm feeling from Danny Boyle's "save the secret" plea to the 60,000-strong audience at the Olympic opening ceremony rehearsal. In the age of Twitter, when it is easy to tell a secret to a million people, keeping one is a more appealing challenge. Unfortunately, newspaper columnists have no secrets (you know about my tattoo), but if I ever hear one, I promise I won't let you know.

Name that tune

As a relatively new oldie who is baffled by most of the modern hit parade, I am grateful to scientists from the Spanish National Research Council who recently proved that all modern music really is just horrible shouting.

Or, as Joan Serra put it after analysing 55 years' worth of songs from the Million Song Dataset, "We found evidence of a progressive homogenisation of the musical discourse", while "intrinsic loudness" has steadily increased.

This is nothing new, as shown by the band The Axis of Awesome, who can demonstrate that "all the greatest hits from the last 40 years just use four chords." That includes "Let It Be" (The Beatles), "No Woman, No Cry" (Bob Marley), "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" (Elton John), Lady Gaga's "Poker Face".

Ah, but those songs are all about the words, say the oldies. Whereas this week's Top 40 songs have only about four words between them.

House of fun

J K Rowling has submitted plans to Edinburgh council for two tree houses for her back garden. They will cost £150,000 and I'm sure her children will be thrilled.

But I thought that the point of tree houses was that you build them together, out of a few splintery orange crates and bits of old curtain. The most fun thing is the adventure of building it, and after that the novelty soon wears off.

The Rowlings are lucky boys and girls, but I bet the cost-per-play analysis of their aerial Hogwarts will be almost as high as the tree it's in.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links