Whatever happened to the company card?

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The Independent Online
Have you noticed that your Christmas cards have been getting smaller this year? Not perhaps the ones you have been generously sending out, but the ones you received. They are shrinking so fast that they fall through your letter box not with a sati sfyingclatter but with the silence of snow or confetti.

The Royal Mail, fortunately, sets a lower limit on the size of envelopes it will accept (about three inches by four). Otherwise, if present trends continued, cards would end up smaller than the stamps on them.

The feel-good factor failed to reach the electors of Dudley West last week. Nor has it reached the senders of Christmas cards. No more vast fold-outs, half the size of a playing field, dripping gilt and glitter.

Corporate cards have shrunk most of all. They slide, half-ashamed, out of their office-franked covers. Company cards, like company cars, uncomfortably evoke the boom years of the Eighties. They lack the desirable Nineties aura of public service: no litt l e logo from ever-more obscure charities. They are irredeemably private. Not that charity cards are problem-free. They need a new etiquette guide of their own. Is it correct to send your elderly, chain-smoking uncle a card whose slim profits will go into combating heart disease? Or is this too much of a memento mori, and you should send him that pretty Save the Children Fund item instead?

The fashion historian James Laver put forward the theory that women's skirts get shorter in good times (the Twenties, the Sixties) and longer in worse times (the Thirties, the Seventies). A walk along any high street will show you that the present decadeis testing the Laver thesis to destruction. Confusion reigns.

Off with the old theory, on with the new. Cards go the opposite way to skirts: the worse people feel, the smaller they get. Even those who can afford the glitz feel they must draw a veil of modesty over it. You might call it putting off the style.