Which Sack Of Potatoes Is Taking You Home Tonight? (The 'Flip-Book' series, No.11)

Here's a bit of a quotation while I pull on some garb: "...the apparel oft proclaims the man...".  So says Polonius in Hamlet (Act 1 Scene III), but that ever-popular multi-headed oracle known as 'They' usually trot out a simpler variant: "clothes maketh the man".

Whether you agree with this sentiment or not is immaterial, because it happens to be true.  It was clearly a self-evident truism in Shakespeare's world, otherwise he wouldn't have put the words into the mouth of such a tedious old buffer as Polonius; there's no reason to doubt that it was true when Marco Polo was flogging, um, Polo shirts in Cathay, and when Republican Roman generals were entering the city in their triumph.

Now, for most of my life I haven't been much of a stickler for sharp dressing: my father was of that generation who would wear a blazer and tie to the beach --- possibly he would venture a bared foot and a rolled-up trouser leg for a paddle --- so my rebellion consisted of being as casual as humanly possible, although I drew the line at downright scruffiness; genetic nature will out, you know.

So, on Day 13991 as on all previous days, the adage "clothes maketh the man" isn't particularly  high on my mental list of priorities.  I throw on my usual working-clothes: shirt, jeans and funky waistcoat.  The shirt may be slightly worn at the crease of the collar, the jeans a little thin around the, ahem, inner thigh; the waistcoat is colourfully striped, but you could never call it loud, or even frivolous.  In this outfit I'll blend in perfectly at the workplace.  It's several degrees short of 'immaculately turned out' but it wouldn't offend any sensibilities either.

Okay, jump forward two decades, and oh dearie me.  It now appears that most people don't even have sensibilities to be offended any more.  Why, oh why all the comedy clothing?  Whence did it all spring?

Come on, you know what I'm talking about.  Forget the artfully knee-slit jeans and the baggy low-slung leg-coverings that proclaim a person's taste in underwear; forget the 'sportswear' and hoodies and everything else that seems to have been pupped by a giant tracksuit.  I'm talking about something that we can summarise in one acronym: the FBICS (or 'eff-bix' if you will).

Step out onto any street, sit in any public place, attend anyone's party, and the FBICS will be there.  Usually there will be several of him, but it's a rare day when you don't see at least one.  Maybe you yourself are an example of the phenomenon.  If so, I can only gaze sadly at you, and pray that you'll come to something like your senses in due course.  But this plaint is for the benefit of those few, those weary few in the world who share my exasperation with the ubiquitous FBICS in all his ludicrous manifestations.

FBICS is the Fat Bloke In Cargo Shorts (urrgh, excuse me while I shudder).  It's a shorthand term, of course: not all FBICS are necessarily obese, nor are the abbreviated trousers necessarily of the cargo cult (anything long and deeply unflattering fits the bill; what my wife calls 'Stupeedos').  But you get the point.

So by all that's holy, how did this epidemic begin?  When did it become cool for overweight men to dress like a four-year-old making mud pies?  When did it become de rigeur to emulate Jimmy Clitheroe?  Who passed the ordinance decreeing that the 'developed' world should thenceforth resemble unfit scoutmasters?  And, and, how many ugly, unsavoury, misshapen male kneecaps and shins ought we to witness before whatever sin we committed has been forgiven us?  I would really like to know!

I'm also keen to understand why so many FBICS clones favour (somewhere about their ample person) a colour that can best be described as 'wet dishrag'; if you sweat profusely through an empty teabag you'll get the same effect.  That's not an attractive colour; anyone with their sensibilities intact would recoil at the thought of being swathed in such.

So what's going on?  Why do millions of us actively seek out the least flattering garments, in the least flattering shade, to parade around in?  It clearly signals a lack of self-esteem, and it certainly shows disrespect for one's fellow humans.  What happened and when did it happen?  Did an army of brainwashing aliens from the Toe-Rag Nebula arrive in a meteorite shower and enslave most of the population, while I was in a basement reading a gas-meter?

I never dreamed that my casual attire of all those years ago would become today's strikingly dapper rig --- without my changing a thing.  Acquaintances (and I'm not making this up!) ask me whether I'm on my way to the theatre, when I'm just sauntering out for a bag of chips.

It all causes me to fear the Hereafter.  Not that I have any dread of dying, nosiree; just that I'm squeamish about meeting an Almighty Deity.
It will turn out to be a He, and He'll be a bloody Fat Bloke In Cargo Shorts, and I'll have to spend eternity saying "praise be" to the twonk.

PC

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