In my twenties I wore a lot of black, for simplicity, for a nod to my successful hometown music heroes – Bauhaus - and probably because of a simple lack of money and imagination. Oh, and because as Morrissey sang “I wear black on the outside because black is how I feel on the inside.” You really have to remember we had Mrs Thatcher, no jobs and wall to wall Jimmy Saville, Mr Blobby and Noel Edmonds back then. There was also a brief ‘A’ Level art student flirtation with bright, primary colours and my mum’s home knitted, baggy, red jumper, but I don’t really mention that any more…
So, aside from a lot of socks, underwear, Blisteze and unused condoms – did I mention this was the AIDS fearing late eighties? – the only other garment I owned in multiple editions and which has travelled down the years with me has been the fabulously inexpensive and simple white, cotton, polo shirt. A generation of loving mums also knew them as an Aertex shirt for P.E. at school. But, us seventies kids wore them and called them Fred Perry’s after the bloke in black and white who won something with a tennis racket. Also fearsome bovver boys and skinheads wore their polo shirt, AKA Fred Perry, together with compulsory braces, ox red, Dr Marten, Airwair boots and short, tight rolled up blue jeans. Not me though. I wore my Fred Perry/polo shirt with the plummy voice of t.v. tennis commentator, Dan Maskell occasionally exclaiming (in my minds inner ear) “peach of a shot!” and “oh, I say” then “well played Virginia!” as my granddad effortlessly thwacked yet another passing shot past my flailing, outstretched (wooden) tennis racket.
Of course I’ve never worn a polo shirt for an actual game of polo, but I’ve certainly crunched a few Polo mints in a Fred Perry…
Also, it seems every primary school across the land has now adopted the polo shirt for its school uniform. No tight starched shirt collars for the youth of today. Oh no. Also with a polo shirt there is rarely any complementary, sensible, navy blue tie to dunk and dip into school dinner custard and art lesson paint pots. All thanks to the polo shirt. Something we should praise more and be proud of. Oh yes! Or no. Especially if you were once a member of the Easyjet in flight cabin crew. Their garish bright orange, one size fits all – LARGE - polo shirt became a worldwide badge of shame, especially as all their other fellow international cabin crew at Air Italia, Virgin, Emirates, British Airways and others wore chic red pill box hats, trim blazers and smart skirts. Here the crumpled and relaxed, orange polo shirt just could not compete.
Other more proud wearers of the polo shirt/Fred Perry/Aertex sports top seem to have had varying degrees of success – table tennis players seem to have at times favoured a coal black polo shirt (with matching white under arm deodorant stains). MacDonald’s teen staff members also get a jaundice yellow coloured polo shirt with ketchup splash red trims and a side serving of fries to go, natch!
But, for me I wear the simple white polo shirt together with the impossibly youthful Suggs and assorted tennis players like Borg, Connors and Becker in mind. Never, but never, do I think of any European golf players – mainly, but not only, because they simply can’t wear a polo shirt without nearly always getting a hole in one. Did you see what I did their? Sorry.
So, there it is, another one of my fifty fabulous things: the simple white polo shirt. It’s inexpensive, fairly smart - on its first outing at least - and almost timeless. So much so that almost all of the most significant British pop and youth subcultures have worn it with style and attitude (just check Paul Weller, Noel Gallagher and Jake Bugg for example). Now, if anyone could just sort out how to stop the points of a polo shirts collar curling up to the sun – no matter how often I nonchalantly thumb down and repeatedly smooth back down each upturned soft collar tip - I’d be even happier with my most reliable garment of choice and available budget.