Lockdown Fashion: James’s story

How are people dressing when in lockdown and isolation situations? How is this different to the way they dressed before? Has it affected their sense of self? This project aims to shine a light on those changes and reveal some of the many and varied personal stories relating to fashion and dress in 2020. Today’s interview is with James Meek. James is a writer.

1) What is your daily routine for getting dressed to remain at home? If you don’t have one, why is that?

I work at home anyway and it’s quite usual for me to to be wearing pyjama bottoms and a teeshirt in the afternoon. The advantage of being a work at home writer is that I do have quite a collection of dressing gowns, fleeces and harem pants to stalk around in. Our four year old son is with us and since he generally prefers to be naked anyway it’s not much of an incentive for the adults to dress properly. On the other hand it’s hard to demand he puts his pants on unless I am setting a good example so apart from one especially slutty day I have been dressed at some point before sunset. I try to put on a decent looking top. When it comes to trousers the rotation is lax. A noted (male) writer told me that it had been scientifically proven jeans don’t need to be washed. I think he is wrong, but I’ve been quietly testing the theory in lockdown.

2) Thinking back through what you have worn since you’ve been staying at home, what has been your favourite item of clothing and why?

My partner bought me a black Partimento collarless fleece that I’ve been wearing a lot. It’s shaggy and tactile and keeps me warm on chilly spring mornings and evenings but easy to shed when the sun gets high. It’s also extremely light and pairs well with a set of Albam sweatshirts I bought in a sample sale. It’s not scruffy, either, so I can go pretty much anywhere wearing it. That’s what I tell myself, anyway, and I try to impose that belief on the world. (See pic)

3) What are the social situations you find yourself in now (even if remotely), and how do you dress for them?

Like everyone I guess I’m starting to experiment with standaway conversations and walks. It’s difficult because you don’t want to look like a slob and you want to encourage the idea of making an effort as a contribution to keeping a civilization going. On the other hand there’s always the danger of being seen to be making some kind of satirical point, or to be a neurotic obsessive panicking at loss of routine, if you try too hard. To put it another way, if I’m meeting somebody in a socially distanced way at the garden gate or in the park, I’ll put on a shirt. The father of a small child always has an excuse, which is handy if you’ve dripped bacon fat on yourself without any help from said child. I think the rule for video calls has to be that a tie is bound to be taken as a sign of madness, but a nice shirt is good. Never a busy one, though. I wore a plain white Old Town shirt to a Zoom call the other day and although they say you shouldn’t wear a white shirt on TV I thought it looked OK.

4) What’s your shoe situation at home? And how does this affect your sense of self?

We moved into a house with a garden recently and with the boy around there’s much trafficking between indoors and outdoors. It’s not really safe to go barefoot inside for all sorts of reasons, the wicked nail sticking out of the floor in the kitchen, for instance, so I tend to switch between an old pair of petrol-coloured Glerups slippers for in and and an old pair of black loafers for out. Actual shoes are not well stored and I don’t have the spectrum of grandeur and exquisiteness, or indeed the number, that my partner has, but for my excursions there’s a small smartness scale of leather footwear, Doc Martens for the local shops, my nice RM Williams lace-up boots for the park or the sheer indulgent glamour of Sainsburys. I started going to the gym not long before the lockdown and I bought a pair of cheap Nikes, my first. Nasty, and not in a good way. We didn’t become bipeds for this.

5) Is there anything you feel you can wear now that you couldn’t in ‘normal’ times? Why? And is there anything you miss wearing (and why do you not wear it)?

It’s not so much that I can wear something I couldn’t wear normally as that the boundaries of the domestic have been extended. I feel so much closer to my neighbours than I did before, and at the same time the neighbourhood has become so quiet, that there’s a zone beyond the house – ‘inside’ – that is no longer inside but isn’t quite outside either. Call it ‘betweenside’. Betweenside is the pavement along my strip of terrace, about five houses along in either direction, and the little park at the end of that strip. I feel comfortable wearing slippers betweenside. I haven’t actually worn a dressing gown in that area, but I can see it happening.

It’s nice to wear a jacket and tie once in a while, or even a tuxedo, if only for the sense of wearing a costume and startling people who are used to seeing me dressed more casually. But I have been thinking it might be necessary to organise a formal dinner at home for me and S.

James's Partimento collarless fleece
James’s black Partimento collarless fleece

If you’d like to take part in the project yourself, you can find all the information you need in the blog post entitled ‘Lockdown Fashion: an exploration of dressing at home in 2020‘ dated 9th April 2020.

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