Lockdown Clothing: Shaun’s story

Today’s story in the ‘Lockdown Clothing’ project is from Shaun Cole. Shaun is a writer, lecturer and curator. He is Associate Professor in Fashion at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton, co-director of Intersectionalities: politics, identity, culture (iPIC research group) and author of a number of books on men’s fashion and dress. You can find him on Instagram and Twitter.

1) Can you describe what your personal style was like before lockdown – what did you wear most often?

Since I started working in academia 10 years ago I have worn smart clothes for work – I like to wear checked, tweed or tartan suits with a shirt and tie and smart shoes. I love coloured brogues (for winter) and loafers for summer. This began because I was conscious, working in a fashion college, of not wanting to try to ‘compete’ on fashion stakes with fashion students and aware of wanting to have a style that made me feel ready for work. I have both summer and winter versions of this look and almost always wear a tie, even though I of course don’t have to and I think that not having to wear a suit, shirt and tie made me more inclined to do so. A friend once described this look as 1950s college professor and I rather liked that! I never wear jeans to work. I also love knitwear and so if not wearing a suit then I might wear smart trousers with a shirt, tie and sweater or cardigan.

I like to have the garments complement each other in colour and pattern, although I am aware that to some this could look like its clashing. So my argyle pattern socks will pick up on a colour in my tie for example. Someone once counted that I was wearing eight different checks in one outfit in winter and I have aspired to this ever since! Outside work I tended to dress a little more casually, I’d wear jeans, I’d wear trainers, the check of my suits would be replaced by flannel check shirt or in the summer short-sleeved camp collar Hawaiian print shirts. Despite the fashion for men to have facial hair for the last few years I was always clean shaven, partly because I don’t have a very heavy facial hair growth and partly to be bloody minded and different from the men who do have full heavy facial hair.

2) What types of clothing do you wear most often now?

At the start of lockdown when it was still wintery and cold I wore jeans, checked shirts and woollen sweaters. If leaving the house then I would wear sturdy brogues or boots and heavy wool checked jackets (of which I have a number). I was due to go to Cornwall at the beginning of April so had sorted out more spring-like (or if I was being optimistic summery) shorts, lighter trousers, polo shirts and short sleeved shirts so these were at the front of my wardrobe as the weather go better. Through the summer I wore shorts, camp collar Hawaiian print shirts and slip on loafers, or trainers for my daily walk that I christened my commute.

I am usually pretty particular about getting my hair cut but the last time I had it cut was late in February and it has now been so long that even once barbers opened I decided not to go and get it cut. I was worried that I wouldn’t like how they cut what had been growing. Its getting longer and am planning to not get it cut again until at least March – leaving it a year just to see what happens. Thinking about age and physical self-presentation for the book I am working on has also made me think about my own age and now seeing how grey my longer hair has got I really like it. Also at some point when I couldn’t be bothered to shave, as I didn’t have any zoom meetings where I would be seen, I let my facial hair grow for a couple of weeks and then shaved off the beard to leave a moustache. This coincided with the 100th anniversary of the gay artist/ illustrator Tom of Finland’s birth and as I had been scheduled to be on a discussion panel to talk about his contribution to and influence on fashion this became my way of ‘celebrating’ his anniversary. It’s the only time that my face has appeared on my Instagram!! I liked the moustache and after several complementary comments on Facebook posts – that it looked very seventies, very porn star – I decided to keep it.

Moustache progress!

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

Before lockdown I worked from home quite a bit. I have always felt it was really important to me to get up, get washed and dressed to feel ‘ready’ to work. I love nice pyjamas (and mostly wear Derek Rose – bought cheaply at TKMaxx outside London) and they would have been comfortable to work at home on my laptop when I had no meetings. However, it was, and still is, important to me to ‘prepare’ for the day. Select what clothes I plan to wear – if I have an online meeting then a slightly smarter option that if I am seeing no one. To think about whether the shoes and / or socks I am wearing coordinate with my shirt. If I am having an early morning ‘commute’ walk (with or without the borrowed dog) will the appropriate walking clothes still work for any meeting I have. If I do have meetings to shave so I don’t look ‘scruffy’ and feel ‘professional’, and if I haven’t had meetings for a few days and the ‘stubble’ is beginning to mask the moustache then I’ll shave anyway.

4) Has your approach to clothes changed as a result of the current situation?

Sort of… Just before lockdown started we had asked the joiner friend who had built our wardrobes in our dressing room to extend them, so that we could sort out what we had in a tallboy, a family heirloom bureau and Fortnum and Mason baskets. Of course, he wasn’t able to do this until after lockdown finished but in the meantime we sold the tall boy, moved the bureau into storage and order a new chest of drawers. When our joiner friend could finally install the new cupboards with carefully calculated shelf heights to accommodate shoes, boots, knitwear, vacuum bags for out of season garments, it was great to look through what clothes I had, what I wore regularly, what I hardly wore but didn’t want to get rid of and what I had bought and never worn. What I concluded was I really didn’t need to buy any more clothes – I had plenty, even after getting rid of some to the charity shop. Having resorted and organised I realised that I don’t need to buy any new clothes and have been slowly mending the few things that needed it. I appreciate what I have and after wearing a rather limited range of clothes since February realise that one this is all over (?!) I can rethink what I wear and when and think about how to combine the clothes I have in different ways now that they are much more logically and carefully arranged and stored. Also thinking about the next time I do go out either socially or professionally whether I will wear one of my many ties, just because I can

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

Having new built in clothes cupboards allowed me to rearrange my shoes and to see exactly what I have. All my brogues are now on the same shelf, as are my trainers. I like them to be organised and I like to see what I have to think about which pair goes best with what I am wearing – or to start with a pair that I like and haven’t worn for a while and build up from there. I have tended to wear a very limited selection of shoes since lockdown and even over the summer. Two pairs of boots and a pair of Loakes brogues for daily walks, especially once I started borrowing a neighbours’ dog and tramping through the mud, and these are back out now winter is setting in. Over summer I wore a pair of Ferragamo trainers for my daily ‘commute’ walk and I order to feel reasonably ‘smart’ and work like at zoom meetings either blue suede or brown leather slip on moccasin type shoes. I am a big fan of Harris tweed and of slippers and the pair of Harris tweed slippers I had were on their last legs by summer so these were replaced by flipflops – which I think are fine for the beach, the pool, the garden (or at home) but not out in public – but I’ll not start on that rant!!). The old slippers went in the bin and my husband has now bought me a new pair of Harris tweed slippers are now the daily footwear at home. I did buy one pair of new shoes – I saw that Fred Perry was collaborating with G. H. Bass and that one of the pairs was deep green tasselled loafers – these are now in my wardrobe, living in the box although they have been worn twice.

A selection of summer prints from Shaun’s wardrobe

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