Secret Diary of a Festival Dad aged 51 ¾ Part 1: What Not To Wear

So the tickets for the Latitude Festival have been bought (in fact, somewhat overbought – anyone looking for Sunday tickets, please apply here) the cottage booked (well, there are limits, don’t’cha know – no mud-slicked tent in the family area for this blog) and the train tickets for the way down secured. I am to go with Daughter and Heiress (aged 15 ¾ ) and become, officially, a Festival Dad.

The aforementioned term has become, at best, less than complimentary, and rightly so. I mean, back in my day, Dads would be left at home, smoking a pipe or other such manly pursuits; a spot of carpentry, perhaps, or maintaining the family saloon, before the advent of computerised engine management systems put that way beyond us, or cutting the grass in diamond stripes, weedkilled with the kind of lethal chemicals now classified as WMDs under the Geneva Convention.

Dads certainly didn’t go along to sit, stand, or otherwise present themselves in a field with a bunch of plaid-shirt wearing hipsters, to listen to that bloody racket the youngsters seem so keen on these days: nope, a dash of Mantovani, or at most, a spot of Sinatra would be what your Seventies Dad was expected to listen to.

In fact, a Dad would most resemble Inspector Thursday off the Morse prequel, Endeavour: pipe-smoking, hatted, slightly crumpled, and staring off into the middle distance pensively when the war was mentioned. Unless he were a younger Dad, in which case he might be more commonly spotted arse upwards in the engine of a Ford Escort RS2000, changing the spark plugs in an ageing Elvis quiff and a pair of jeans.

Ah, yes, jeans! How we laughed in those days at anyone over the age of thirty-five who dared to wear denim; how sad they seemed, hanging on to the vanishingly small vestiges of their youth when, really, they should be in sensible stay-prest bri-nylon, all of them. In those days, too, brands of jeans were generally few and far between: in the simpler corporate universe that brought you the Coca Cola/Pepsi wars, denim-wise you had Levi’s, Wranglers, or if you were really pushing the boat out, Lee Coopers (this last brand, incidentally, now seems to be undergoing some sort of life after death in that temple to the shell suit, Sports Direct – what up with that, Lee Cooper?)

Nowadays, of course, the rules for what youth and non-youth may wear are somewhat more nuanced. Just as the modern rock band can draw on an ever-increasing grab-bag of musical influences from the mid-Sixties onwards, so everyone feels increasingly confident that more or less anything goes clothes-wise. However, there are some rules, as we shall see, as well as some things that are so irredeemably stuck in their period that they seem incapable of revival – we’re still waiting, so far as this blog is aware, for the kipper tie and the wide lapel to reappear, although there were flares and rumours of flares recently.

So far as jeans are concerned, there is now a bewildering array of styles and materials. You can have them straight, or bootcut, or skinny. You can have the crotch of them set so low it looks as if you need to accommodate something unfeasibly elephantine down there. You can have them waist-high, hip-high, or hanging off your arse with the grim determination of a mountaineer clinging by a fingernail to the north face of the Eiger, last ice-axe spinning hopelessly into the unfathomable ravine below. And jeans are just the least of it.

Being a performer chappie has allowed me to branch out a bit more than your average Joe 51 and ¾ year old, it has to be said. A bit of vintage tweed here, a dash of piratical cravat there, and so on, and so forth. Not wearable in Glenrothes on a night out, necessarily, unless I’m actually looking to get my head kicked, but all right for the low-lit stage life I lead in Edinburgh, whether or not accessorised by a guitar. Glenrothes demands a slightly more conservative dress code, although again I do try to push the boundaries. However, there are boundaries.

Firstly, there are those which are self-imposed. Although things are a bit more laissez-faire these days, no-one wants to look like the oldest swinger in town (at least not in this town, where the demographics are unfavourable, let’s just say) or as if you’ve not actually changed your dress code since 1975. The latter risk is accentuated by all these circular fashion movements: I was around for the granddad shirt’s first moment in the sun, and if it made my neck look scrawny then, things won’t have improved all these years on.

No-no’s include:
– almost anything from the Joe Browns catalogue. This is generally because it’s just too damn young for this blog, although the accompanying text along the lines of, Woah, dude! Check these awesome prints/Bermuda shorts/granddad shirts worn with a twist we found when we rocked up in our camper van in Cuba! Surf’s up, dude! Is discouraging, when even with rapidly advancing sea levels surf is unlikely to be up, in any sense, in Glenrothes any time soon.

– Anything with more than one dot on the iron symbol in the washing instructions. This blog and this blog’s wife have developed an actual physical allergy to ironing over the years, and Daughter and Heiress shows no sign of being any different. On that topic, why is it that everything we wear now is 100% cotton? I mean, stay-prest bri-nylon aside, isn’t there any, like, better fabrics that don’t actually crumple in the bag on the way home from the shop?
– Polo shirts. I know, one sees all sorts of young hip dudes wearing these, but all they do is remind me of Mike Butler circa 1972, and, apologies Mike, for you had (and indeed probably still have) many fine qualities, but being the sharpest dressed kid on the block wasn’t an obvious one.

Then there are the boundaries imposed by Daughter and Heiress:

– No flowery shirts.

– No paisley pattern either.

– Or polka dot.

– No skinny-leg trousers (a pity, because my legs are actually pretty skinny).

– No v-necks – not a problem, since that garment to me is forever associated with Bruce Forsyth and Jimmy Tarbuck.

– No check shirts on a day D & H is wearing a check shirt.

This last cut is in many ways the deepest, as a fairly large proportion of my wardrobe choices involve the check shirt and t-shirt combo. However, there is no arguing with youth. Besides, I don’t actually want her abiding memory of her first festival to be pretending to be my community care assistant.
So what does all this leave me? Surprisingly, there is something left:
– Chinos. Somewhat to my amazement, these no longer seem to be perceived as preppy, nerdy, or any of the other things they appear to me have been at various points over the decades. The trick seems to be to keep them a darker tan colour, and fairly skinny legged (don’t tell her!)

– Check shirts on days D & H isn’t wearing hers, so we don’t look like The Swiss Family Plaid;

– T-shirts. There seems to be no objection to any of the t-shirts. There have even, occasionally, been favourable comments, and birthday and Xmas presents of them.

– Tweed jacket. Again, this seems now to be not an old fogey garment, if worn ironically.

– A pair of what I can only describe as granddad trousers bought in H & M – not normally a happy hunting ground for me clothes-wise, but these are so bonkers in their horn-buttoned and thin-braced Mumfordian tomfoolery they just had to be had.

– Certain other overshirts, jackets, and shoes. I have a treasured pair of Lee Cooper baseball boots (as they used to be called, back in the 17th century).

– Hats. I have a collection of trilbies. The world and his whippet wears trilbies nowadays: I’m not quite sure why. She can’t touch me for it.

– Jeans, as long as they’re sensible, non-skinny, arse and underpants-covering, jeans.
Of course, this is all on the very shaky premise that the heavens won’t open at Latitude and that we won’t experience rain of biblical proportions, turning the whole arena into a highly topical re-enactment of conditions at the Somme, with wellies the only possible hope of avoiding trench foot. In which event, that bi-colour cagoule out of the Cotton Traders catalogue will look alluring in retrospect.

Not to mention the prospect of being back home, smoking a pipe, and contemplating a spot of bri-nylon-clad carpentry to the strains of Mantovani later on.
If you see an advert below this, I didn’t put it there, WordPress did, and since I can’t see it, I’ve no idea if I endorse it or not.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.