Belfast Telegraph

Cardigans should be worn by the half-ill and undernourished

By Mike Gilson

Where do you stand on cardigans? Come on, it's a simple question. I'm a zealous supporter of the garment. Many aren't.

I've worn them when they were fashionable (yes, they were!) and have stuck with them as they disappeared from the hipster radar to lie somewhere in the permafrost of naffness.

I ask the question because I was over in Brighton at the weekend and added to my collection, much to the consternation of the party I was with.

Brighton, as you may know, is achingly, studiously trendy. A contrasting mix of tacky seaside with its garish pier and just about every cutting edge young tribe following alternative lifestyles going, its nightlife and pub scene given an added whirl by the town's large gay population.

Brighton's off-High Street shops, inspired by this mix, are also a great place to dip a toe for those of us who have long sold out to The Man.

There's wonderful bric-a-brac, brilliant niche record and film stores and wonderfully quixotic fashion and vintage shops, manned by forebodingly exquisite girls, that draw in thousands at the weekend.

When most of our town centres conform drearily to the same format, dominated by the same boring big store names, Brighton is an antidote. While Belfast could never be like that (not enough London refugees), there's no reason why a small quarter couldn't be given over to creative traders.

Start with Terry's latest Good Vibrations store and go from there. Build it and they will come, say I. It just needs a little imagination from our leaders. Hmmm.

Anyway, back to cardigans. Look, Morrissey used to wear em. Even members of New Order. It was all part of the Oxfam chic of the time.

Down through the years in the family albums, me a cardigan and a gradually eroding quiff are never far away. Like a tide, fashion has mostly left me up on the shingle with the dead starfish and plastic bottles, but occasionally sweeps me into the excitement of the surf.

To be honest, when David Beckham started wearing them a few years ago I was ever so slightly miffed. Cardigans don't belong to the sterile, metrosexual clothes horse world of Becks. They should cost 15 quid from Save the Children, not £300 from McQueen, or someone else I've only half heard of. Cardigans should be worn by the half-ill and undernourished, not plastic millionaires.

I've always favoured the simple cut, unadorned with logos, and with sober dark colours, which is why I'm being looked at aghast in this vintage shop on Saturday as I find a cardigan zanadu upstairs.

Every house clearance from the south of England's sadly passed old war veterans seems to have arrived here. I plunge in amid umms and arrghs from those watching me try them on.

When you're young, wearing old man's clothes is a statement, you're taking fashion and twisting it, venerating, but also challenging. But what if, like me now, you are actually now just an old man buying old man's clothes? Not so cutting edge, is it?

In the end, I panic. I'm gonna buy something, but the bored stares of the shop girls and the grimaces of my party force me to take the plunge.

Fortified by the lunchtime wine, I no longer care as I break my own cardigan rules. The result is published here, dear reader, so you can judge for yourselves.

Well? Yeah, thought so. Maybe just one outing a year for it as I sit rheumy eyed on the porch rocking chair? Not even that? Wonder if the shop takes returns.

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