In our house, the beginning of autumn is heralded by a doubling in size of our recycling bin as every single publication on earth churns out several autumn style specials. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a supplement fall out of this week’s New Scientist detailing this season’s “Ten Key Looks for the Lab”.
I suppose this is forgiveable in a way. Fashion journalism might be about as far from a Pulitzer as Notting Hill is from real life, but style supplements still sell and, more importantly, still attract advertisers, even though I usually can’t tell the difference between the ads and the editorial. It’s all one big glossy, heavily Photoshopped continuum of people better looking than anyone you will ever meet, wearing clothes you could never afford, in locations you will never visit.
If you’re alienated by all this, don’t worry, help is at hand, with my second serving of seasonal style advice. My down-to-earth fashion playbook assumes that, like me, you’re a bit overweight, you’re the wrong side of 40 and you’re probably going bald. It assumes you don’t spend your life pouting in Venice/Morocco/moodily-lit Shoreditch carparks. And it supposes that your single-item price tags are not comparable to annual household budgets on Merseyside.
Autumn is a season of reds and browns, of falling leaves and burnished sunsets… Forget all this guff immediately. You do not want to buy an entire wardrobe the colour of Rebekah Brooks’s hair. Rather, you want to dust off the black single-breasted suit that you haven’t been wearing in the summer months and team it up with a nice white shirt. Black and white look very good against an autumnal background, whereas if you wear a russet jacket you’ll get lost in all those turning leaves. Also, if you’re a bit fat, black and white are slimming, whereas mid-brown is not.
Hold off on the tie. Autumn, especially at the beginning, is quite an informal season. It’s too much to go from deck shoes and shorts to shirt and tie in one step – and, besides, there’ll be plenty of time for dressing up whern the Christmas party season kicks in. So enjoy your open-necked shirt. Undo a couple of buttons and feel the last of the sun on your fading tan while a cool breeze runs its fingers through your luxuriant, wavy chest rug.
A new style tip here. I have discovered that walking around with your stomach sucked in really works. In the short term it gives you better posture, and makes you look thinner, albeit with a rather pained expression on your face. In the long term, it actually helps you lose weight and rebuild your sagging stomach muscles. It’s a kind of abdominal fake it ‘til you make it.
4. Beware casual wear
Although autumn is more relaxed than winter, don’t let the siren call of ‘dress down’ seduce you. Round my way, we spell Gap with a second P to make it four letter word and we believe that anyone wearing chinos should be bundled onto a Learjet and rendered to a corporate golf weekend. You want straight, well-fitted jeans, the aforementioned white shirt and a V-neck jumper (preppy colours can be good here, especially if you have darker skin). You might also get a mid-calf autumn mac or a light wool coat. Shorter coats flatter by making your legs look slimmer and work well when the weather’s neither too hot nor too cold. They also look a bit Mad Men which is nice.
Assuming you have hair left, autumn is a good time to change your style. If you have a lush, full rug, the world is your oyster and I hate you. If, like me, you’re challenged, but still in the fight, you might try slicking it back. To my great surprise, this works. Kinder friends have said it makes me look like Jack Nicholson; less kind ones have described it as a “Male Croydon Facelift.” But you know what? I think that, even if your new style is questionable, it reminds people that you still have hair – and, in your mid forties, this is worth doing.
Autumn allows for a scarf, particularly in late October and November – but care is called for. You’re not in some sub-Brideshead film set at Oxford University and you’re not at a Doctor Who convention. Keep it sensible and expensive. Pricey accessories are comparatively cheap and lift a whole outfit; what is more, women can’t help but notice them. As for role models, I hate Chelsea and I hate José Mourinho, but my God he scarfs up well. If in doubt, just do exactly what he does.
Sorry, but you can’t wear a trilby in this (or any other) season. You’re notDoctor Who (see 6) and you’re not a 26-year old in Dalston. Put the hat away. Preferably in the nearest bin.
With a heavy, ageing heart, I am going to advise you moisturise. I know, I know… Anyway, bite the bullet. Your skin isn’t getting any younger and the pale, interesting indie kid you used to be in the winter was long ago elbowed out by somebody fatter and blotchier. These days, without help, your skin is just going to look a bit gross and pink and flaky in cold weather. So use a little bit of Johnson’s tinted moisturiser. Just remember not to overdo it. You want friends thinking you don’t look unhealthy, not that you resemble Robert Kilroy-Silk.
Rules are made to be broken, sometimes in the same article. So, I’m going to go out on a limb here and declare that, in autumn, I do like wearing brown shoes. Sure, roll your eyes if you like, but autumnal leaves deserve something and in my case, that something is switching my black Jefferey West Cuban heels for a more seasonal shade. While you’re breaking one rule, you may as well break another. Autumnal temperatures mean this is the season to crazy with shoes. In fact the only rule that’s set in stone is that you should wear a bit of heel: I’m 6’2” but I’m still grateful for the slimming effect that an extra inch affords.
Why not? But get a proper one. Nothing that costs £5 from a guy on Oxford Street or is the size of a small tent and disfigured by a merchant bank’s logo. Go to somewhere like the fantastic James Smith & Sons near Holborn and splash out on the bespoke brolly of your dreams. A proper man’s umbrella will always fit two under it – you are, after all, a gentleman and chivalry is a good look for all seasons.