Somewhere in Paris, there is a man with an orange suit, and he has a lot to answer for. Not a Guantanamo Bay-style suit, but a gent’s two-piece, in a needlecord material.
I spotted him standing on the Champs Elysee a few years ago, tall, stocky, late-50s or older. He had about him an air of quiet confidence, which is pretty much compulsory if you’re going to go outside in an orange suit, even one as well-cut as his. He had paused during his perambulations to light a stubby cigarette and, as he regained his stride, I heard accordion music and I spotted Inspector Maigret stepping out from the shadows to mutter to a junior officer: “Fellow zee homme in ze costume a l’Orange!”
Suits you sir!
The accordion music and Maigret faded from my imagination, but the orange man was still there, ambling nonchalantly away from me. And that is the moment I blame for my current flirtation, if that’s all it is, with, shall we say, a more colourful wardrobe. Back in Brussels, I remarked to a little man who runs what we used to call a gent’s outfitters that the French peacock is still alive and well among the grey suits of the male species. Ah, he insisted, there is a Belgian peacock too, and disappeared towards the back of the shop and returned, wheeling a rack of garments which, if sewn together, would have put Joseph’s Technicolour Dreamcoat to shame. But why, I asked, are you keeping these things hidden? He gestured me into a mid-yellow cord creation: “Because I don’t want to scare away my more traditional customeurs.”
Between then and now, in what is clearly a mid-life crisis, I’ve acquired not just orange trousers, but yellow, green, and some in colours worthy of a restaurant dessert trolley. Another occupant of Meade Towers vetoed the purchase of an orange suit, arguing that the proximity of the jacket to my face made me look anaemic. But I sneaked home with a yellow needlecord suit some time ago under cover of darkness, plus a rather dashing tweed jacket with a bold red check.
I have a pact with one of the Meadelets that I will not wear my deep red trousers when in her company, and I haven’t even dared discuss the ones the shade of raspberry ripple ice-cream or the moleskin ones in a kind of Banoffi Pie tone. I’m not wearing the yellow suit until I see someone else in one first but, just the other day, the Mayor of London (dark blue regulation suit), was in town and commented favourably on my pale green linen suit.
Then there’s my two-tone gangster shoes (pale brown and cream) which the salesman in London said he’d like to buy himself, but daren’t, as he lived in a sartorially risk-averse city centre.
“But I live in Brussels,” I said. He nodded: “That’s okay then – people are much more tolerant on the continent.”
Geoff Meade / Together Magazine / Expatica
Reprinted with permission of Together Magazine.
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