Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Men in shorts

Our Monday blogger raised the story surrounding John Sawers, a middle aged man in Speedos which, The Sun informs us, are ‘tight swimming trunks.’ Amid the media furore was a suggestion that this story was a publicity stunt engineered by speedos. If so, they must have forgotten the effect on sales when Tony Blair was pictured wearing floral shorts. We learned in The Times that ‘The prime minister usually prefers patterned Vilebrequin, which are a much more fashionable and statesmanlike £90. Yet this year he favoured a new garish William Morris look for his Caribbean trip.’ (Yes, The Times.)

David Milliband denied accusations that security had been compromised: "You know he wears a Speedo swimsuit. That's not a state secret." Nor, it seems, is the code name of the new head of MI5. The Sun, in its excited report on Sir John Sawers’ swimsuit, mentioned in passing ‘Sir John, 53 - who will have the codename "C" when he takes over in November – is seen playing Frisbee in tight swimming trunks.’ Surely not! Never mind the code name, a middle-aged man in tight swimming trunks is a serious attack on our way of life!

What is so newsworthy about men in shorts? Don’t reporters know that politicians have legs? How else could they shoot themselves in the foot, or put their feet in their mouths? Without legs, how could they skate on thin ice, or fall flat on their faces? To put it bluntly, how would they do the job at all?

So it’s not who you are, it’s who you appear to be. Image is all. Should we blame the cult of celebrity which has reached pandemic proportions? Nothing is safe. Even the literary festival has come under attack. An article in the Telegraph this week described the festivals as ‘a bit of reading and writing with a hefty dash of celebrity.’ The article is dominated by a picture of Sophie Dahl looking gorgeous in something strappy with a feather boa - the ultimate in glam.

‘You get all sorts of people turning up’ the reporter continues. (Has he heard I’ve been invited to appear at several literary festivals this year?) ‘A lot of them do wear sandals with socks, and bring their own Thermos flasks and picnic chairs, but equally there is always a throng of girls wearing designer welly boots.’ Hold on - designer welly boots for walking in puddles and cow pats? Am I missing something? ‘The emphasis is now on entertainment more than literature.’ Can it get any worse, I wonder. It seems it can. ‘Writers certainly need to be robust,’ is the conclusion. “These festivals expose you to people with no apparent interest in books, who seem to come along much as villagers did to throw tomatoes at someone in the stocks.” I can’t wait!

Politicians pictured in shorts, glamorous celebrities headlining literary festivals – why should appearance matter so much? Our obsession goes way beyond issues of health. Don’t judge a book by its cover – oh, talking of books, I have to dash. It’s my book launch today and I haven’t got a thing to wear. I’ve got the shoes – hand crafted by a Bosnian cobbler - but I need to try on at least seven outfits, panic, collapse in hysterics and have at least one hissy fit before I can even think of leaving the house. And did I mention I’m having a bad hair day? (Please don’t tell the organisers of the literary festivals or they may not want me after all.)

Leigh Russell


  1. LOL! Are British men hairy? 'cause you didn't cover that angle.
    Great post!

  2. I think you've gone straight to the heart of the problem, Chris. Not enough covered...

  3. And what of our prime minister? The only photograph I have seen of him on a beach he was booted and suited.
    Look glam by all means but be comfortable and enjoy:)

  4. I'm not sure I'd call him glamorous . . . but I'm all for being comfortable. There's nothing worse than discovering new shoes are uncomfortable shoes after you've gone out for the day. It's probably not something men suffer from much but come on, girls, we've all been there. At this point I hear the other members of the Curzon Group muttering at my lowering the intellectual level of this blog - I think I'll disappear quietly.