Principally, I wear heavily patterned shirts, and have done most of my life: LIBERTY prints, Hawaiian shirts, Asian silk shirts. There are photos of me as a kid wearing tie-dye T-shirts and African prints. The look stuck!
I own about eight Hawaiian shirts, and a dozen or so floral LIBERTY prints, four patterned djellabas (Moroccan hooded gowns), a shirt decorated with BABAR motifs, one with bottles of rum and safari maps, one with GAUGUIN-esque women making baskets, and one with skiers on a piste.
I'm a totally uncoordinated person, so am always spilling juice, wine, or food down myself. My pens always leak in my pockets, I sit down on muddy grass, eat with my fingers and wipe my hands on whatever clothes I’m wearing. The patterns on the shirts tend to hide a lot of those mishaps, a bit like the heavily-patterned materials used on public transport seats. In general, I magpie towards detailed patterns, for the home too. I find them very beautiful and stimulating.
There was a phase when Hawaiian shirts became trendy, and I do see other people wearing LIBERTY prints, but they are usually women. I suppose floral prints tend to be seen as less masculine. I like that I’m one of the few men I know who wears patterns. A lot of people compliment me on the more interesting or intricate fabrics.
My mother travelled a lot so our house was filled with bright, colourful patterns and prints. I’ve also travelled to (and lived in) a lot of places where complex textile design is part of the visual discourse: India, Tibet, Guatemala, Bolivia, Morocco, the Wild West. My aunt had WILLIAM MORRIS wallpaper and fabrics in her London home, and my grandmother collected ROYAL CROWN DERBY china, so I’ve always been surrounded by patterns and print, and people not afraid to indulge in them.
I’m outdoors a lot and looking at patterns in nature; the colour palettes associated with certain places are important to me. After an early visit to California, I painted my house in pale greens (found in sage and bay laurel), isabelline (calendula, arnica), pale pink (the exposed earth and sunset light), deep turquoise (the Pacific Ocean), dark green (redwoods, rosemary), and fluorescent yellow-orange (California poppies).
I’m not one for folding or hanging items on hangers – or ironing clothes – so all my shirts hang on S hooks on the walls like coats in a cloakroom. I used to have a one-in, one-out clothing policy to keep my wardrobe and storage clear of crap, but that hasn’t been happening lately.
I’d say the one-in, one-out policy, because it helps you realise which clothes you truly value and stops you buying clothes which aren’t really that special.
I think the main change has been ageing. In my early twenties I used to wear tighter clothing, but now I prefer loose-fitting items and I wear a woolly hat more often (to hide my growing bald patch). Since moving to California I’ve also lightened my wardrobe. Before I used to wear patterned shirts as my first layer, topped off with a plain shirt. Now I wear a plain T-shirt topped off with a patterned shirt.
I guess I already wear a strict uniform because the composition of my outfit rarely changes, even if the individual items do. I think I’m too restless and need too much stimulation to ever reduce my wardrobe to a simple uniform; even at home I’m constantly repainting, moving furniture around, experimenting, changing things. It frustrates my roommates but the change excites me.
Funnily enough, when I want to look attractive I generally eschew my day-to-day look and wear all black or navy (it makes me look a bit thinner, I think). I’m not sure I’m very sexy even at the best of times; I definitely look more friendly and approachable than seductive and alluring.
Shirts aside, everything else I wear is very practical and plain, such as large navy smocks, or beaten corduroys. Oversized cotton jackets and heavy workwear, boots, denim, thick woollen socks. Because I work on a farm a couple of days a week, and spend a lot of time making things, or being outdoors, I like clothes that look okay dirty. A friend said I dress like a third class passenger on the Titanic.