Nihal Arthanayake talks ‘choosing sensibility over style’ — off the record
Growing older, I struggle to find my sartorial balance. I look around at so many men of my age with a mixture of fear and disgust. Fear that I, too, will stop caring about how I look, and disgust that they have accepted how society has told them to dress. They have acquiesced to the pragmatism of comfort over cut, sensibility over style, blandness over even basic swagger.
While I have no intention of Alan Partridging myself, I have to avoid ‘Vicar In Trainers syndrome’ at all costs. This is where everything you do, say, and wear, exhibits an unnatural need to cling onto a long bygone youth by attempting to be hip to someone less than half your own age, in a desperate bid for acceptance.
WORD ON THE STREET
Now, if you grew up embedded in hip-hop culture you will probably be alright, because you understand a love of trainers (don’t call them ‘creps’ if you are over 35), street terminology and rap music (go and discover Kendrick Lamar and stop banging on about early 90s rap being the best).
If you didn’t, then you have a steep mountain to climb to find your stylish self, but you can do it. Buy some high street trousers and visit a tailor, who can adjust them for you. Think about what excited you about clothes when you were a teenager. Just resist the urge to conform.
As mortgages and kids take over, don’t lose yourself to the daily grind. You don’t need to give up on how you look. Having been a Radio 1 and 1xtra DJ for over a decade, I believe I constantly sip from the fountain of cultural relevancy. This means that I still collect and wear trainers, still go to see grime artists and still like to play music really loud in my car and head nod to it while waiting for the lights to change. But there has to be balance. I cannot, for instance, walk into Top Man – just walking past one makes me feel old. When I see ads for clothes and the garments are draped over boy models who would have had to ask their mums to borrow the money to pay for them, I know they are not for me.
THE THINKING MAN’S BOTOX
Since moving to Manchester, I’ve begun to wonder if the clothing choices I make are like an outer layer of Botox, attempting to smooth out the wrinkles of everyday casual wear. I feel strange at the school gates as the other dads shuffle by drenched in normality. There are, however, some definitive ‘no-nos’.
As I get closer to 50 than 40, I want to manage ageing well. If there is a crisis of masculinity, as some maintain there is, being relaxed in the face of our changing roles is essential.
Relaxed but not supine, take an interest in how you look without becoming a slave to others’ opinions. And if you see me and hate what I am wearing that’s fine, as long as you’ve accepted all of the above and don’t look like a throwback geography teacher.