Gill Smith
Gill Smith - Comedy Writer & Performer

Gill's Journal, Issue

Quarterly magazine of The ARM Club the Leading Independant
RISC OS Computer User Club.
Sartorial disasters have been in the papers regularly recently. Eureka, ever on top of the big news, has been keeping an eye out for you. Of course, weíre all bored by the usual flurry of awards party "what was she wearing?" comments, but the most popular, and new target to insult has to be Pop Idol judge, Simon Callow.

Of course, the true spod wont have heard of him, due to only watching things on their computer. Trust me, though, the papers have been very excited by his wearing his trousers on the high side. The waist level would be considered ĎEmpire lineí on a woman, which means just below the bust. Sadly for Simon, itís much more flattering if you do have some bust.

I was initially a little concerned about the poor man. Then I realised that actually, some people donít feel the need to have a Psion and a mobile strapped either side of the belt, so Mr Callowís armpits shouldnít be suffering from technology-rash. Presumably he has one of these new, ridiculously small phones that just have to go in a trouser pocket, because on a belt, you have to keep explaining that no, theyíre not a Star Trek Communicator.

Gill looks us over and explains everything the best dresses spod needs to know to stay confidently in style for any occasion and look right in any company.
These phones are not, however, an excuse to stop wearing belts. I know your Psion is now all unbalanced, but the one thing the technology revolution has done for the spodís fashion sense, is bring back belts. They make the difference between actually wearing clothes, and merely being in the midst of a set of them. The belt. Combining technology and style.

I think, before I start insulting spod sartorial elegance, I should be fair and look at the pluses. For one, I may be wrong (do correct me if I am!), but I doubt any spods reading this actually wore leg warmers, in the eighties or otherwise. This is mainly because most of you are male, and werenít members of new romantic bands. I suppose you might have tried ballet... oh no, thatís a bit close to getting exercise!

Did ear warmers pass you by? Well done. My school actually felt the need to tell us which colours were acceptable, they were so popular (phew, my white ones were fine!) Quite a worry really. Maybe it was this particular fashion mistake that meant I got too used to having warm ears, hence the penchant for hats.

But fashion didnít just pass the spoddy sorts by in the eighties when they were busy getting the Sinclair spectrum or Acorn electron to do a complicated maths puzzle (please, play the games, like the rest of us!) Oh no.

My grandfather once enjoyed a freak moment of fashion, and owns a kipper tie. When I say kipper, this one was is wide, it was probably used for clubbing the kippers to death when the trawlers came back in. Anyone admitting to owning one? And what about flares? Thank goodness the price of denim went up soon after!

I gather thereís a set of jokes going around the internet about dress sense. I havenít seen it, (Donít send it - Iím perfectly happy that way!) but I thought Iíd come up with a few practical tips for the Ďnoughtiesí spod.

Briefly, letís deal with the few women spods. I wont dedicate a lot of time to these poor few, as, ladies, youíre rare enough that if anyone challenges your dress sense, you can claim to be unique. No one could argue with that.

I believe the internet joke advice for women is Ďwear shorter skirts and lower cut tops.í Iím thinking, donít. Please? I mean, this is assuming you share the traits of a male spod, and last took exercise back in í83. That may well be 1883.

You also, presumably, do not go on holiday to sunbathe. Iím sure many of you who could face the technological inaccuracies of "The Net" wondered why Sandra Bullock risked getting sand in her laptop. Didnít her hotel have a room, and a table and chair? So Iím assuming your tan is that lovely shade of monitor glow. Iím sorry, I just canít see that having a cleavage that glows quite that green would count as attractive. Except, perhaps, to moths.

But on the other hand, as a woman spod - or spodess - you do not have to dress exactly as your male counterparts do. For starters, due to having hips, there is a chance you have a waist, and skirts (remember them?) and trousers... OK then, jeans, can sit safely on your waist. No need to hitch them up to your chin. But of course, letting them slip until you look like a builder is not a good look either. For men, women, or builders.

Another either-gender clothing disaster has to be the Red Dwarf T-Shirt. Donít get me wrong; I love Red Dwarf. I even went to a book signing by Rob Grant. And Iím certainly not recommending the Catís idea of cool. No. But you know the T-Shirts with the stars all over them? Little white dots all across your shoulders... not a good look. And a waste of the head & shoulders to clear up your scalp problem, then fake it on a T-Shirt.

Stick to the UNIX gag T-shirts. They may make no sense to anyone other than other spods, but at least they donít make you look as though youíve moved from dandruff to mild leprosy. There are so many other T-Shirts you can wear. Please do so!

Actually, Iím not a big fan of T-Shirts anyway. When theyíre new, they look great. But after about three washes (thatíll be three visits from your Mum) so many start to look like something better used for cleaning the car.

The shape they used to have becomes stretched everywhere. Unless they started off a little tight, and then, wouldnít you know it, they become something a Barbie doll couldnít fit her amble assets into. The colour starts to leave, turning into washed up grey. Whether you started from white or black, they eventually meet in the middle, and that just isnít anyoneís most flattering colour. Even with a luminous screen glow.

Of course, shirts and most trousers, other than jeans, need ironing. Youíll just have to invite your mother for the whole weekend. Jeans donít need ironing, so please donít let her. I do recommend a sharp crease down the front of each leg on most trousers. They imply that you know a good dry cleaner.

But on jeans, please donít. Firstly, once creased, they never go, so you will end up with ironed in stripes if your poor mother doesnít manage to hit the same line twice. Secondly, these are Ďcasualí trousers. They shouldnít look as smart as that other pair you wear for job interviews, funerals and the company Christmas do. (In descending order of Ďfuní levels.)

Another thing with jeans. They are a rare clothing item that it is acceptable if theyíre older than you are. But this should be a fashion thing, with carefully positioned slits to show off your muscular legs, and possibly even tightened up from the sixties, to no longer be flared. Tight jeans showing off rippling muscles? Youíre a spod - stick to new jeans.

Talking of age of garment, trainers. I think that says it all, but I know youíll need an explanation. Trainers. They really shouldnít be the ones your father got for you when you were seven, and he still had hopes of a son whoíd play for United. You should have thrown those away well before he started to despair of having a Grandson who gets an England cap.

Trainers, I personally believe, should be for sport. That means real exercise. Oh, Iím not crazy enough to expect you to take up squash. (The sport, not travelling on the tube.) Iím not even asking you to jog to work - for the sake of your poor workmates! No. But the odd long walk, just to justify owning them? Time spent dithering in a square, deciding which bar to go into does not fit in this category, although the advantage that this rules out a few bars with smart dress codes may make up for it... no, it doesnít. Sorry.

Now, I know itís very popular to slate wearing Simpsons ties, or Wallace and Grommit socks. I donít mind the socks at all. Iím hoping your nice smart shoes and crisply ironed trousers will cover any particularly bad jokes. Do mind where you wear any with musical components - "Deck the hall with boughs of holly; Tis the season to be jollyí never really seems appropriate at funerals. And "Doh" going off after every word the boss says tends not to improve important meetings. Or at least, not your take-home-pay.

I donít actually mind the ties that much. I mean, yes, theyíre a bit sad, but I think it depends on the individual tie, and taste. Simple small logos repeated look from a distance like a mildly tasteless paisley, so thatís fine. Big pictures can look bad, but more importantly, avoiding text is a big plus. Thereís nothing worse than trying to read someoneís tie, and frustratedly failing, thanks to jam doughnut stains.

Toby does actually own a Dilbert tie. His excuse for it is that it was a Christmas present from my little brother. At a mere twelve, my brother settled into the male approach to shopping, and regularly does the lot on Christmas Eve, hoping not to be too near you when you open his gift. At least he gets something faintly related to the person. Iím still not sure what my other brother was trying to say with the large gourd-like thing that might, apparently, once have been a Kenyan musical instrument. Or a way Kenyans fleeced the tourists.

I have noticed, though, a nasty trend to design shirts with cartoon characters on them. This is a Very Bad Thing. Shirts are for those times when you want to look - to the boss, some woman you want to impress, or just to prove you can - like a mature, sensible adult. Youíre trying to look like a man who shops more than tri-annually, has his PEPs and ISAs in order, and can conduct a conversation about the state of the Middle East, without needing to telnet in to a news site. Donít ruin this impression by giving away that the most important woman in your life is Eric Cartmanís mother.

But what about when a spod is out and about. No, not on the World Wide Web, I mean the real world. Popping to Sainsburyís... no, they deliver. Seeing your mates... oh no. Grabbing a Chinese takeaway? Actually, weíve just got a leaflet for one that delivers. To your text message specifications. I havenít tried it yet, but itís got to be worth a go!

No, but on those rare occasions when you venture out of your air conditioned server room, for whatever reason, and canít just leap straight in to your climate controlled car, what then? Just promise me it wont be an anorak. Please? I was once told by a course-mate of Tobyís "you can keep your whole life in an anorak." Clearly I have more of a life, because mine needs a handbag.

No, the not-too-formal-outer-wear garment to go for should be a jacket. ĎJacketí covers a broad spectrum, and there should be something to suit you. These range from tasselled leather things to make you look like a biker who fell off, to suit type jackets (known for reasons that arenít clear as Ďsports jacketsí - donít let the name put you off.) There are all sorts of other jackets, some less cool than others. Fleeces are good, although they started off as jackets for sporty people, going walking, so be careful where you wear them, or someone might try to persuade you to exercise.

If youíre really feeling like impressing the boss, a long winter coat in a dark colour - navy, dark grey, black - can look particularly smart. A well cut garment that suits you could even fool them into thinking you have a sense of style. To continue this impersonation of someone fashionable, do stop wearing it once the weather warms up. It just doesnít look right when everyone else is sweltering in bikinis.

Of course, this assumes you need a coat at all, and arenít happiest at server room temperature. (Two below freezing, if Tobyís is anything to go by. Itís not good being able to see your breath when you go to pick up a print out!) If you are, the best way then to pretend to be cool, is not wear a jacket at all, and fake a Geordie accent. People will think youíre hard, rather than sad. Worth a try, except round real Geordies, who will then put you into a nice cool hospital.

But to round up, I feel I should explain the distinction between fashion, and style. They are not both just "someone elseís problem," Iím afraid. However, thankfully, you do not need to be in fashion to have style, and if you are in the latest fashions, chances are, (and Iím rashly assuming Iím not addressing too many supermodels here) you have no style.

Fashion may be strange creations ambling down the catwalks, made up of feathers, fur, or not very much at all. I canít recommend wearing these. Managing to not look like a total fool in the latest trends is a skill, and thatís why models are highly paid. You are highly paid for your technical skills. Itís the same idea, but not, when allís said and done, the same thing. Not at all.

Style is about how you look, and wearing standard, normal clothes well. Sadly, no one offers outsize salaries for it, and if you over do it, you may get mistaken for a salesman. But before you scream and cry, remember this. Women do talk to salesmen. "Get lost" is a step in the right direction...

So here are my top ten tips for managing just a little bit of style:

  1. There is such a thing as too much hair gel. (My little brother has now hit 17!)
  2. Having all your clothes in the same shade of faded black does make a fashion statement, but itís not a good one.
  3. Belts. In the words of Nike (sports shoes, I know, youíve never heard of them) "Just do it."
  4. Waists are cunningly designed for being where trousers sit. Ignoring Simon Callow, and to the other extreme, I donít think Ďhipstersí are for you, try waist height. If you donít know where your waist is, ask your mum next time sheís round doing the washing.
  5. Anything that makes you look as if you have an affliction, from dandruff to falling over a lot and shredding your jacket into tassels is a bad idea.
  6. Shorts are only excusable in summer abroad. In this country, we donít get the weather to justify extra strong sunglasses to stop your shiny white legs blinding us.
  7. If a jacket has more pockets than a snooker hall, while it may be very handy for your mobile, pager, PDA... donít do it. More importantly, youíll just look deformed if you actually use too many.
  8. Doctor Martens shoes may have been an early nineties fad, but theyíre still fine to wear, so long as you have polished them sometime in the last decade. No other shoes that old are justifiable. (And I assume, unlike me, you did eventually grow into all that extra space your mum insisted on!)
  9. Ironing. It may not be fun, but thatís the dry cleanerís or laundretteís problem.
  10. If you arenít playing sport, take great care about wearing sports gear... from trainers to tracksuits, you just know that someone will try to make you run. And I donít want to have to polish my DMs for your funeral.

Written by Gill Smith, © Published Summer 2002 Reproduced with permission.