All of Dave’s jeans (four pairs) - which I bought in a January sale 5 years ago - have worn out at the same time. This is an emergency. He wears jeans 99.9% of the time, and owns just one pair of smart trousers (Hugo Boss, no less) that were hand-me-downs from Isaac when he moved to the USA in 2003. As a stop gap I have given him my over-sized dungarees that I bought in Colorado last autumn.
You know I hate shopping, don’t you? It isn’t that Dave hates shopping, it’s that he doesn’t know how it works. He thinks that if he sits on the sofa by the fire in the evening and says his clothing is at crisis point, and he really has to get some new jeans organised, they will materialise in the chest of drawers upstairs.
He has the same problem with his underpants. I used to shop for Dave’s clothes, but it is a dispiriting sport. Where do you think all the jokes about jeans and pants spring from in Plotting for Grown-ups?
exhibit 1: the problem with jeans
Richard called at lunchtime and I showed him a pair of jeans I’d bought in the Scouts jumble sale. They are just Richard’s size, and they look quite hip to me.
He tried them on and said precisely what I expected: “The waist is far too low.” Richard spends the entire day hitching whatever pair of trousers he is wearing up round his waist, and these wouldn't go high enough for his liking. They weren't the kind that exposes your pants, they were merely an inch lower than the M&S seconds he bought off Bakewell market five years ago. “I want something more robust,” he said.
“They are robust!”
“I'm looking for something more workaday. I need something that genuflects less to fashion and more to safety and comfort.”
“But you’re trying to look attractive to women, aren’t you?” I said.
He pulled up his sweatshirt and exposed the flesh above the waistband. “This low waistband is an outrageous ploy to dupe the consumer. Dickies don't skimp on material like this.” (Richard worships Dickies work clothes because “they are commodious, they shrug off stains, and they have wonderful pocketry.”)
“These jeans make you look ten years younger, Richard.”
“I don't think I'll be wearing them,” he said, vainly trying to hitch them up high again. “They look like a high risk trouser. Edgy.”
exhibit 2: the problem with pants
He got up from his chair (we were sitting in the kitchen) and tugged at the seat of his trousers. Then he sat down again and said, “Some of my underpants are terrible. It’s as if they’re alive – I can feel them creeping down my thighs. I need to cull them.”
“What you need to do when you get home is get them all out of your drawer, and lay them all out on the bed and go through them, one by–”
“I am going through them! That’s the trouble! But where can I get some decent ones? I have had it up to here with M&S Y-fronts. They’re hopeless!”
What is it about men and their underpants?
“You need to get something that isn’t a standard Y-front, something a bit more 2011-ish. Especially now you’re on the pull. I mean – what would Ms Fuchsia Pink think of them?”
“This is where Dickies could pounce,” he said. “They ought to be calling in their top designers, even as we speak.”
“So what do you think the perfect underpant needs?”
“Security, material that shrugs off stains, adequate ventilation – possibly assisted – and a reliable fastening. It’s about time persons of quality gave their attention to the comfort and protection of the nation’s manhood. Paxman tried a few years ago – do you remember all that kerfuffle on the Today programme? Nothing happened. Next thing you know, Prince Charles will be muscling in with the Poundbury Pant and the Prince’s Truss.”
There are several problems – as you can see - but the main one is that he thinks good quality jeans and woollen jumpers cost under £10. You, dear readers, may be able to source such prizes, but out in the sticks the discount stores are few. I have brought home too many items in the past that have been rejected on grounds of cost.
I’m waiting to see who will crack first – him or me.