A COLOURFUL MAN IMPRISONED IN A GREY MAN, WILDLY SIGNALLING TO BE LET OUT

New York, 31 December 2012

A few weeks ago, I was watching a French TV show in Beijing called Nicolas Le Floch. This is a detective series set in France in the late 1700’s. It’s really quite amusing to see the detective genre unfolding in such an incongruous setting. But actually I mention the show for an altogether different reason: as I followed the tortuous plot, I was struck en route by how colourful the men’s clothes were in that period, as this still from one of the shows attests

floch-colourful clothes

Just to make the point, I throw in a few photos of portrait paintings from the period:

17thC-1

17thC-2

17thC-3

17thC-4

And to top it all, in France at least the men wore make-up! This still is of Le Floch’s boss, the chief of police:

floch-made-up-man

Quite a change from Inspector Japp of the Poirot series …

inspector japp

This blaze of bright men’s clothing made me reflect on the dullness of my own wardrobe. All my official clothes – those I wear for work – are of subdued colouration: grey or discrete browns, greens and dark blues. The vast majority of my shirts are white, with one or two blue ones. The only way I can exhibit my love of colour in an official setting is through my ties, of which I have collected a large assortment over my career. Even the clothes I wear in my private life are modest in their colouration; I can boast of a few brightly coloured T-shirts and that’s it.

I merely reflect the sartorial conventions of our times. Today’s serious men do not wear colours, as these pictures of the powerful bear out.

The new Chinese leadership (although note the discrete dash of colour in the ties):

Politburo

A lineup of the G8:

G8: TUTTI LEADER A COPPITO, VERTICE L'AQUILA

A lineup of the EU heads of state:

EU

Why this greyness, this dullness, this soberness? I am no historian of fashion, but I am sure that the answer lies in this: serious men, the thinking goes, do not wear colours. Brightly coloured clothes denote ditziness, frivolity and general silliness. A man in brightly coloured clothes cannot possibly balance a budget or write a piece of legislation or do any of those other serious things required of him. I mean, can you imagine these men running a company or a government? Please!

red suit

light blue suit

indian colourful jacket

coloured clothes

The only time I can think of in my lifetime when men went around in clothes vaguely resembling those of the eighteenth century was the 1960s when flower power burst upon the scene:

carnaby street-1

carnaby street-2

These two suits come from the Victoria and Albert’s collections:

sixties-suit-2

sixties-suit-4

But the people who wore these clothes were completely unserious people, people who were into drugs, sex, and rock and roll, as the album covers of the time amply demonstrate:

beatles-sgt pepper album cover

beatles-yellow submarine

rolling stones

Jimi Hendrix

PinkFloyd-album-piperatthegatesofdawn

So I suppose in my lifetime, if I want to be taken seriously, which I do, I will be condemned to wearing dull coloured clothes, with only a dash of colour in my ties. I will, paraphrasing Cyril Connolly’s famous phrase, be a colourful man imprisoned in a grey man, wildly signalling to be let out.

___________________
Floch colourful clothes: http://images.allocine.fr/r_640_600/b_1_d6d6d6/medias/nmedia/18/81/96/02/19955662.JPG
18thC-1: http://i47.tinypic.com/2j4tvl0.jpg
18thC-2: http://i47.tinypic.com/mwz14n.jpg
18thC-3: http://i48.tinypic.com/atp6l2.jpg
18thC-4: http://i50.tinypic.com/e6q1d1.jpg
Floch made-up face: http://cdn.static.ovimg.com/episode/3270971.jpg
Inspector Japp: http://ic.pics.livejournal.com/phantomphan1990/11963571/118817/118817_original.gif
Politburo: http://l2.yimg.com/bt/api/res/1.2/afKIpJHhH4TpWmLewt8S6A–/YXBwaWQ9eW5ld3M7Zmk9aW5zZXQ7aD0xMDI0O3E9Nzk7dz0xNjYw/http://media.zenfs.com/en_us/News/Reuters/2012-11-15T044703Z_283609896_GM1E8BF0ZB101_RTRMADP_3_CHINA-CONGRESS.JPG
G8: http://www.google.com/imgres?q=G8+photo&hl=en&tbo=d&biw=1280&bih=683&tbm=isch&tbnid=SPoOXwx3iorBWM:&imgrefurl=http://www.g8italia2009.it/G8/Home/Media/Foto/G8-G8_Layout_locale-1199882116809_1246708086733.htm&docid=_9F5adpgS1UWjM&imgurl=http://www.g8italia2009.it/static/G8_Foto/_MB24968.jpg&w=3000&h=1870&ei=z1rgUM6-LNO40AHFtIC4Ag&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=161&vpy=295&dur=8059&hovh=177&hovw=284&tx=173&ty=111&sig=109352013111727269517&page=1&tbnh=141&tbnw=215&start=0&ndsp=24&ved=1t:429,r:7,s:0,i:108
EU: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/05/24/article-2149193-13413A49000005DC-413_634x252.jpg
Red suit: http://kontraplan.com/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Lanvin-Mens-SS12-Collection-kontraPLAN-magazine-6.jpg
Light blue suit: http://www.thestyleking.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Coloured-Suits.jpg
Indian colourful jacket: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/photo/10019988.cms
Coloured clothes: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-QuyZgxyFQ70/T-xNoZ-tloI/AAAAAAABK3M/5orvLpQt_0o/s1600/Milan+Mens+Fashion+Week+Salvatore+Ferragamo+Spring:Summer+2013+Runway+Show_0143.JPG
Carnaby street-1: http://media.vam.ac.uk/media/website/uploads/images/2006BE8980_carnaby_street.jpg
Carnaby street-2: http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2082/2128638387_ae4fb5b36a_z.jpg?zz=1
Sixties suit VA-2: http://media.vam.ac.uk/media/thira/collection_images/2006AW/2006AW4489_jpg_ds.jpg
Sixties suit VA-4: http://media.vam.ac.uk/media/thira/collection_images/2006AB/2006AB6007_jpg_ds.jpg
Sgt Pepper album cover: http://greatalbumcovers.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/album-covers-bealtes-1.jpg
Yellow submarine album cover: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-YgGhq-2XQ8E/T9kztOsJPwI/AAAAAAAAC4k/VeHN6M72Tqg/s1600/The+Beatles+-+Yellow+Submarine.jpg
Rolling stones: http://pokingsmot.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/The-Rolling-Stones-Their-Satanic-Majesties-Request-Album-Art-468×411.jpg
Jimi Hendrix: http://www.rockstargallery.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Hendrix-AYE-Front-Cover.jpg
Pink Floyd: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/3c/PinkFloyd-album-piperatthegatesofdawn_300.jpg

Published by

Abellio

I like writing, but I’ve spent most of my life writing about things that don’t particularly interest me. Finally, as I neared the age of 60, I decided to change that. I wanted to write about things that interested me. What really interests me is beauty. So I’ve focused this blog on beautiful things. I could be writing about a formally beautiful object in a museum. But it could also be something sitting quietly on a shelf. Or it could be just a fleeting view that's caught my eye, or a momentary splash of colour-on-colour at the turn of the road. Or it could be a piece of music I've just heard. Or a piece of poetry. Or food. And I’m sure I’ve missed things. But I’ll also write about interesting things that I hear or read about. Isn't there a beauty about things pleasing to the mind? I started just writing, but my wife quickly persuaded me to include photos. I tried it and I liked it. So my posts are now a mix of words and pictures, most of which I find on the internet. What else about me? When I first started this blog, my wife and I lived in Beijing where I was head of the regional office of the UN Agency I worked for. So at the beginning I wrote a lot about things Chinese. Then we moved to Bangkok, where again I headed up my Agency's regional office. So for a period I wrote about Thailand and South-East Asia more generally. But we had lived in Austria for many years before moving to China, and anyway we both come from Europe my wife is Italian while I'm half English, half French - so I often write about things European. Now I'm retired and we've moved back to Europe, so I suppose I will be writing a lot more about the Old Continent, interspersed with posts we have gone to visit. What else? We have two grown children, who had already left the nest when we moved to China, but they still figure from time to time in my posts. I’ll let my readers figure out more about me from reading what I've written. As these readers will discover, I really like trees. So I chose a tree - an apple tree, painted by the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt - as my gravatar. And I chose Abellio as my name because he is the Celtic God of the apple tree. I hope you enjoy my posts. http://ipaintingsforsale.com/UploadPic/Gustav Klimt/big/Apple Tree I.jpg

4 thoughts on “A COLOURFUL MAN IMPRISONED IN A GREY MAN, WILDLY SIGNALLING TO BE LET OUT”

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