The future's bright

Colourful accessories will lighten your look - and your mood but very very careful about yellow, war

One of the trends for this coming summer is brights: big pinks, oranges, yellows, reds. I never believe in trend predictions until they actually descend upon me, like snowflakes. Nevertheless, I hope this one is accurate.

The most likely way that most of us will hold hands with this trend is through that most famous of fashion words: accessories. Men, of course, will have none of this bother. They can wear a bright tie or T-shirt, but otherwise they can go on, merry in their murky-coloured way (I say this without a hint of bitterness, just simple apple-green envy). For women, I can see bright patent pumps and bags being worn aplenty.

There is something rather joyous about wearing colour. Scientists pooh-pooh the colour psychologists, but as I'm not hindered by such qualifications, I can throw myself fully into believing all that stuff about colours being on different wavelengths and making us feel different things. There is something frivolous about wearing brights. For one, it rather goes against our puritan belief (which we hold strongly with regard to fashion, in this country) that everything should go with everything else. Well, clearly, if you buy a pair of orange wedges, they might not be friends with everything else in your wardrobe.

Equally, I feel I should warn people about yellow, which suits very few of us. But I've just spent most of the day in the garden, looking at signs of spring and tiny, pretty flowers peeking through the eight inches of leaves I didn't sweep up last autumn, and I feel hopeful. If you want to wear yellow, go right ahead.

I think a pair of red shoes would cheer up most people. When I was three (did you think you'd be free of my childhood reminiscences this week? You were wrong), I fell in love with a pair of red T-bar shoes in Whiteley's, the department store that was on our doorstep (it's now a shopping mall). Every day, on the way to the park, my mother and aunt and I would walk through Whiteley's and I would ask to go upstairs and look at these shoes. I remember very acutely how important they were to me, their colour like a flashbulb that lit up everything around them.

One day - a glorious day - my mother bought them for me. I thought I'd die of happiness. I brought them home and put them carefully on the floor and did nothing but stare at them and think of the times me and my little shoes would have together. They were optimistic shoes and seemingly built for fun, simply by virtue of their poppy colour. I can't remember much of our adventures together. They make an appearance, I think - difficult to tell with black-and-white photographs - in a birthday photo, but it's very likely the sheer amount of endorphins released at the moment of purchase rendered me amnesiac for some time after.

Annalisa Barbieri was in fashion PR for five years before going to the Observer to be fashion assistant. She has worked for the Evening Standard and the Times and was one of the fashion editors on the Independent on Sunday for five years, where she wrote the Dear Annie column. She was fishing correspondent of the Independent from 1997-2004.

This article first appeared in the 25 February 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Pakistan reborn

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The strange death of boozy Britain: why are young people drinking less?

Ditching alcohol for work.

Whenever horrific tales of the drunken escapades of the youth are reported, one photo reliably gets wheeled out: "bench girl", a young woman lying passed out on a public bench above bottles of booze in Bristol. The image is in urgent need of updating: it is now a decade old. Britain has spent that time moving away from booze.

Individual alcohol consumption in Britain has declined sharply. In 2013, the average person over 15 consumed 9.4 litres of alcohol, 19 per cent less than 2004. As with drugs, the decline in use among the young is particularly notable: the proportion of young adults who are teetotal increased by 40 per cent between 2005 and 2013. But decreased drinking is not only apparent among the young fogeys: 80 per cent of adults are making some effort to drink less, according to a new study by consumer trends agency Future Foundation. No wonder that half of all nightclubs have closed in the last decade. Pubs are also closing down: there are 13 per cent fewer pubs in the UK than in 2002. 

People are too busy vying to get ahead at work to indulge in drinking. A combination of the recession, globalisation and technology has combined to make the work of work more competitive than ever: bad news for alcohol companies. “The cost-benefit analysis for people of going out and getting hammered starts to go out of favour,” says Will Seymour of Future Foundation.

Vincent Dignan is the founder of Magnific, a company that helps tech start-ups. He identifies ditching regular boozing as a turning point in his career. “I noticed a trend of other entrepreneurs drinking three, four or five times a week at different events, while their companies went nowhere,” he says. “I realised I couldn't be just another British guy getting pissed and being mildly hungover while trying to scale a website to a million visitors a month. I feel I have a very slight edge on everyone else. While they're sleeping in, I'm working.” Dignan now only drinks occasionally; he went three months without having a drop of alcohol earlier in the year.

But the decline in booze consumption isn’t only about people becoming more work-driven. There have never been more alternate ways to be entertained than resorting to the bottle. The rise of digital TV, BBC iPlayer and Netflix means most people means that most people have almost limitless choice about what to watch.

Some social lives have also partly migrated online. In many ways this is an unfortunate development, but one upshot has been to reduce alcohol intake. “You don’t need to drink to hang out online,” says Dr James Nicholls, the author of The Politics of Alcohol who now works for Alcohol Concern. 

The sheer cost of boozing also puts people off. Although minimum pricing on booze has not been introduced, a series of taxes have made alcohol more expensive, while a ban on below-cost selling was introduced last year. Across the 28 countries of the EU, only Ireland has higher alcohol and tobacco prices than the UK today; in 1998 prices in the UK were only the fourth most expensive in the EU.

Immigration has also contributed to weaning Britain off booze. The decrease in alcohol consumption “is linked partly to demographic trends: the fall is largest in areas with greater ethnic diversity,” Nicholls says. A third of adults in London, where 37 per cent of the population is foreign born, do not drink alcohol at all, easily the highest of any region in Britain.

The alcohol industry is nothing if not resilient. “By lobbying for lower duty rates, ramping up their marketing and developing new products the big producers are doing their best to make sure the last ten years turn out to be a blip rather than a long term change in culture,” Nicholls says.

But whatever alcohol companies do to fight back against the declining popularity of booze, deep changes in British culture have made booze less attractive. Forget the horrific tales of drunken escapades from Magaluf to the Bullingdon Club. The real story is of the strange death of boozy Britain. 

Tim Wigmore is a contributing writer to the New Statesman and the author of Second XI: Cricket In Its Outposts.