I’m standing outside a “work clothing” shop on Streatham high street. One of those places that sells high vis jackets, CAT boots, hard hats, etc, where health and safety meets – in my opinion – haute couture. Pupils dilated to accommodate the full magnitude of its beauty; I’m staring into the window at a blue boiler suit. Every molecule of my being is urging me to take all of my clothes, dump them on a bonfire and replace them with three or four of these garments. Like a cartoon character, I would rarely – if ever – be seen in anything else. Because, at a time when I’ve started to give up on looking “nice”, the blue boiler suit represents the ultimate sartorial freedom.
Clothes don’t suit me. As a lesbian, I occupy a no (wo)man’s land between butch and femme, in which (if I’m attending, say, a wedding) both suits and dresses make me look and feel like I’m in drag. The only outfit I’m truly comfortable in is something my mum used to call “a leisure pant” and one of my dad’s old, tent-sized t-shirts. Mostly this look is confined to my house although I have – once or twice – exhibited it at my local Co-op. And it seems I couldn’t have picked a better time to stop making an effort with my appearance. While sales of high heels are way down in recent years, “dad trainers” are – apparently – coveted. So in the ultimate “fuck you” to heels, women aren’t just opting for comfortable footwear, we’re choosing the ugliest shoes on the market: anti-heels, if you will. These trainers are like righteous tantrums for your feet, and either they represent a pro-foot blip in an industry bent on maiming women, or a quiet revolution.
So is it possible the fashion industry has finally acknowledged the merits of looking a little bit shit? From toned Instagrammers with six-figure follower counts to the actual dads for whom these trainers were intended: no one looks good in them. Aesthetically, they fall somewhere close to “paedo chic” (see those 70s style glasses that look like aviators with clear lenses). I said it first: “giving up entirely” is the new black. And I, for one, couldn’t be happier. Fostering either masculinity or femininity in how you dress requires effort, and the more “amorphous sack” becomes a respected look, the freer we are to focus on important things like global devastation and Twitter beef.
Leopard print flats are hardly dad trainers, but Theresa May’s choice to shun “killer heels” when meeting with the CEO of IBM was deemed worthy of a tweet by the Telegraph’s chief political correspondent. Aside from the fact that heels are only “killer” because they are the shoes most likely to literally kill you, maybe even the PM is onto something with the “sensible” footwear. Foot-wise, nothing would say “Brexit negotiations” quite like a pair of chunky, slightly discoloured Reeboks. It’s almost comforting to see that “everything is terrible” is developing its own uniform, and that uniform begins with a pair of rail replacement buses strapped to your feet.
I can only hope that dad trainers are a gateway drug to other dadwear, and that we are about to be exposed to a Jenner in a fleece. There’s something a little bit radical about choosing comfort over style. Until, of course, comfort becomes style. Meanwhile, I’ll be biding my time until it becomes fully socially acceptable for me to carry out my boiler suit plan. Because, while the world collapses around us, we should at the very least not have to put up with chafing.