April 7, 2009
Fatso funny-man and all-round affable bloke Rodney Dangerfield unleashed a cracking novelty rap tune in the early eighties called “Rappin’ Rodney”, whereby the voracious RD noted that “it ain’t easy being me”.
It’s a predicament I find myself in on more than one occasion on a weekly basis now that I’m a veritable hotshot around town. The instant fame and all its trappings that the previous two issues of [crude] have brought me now means that I can’t stroll down William Street without getting recognised; heck, I’m even more infamous than yer man with the button accordion just off Cruises Street.
Herein lies the problem – I could be just trying to keep it real at the launch of some knobbish art show or queuing up for a bag of chips when from out of nowhere, local paps pop out understandably wanting me to adorn their social pages. Now, I can strike a side pose something fierce my friends, but when it happens everytime I leave chez Crankypants, it can become somewhat troubling. Yes, I’m a media slut and revel in the exposure, but my wardrobe can no longer handle this. I need a new look.
After finding out that [crude] sent a crack team of banjournalists (lady writers – yup they exist and after the sexual harassment seminar at [crude] HQ, the Captain can’t say anything untoward about them) to cover a local fashion show, I started to think could there be inspiration from Limerick through the ages that would make me more fashionable? Afterall, this is the city that approximately 65 million years ago spawned Celia Holman Lee and her sidekick Hillary Thompson, two ladies doomed to less and less column inches now that I’m the toast of the town.
Like the aforementioned late Rodney Dangerfield, I can clear a buffet quite easily, am a fairly handy man with the drinks, and most importantly, I can be quite the loud dresser when required. Nonetheless, I’ve decided against rocking the wacky dress code that Rodney sported in the classic comedy Caddyshack. As it is, George Hook seems to have cornered the Irish market for outlandish blazers and putrid ties, and perhaps I can look more locally for fashionistas.
I wonder that if Limerick really is a lady, does she have a woman’s touch when it comes to kitting me on in stylish threads, or would she dress me up like a dirty-faced young pup spruced up for First Communion day? And if the next decade will see a proper nineties revival, should I just get ahead of the pack? Starting to reminisce on the early to mid nineties, I wonder was Limerick any different when it came to any other city fashion-wise or was it a case that we followed the flock of sheep donned out in X-Worx jeans and other such crimes against fashion?
While perhaps not unique to Limerick, the blissful days of the nineties saw the city awash with NAFF Jackets and Johnny Brubaker hoodies. The NAFF jackets suffered with the unfortunate and incorrectly spelt acronym of Nackers Asking For Food and the lesser-known but nonetheless equally as politically incorrect one of Nazism-and-Fun-Frolics. Johnny Brubaker on the other side was essentially the poor man’s Tommy Hilfiger; it simultaneously looked similar to Tommy H’s gear and still managed to look horrendously tacky and cheap. Unsurprisingly, it was an enormous hit with back-of-a-lorry type merchants and locals alike.
However, times have changed. Not just rich kids can lash on the Tommy H and Ralph Lauren anymore, and the boundaries have been somewhat blurred when it comes to class and choice of style in Limerick. Again, this is something not distinct to our chic locale.
Afterall a Ben Sherman shirt would have been a sure-fire sign that you were a skinhead back in the day. Nowadays, the likelihood is that it is the Saturday night selection of a hulk of a man from the Eastern part of the county that herds cattle during the day, drinks pint bottles of cider and dances to The Saw Doctors at night, and is a rollicking full-back for his club’s Junior B hurling team at weekends. Likewise, anybody can jump on the rugby bandwagon, and clobber from the folks at Canterbury can be seen wrapped around all sorts.
Of course, Limerick’s more rough around the edges (but still pretty sound dudes if they happen to read this article) characters have had other fabulous forays into individualistic style. The tearaway tracksuit pants, with buttons the whole way up the side may be fading out, but the practicalities of them should not be disregarded. For one, if you harboured ambitions to be a super-hero, they’d allow you to change into your costume in a jiffy (perhaps, the Superman underpants-wearing football Stephen Ireland is a fan of the tearaways?). More importantly for some of our more industrious citizens, it may be quite useful if you managed to get caught on a fence or the likes while trying to escape the fuzz.
However, the option of reviving a tearaway trackie/Johnny B combo for me is a non-runner; as someone who could probably attend the most exclusive of local parties sporting just a wife-beater, Italia ’90 shorts, flip-flops and marigold gloves and still look cool, I should really respect the dress codes endorsed by the respectable venue proprietors of our city. Afterall, I need to set an example.
Likewise, I can’t succumb to perhaps the most cutting-edge of Limerick fashion that sees folks (usually young males, many in desperate need of a dose of Clearasil or perhaps something more industrial) tuck their tracksuit pants into their socks, usually white ones also. Not only is it ingenious on a purely aesthetic level, particularly when some element of a tilted baseball cap is added to the mix, it conjures up imagery of proper gangsters from LA, whereby the Crips and the Bloods almost dress in uniform. On top of this, our savvy mid-Western boyos are practical too – they obviously don’t want to dirty the bottom of their tracksuits, and probably regularly stock up on 12 pairs of socks for €2 in Guiney’s so they don’t ever really need the use of a washing machine.
It is not just the Limerick man that is at the forefront of innovative fashion. The talk of the town these days is over Lady Gaga regularly trotting around in her underpants. Ms Gaga, the fair maidens of this city have been ahead of you for years. While some seem to have issues with keeping their pants up to their waists (although, in fairness, this is not unique to lady-folk), others seem quite content to wander into the local Spar and pick up a pint of a milk, 20 Superkings and a Choc-Ice while wearing little more than their pyjamas, and we ain’t talking some kind of silk or sophisticated ones here. Nope, Primark cotton pyjamas bottoms are such a regular occurrence in supermarkets here that nobody bats an eyelid anymore. With that in mind, Lady Gaga wouldn’t have a chance if she tried to offend the good burgers of Limerick.
My meagre attempts to critique local fashion have left me none-the-wiser in my quest to reinvent myself, particularly for my regular flushes with paparazzi. A pair of nice slacks and a sweater-vest may seem conservative to some but for the Captain, it is almost a trademark look when I flash a smile and notch up another appearance in the Limerick Post’s out-and-about column.
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I know a guy who still does a mean trade in flogging imported NAFF jackets. Who’s with me in bringing back Limerick’s giddy clothing elegance?
* First published April 2009