Flamingo chicks are born grey. Their feathers only turn pink when their parents start to feed them. And as the parents begin to care for their young, their own lurid plumage fades.
I think I know how this feels.
I’ve never boasted a lurid plumage but since fatherhood my hair has thinned to the point that a small wispy island has appeared at the front. Behind it, a bay of baldness is spreading backwards. Dispiritingly it seems to be growing off-centre so it looks like my remaining hair has been put on wonky. Of course while my own hair scarpers, my sons’ locks have thickened from their fine baby curls to luxuriant barnets, sarcastic and mocking.
The flamingo-fade has happened to me on an even less literal level. My wardrobe has splintered into two distinct sections. There are smart clothes for work. And there are filth-ridden rags for looking after my children. Most of which carry the historical stains of spewed breakfasts, snot-trails, and puddle splash. These days I may as well dress myself in tarpaulin.
I have a coat which exists only to be caked in mud. It’s my mud coat. When I bought it the coat was spruce and stylish. I had a relatively robust social life back then and I used to swish the coat about as I hit the town. Now it is just worn to operate children outdoors. So it serves both as a grime-shield and as a metaphor for my life.
I think about clothes less these days. Partly through a lack of time and energy. Partly through a lack of available funds. I used to regard clothes as a means of achieving marginally more success with women, a shit peacock with a Top Man tail. But since I’ve snuggled myself into a safe loving marriage I have become complacent. Which is probably why my wife wants me to make more of an effort. My current look can probably be described as ‘distressed’.
I like clothes. But I don’t like buying clothes. I get paranoid in clothes shops. I imagine that the salespeople are watching me and quietly judging me. Every time I hold a button-down chambray shirt in front of me. Or meaningfully stroke a slim-fit jean. They’re judging me. The worst panic was in a specialist trainer shop in Los Angeles, where I suffered what can only be thought of as a funny turn and had to go for some air on the sidewalk outside.
But my wife found something to protect me from these situations. The Chapar is an online service that selects clothes for you, sends them in a big box and then takes away anything you don’t want. I was attracted to the fact that there was no subscription fee or no requirement to sign up and cancel membership later. I got to put on my own fashion show and strut around like a peacock with a higher-end tail for free.
The Chapar service picks out options based on details you provide online and information gained from a phone conversation with a stylist: items you are looking for, prices you’re willing to pay, places you shop in. Discussing my look with a personal stylist felt a bit awkward at first, but also oddly glamorous. But the stylist sensed my discomfort and put me at my ease. And if there was any judgement I didn’t sense it. Even when I said I bought all my clothes from Uniqlo.
When the box arrived I opened it with same childish excitement as my sons at Christmas. It was stuffed full of jeans, shirts, jumpers, shoes, socks, a belt and even a bottle of fragrance. Also included were some suggestions of how certain items could be worn together to create an outfit. Suddenly shopping for clothes was fun and not frightening. Everything was done in the safety of my own kitchen, away from the harsh eyes of a thousand fashionable salespeople, neck tattoos pulsating with judgement.
In the end, I plumped for two very smart pairs of turn up jeans and a stripy top from Whistles (a shop I’ve never thought of looking in before). The rest was collected a few days later. Even if I’d sent the whole bundle back it would have been worth it – it was free after all – just for giving this faded flamingo the vague vain thrill of having my own personal stylist. Which is why I’m giving them this minuscule piece of free advertising.