The first time I went on the BBC’s Question Time, in February 2012, I needed to make a good impression. The incontrovertible fact that I regarded like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone wouldn’t play in my favour – on my Twitter feed, folks commonly queried whether or not I used to be taking day without work from my paper spherical once I appeared on TV. But my then flatmate Liam took pity, and promised to depart out a particular, smart-looking shirt.
I discovered it laid out for me in our flat, and felt rather more assured once I put it on. Fashion was not my forte, however a minimum of, I believed, I had made an actual effort. There I used to be in Nottingham, with big political beasts including John Prescott and Ken Clarke on the panel with me and, for a change, I had made a concession to expectations. It went properly. Afterwards I known as Liam to thank him. “But Owen,” he protested, “you didn’t take the shirt, you took my girlfriend’s blouse.”
It’s honest to say that garments are usually not my factor. If you want proof, right here it’s: in 2016, GQ journal named me the ninth-worst-dressed man in Britain – worse than Chris Evans. Growing up closeted close to the centre of Stockport, I did the whole lot I might to mix in – an enormous dollop of gel, hair combed ahead, Kappa tracksuits earlier than graduating to Ben Sherman shirts – then, with a touch of teenage riot, I bleached my hair and pierced my eyebrow. I regarded like a boyband reject, principally. Unfortunately, once I got here out on the age of 20 (initially as bisexual, ruining it for real bis by fuelling the entire “bi now gay later” shtick), I used to be not magically endowed with a set of homosexual expertise reminiscent of “being spontaneously sassy” or “having a great wardrobe”. A feminine buddy mentioned to me: “Oh great, now we can go shopping together!” But I hate buying. I’ve nightmares about buying.
Thirteen years later, watching the Netflix present Queer Eye is a pleasure: right here’s a present wherein 5 queer males come to the rescue of principally straight males, who are sometimes imprisoned by their unreconstructed masculinity and struggling to search out real happiness as a consequence. They educate them cook dinner, groom, do up their properties, discuss their emotions and, sure, costume. Before I watched the present – a reboot of the early-00s hit Queer Eye for the Straight Guy – I frightened that it could cut back homosexual males to this season’s amusing must-have equipment. It all the time struck me once I was rising up that the portrayal of homosexual males on tv was both as one-dimensional, desexualised camp clowns; because the butt of jokes; or as would-be sexual predators. But Queer Eye upends all this. I fell in love with the present, and each one of many fab 5, immediately. One of my favourites is Jonathan Van Ness, a hairdresser who unashamedly embraces camp: an necessary function mannequin for homosexual males who all too usually fetishise being “straight acting” (as I as soon as did) and might be horribly prejudiced to these deemed camp. I want my youthful self might have watched a present that includes homosexual males as superheroes, coming to assist straight men struggling with their own heterosexuality.
Frankly, although, I’m a proud queer man who wants as a lot help as any of the straight males within the present. I’ll not care about how “gay” I’m judged to be, however I’ve developed no real interest in garments in any way. That’s not unusual, by the way in which, amongst folks interested in members of the identical gender who depart from heterosexual norms. Gay, I’m afraid, will not be a synonym for sharp dresser.
So it was recommended to me by my colleagues that maybe I might use some styling; that there could possibly be a day at Guardian HQ that might quantity to straight eye for the queer man. I used to be somewhat apprehensive. Spending a day attempting on garments usually strikes me as about as pleasing as an evening out with Ukip’s youth wing. Fortunately, vogue queen Jess Cartner-Morley and stylist Helen Seamons might see I used to be nervous, and put me comfy.
I turned up sporting a gray hoodie and denims – customary – and frightened they might have gotten in gold-lined Prada shirts. It wasn’t simply the inevitable Twitter storm – CLOTHES LOVING SOCIALIST HYPOCRITE!!! – that I used to be frightened about; I even have an aversion to forking out greater than, say, £50 on a shirt. Anything extra simply looks as if a give up to rampant commercialism. Thankfully, they’d considered all that, and as I eyed up the garments, I used to be reassured that none had been greater than a notch up from high-street costs. I used to be relieved that I might think about myself sporting any of them – aside from a shiny pink Hawaiian shirt that was a bit midlife disaster.
Wow, I believed after placing on the primary set, I’m sporting garments that really match, moderately than throwing on some random crumpled shirt hidden beneath a generic gray jumper earlier than debating a rightwing thinktanker on Sky News. Some of them I fairly appreciated: a swanky inexperienced jacket and a navy blue go well with that made me look virtually respectable. The shiny purple T-shirt wants a distinction button, and one of many jacket and trouser combos made me appear to be a not-very-hench bouncer. Throughout, Helen stored skilfully adjusting the garments, and jokey patter together with her and Jess made an in any other case barely absurd state of affairs tolerable. I’m not going to lie, although: it was not me.
I assume my perspective on garments has all the time been: that is actually superficial; why ought to anybody care; once I go on TV I’m simply attempting to get my opinion throughout, how I look is irrelevant. But it is a bit naive. Perhaps it shouldn’t matter, however it does. Leftwingers are at an computerized drawback as a result of they’re arguing for a radical departure from the present order; due to this fact, how they current themselves issues. Demanding a crackdown on tax avoidance whereas sporting a Che Guevara T-shirt will most likely entice raised eyebrows greater than anything. It’s OK to look good and rail towards injustice. I’m advised some revolutionary sects – reminiscent of Militant, of which my late father was a member – inspired their members to keep away from dressing like a radical. John Prescott, in the meantime, has talked of attending Oxford’s Ruskin College as a working-class trade unionist: “I remember our first lecture, all the middle-class guys turned up in their revolutionary gear, we turned up in our suits.”
Last 12 months, I did a photoshoot for GQ to accompany an interview: they didn’t inform me the go well with they’d requested me to put on was price £1,000, however several rightwing blogs certainly found out. “Owen Jones discusses the ‘crisis of capitalism’ in a £1,000 jacket,” crowed the Spectator. But truly – despite the fact that I didn’t personal the jacket – this patronises so many younger working-class individuals who (not like me) pleasure themselves on what they put on, and sometimes save up for months to splash out on designer objects.
When my Guardian colleagues requested me to do a photoshoot as a homosexual man who doesn’t exude fashion, I used to be a bit bemused. But, weirdly, I fairly loved sporting garments that regarded good and match me. I doubt I can be topped Britain’s most trendy man any time quickly. But there’s nothing fallacious with priding your self on the way you look; it seems it doesn’t make you some superficial bourgeois traitor. Don’t count on me to start out embracing Gucci socialism, however possibly I’ll cease treating buying as a barely much less pleasing train than dental surgical procedure. You can wish to change the world with out trying like a dishevelled paper boy.
Dressing Owen: ‘Clothes are judged, whether you like it or not’
by Jess Cartner-Morley
GQ had been method harsh. Helen and I agree on that, trying by way of photographs of pre-makeover Owen. He’s a handsome man, he simply wants sharpening up a bit. The logic behind his trademark shirt-and-jumper look is that as an alternative of ironing a shirt he places a jumper excessive to cover the creases. Often, a part of the shirt collar is sticking up, or has obtained tucked contained in the jumper, so you may inform he didn’t look within the mirror earlier than occurring digital camera. That tells you the whole lot about what Owen thinks about garments – he doesn’t.
Owen seems to be relieved that the garments Helen desires him to put on aren’t flamboyant. “A style overhaul isn’t about wearing lots of colour,” she explains. “In fact, keeping to a minimal palette will help you look sharp.” The thought is skilled and presentable, moderately than suited and booted. Black denims which have pale to gray are swapped for darkish Japanese-look denim. A wiser shoe takes a jeans-based outfit out of Student Union territory; a wise bomber jacket pulls a glance collectively in a method that Owen’s gray hoodie doesn’t. Detail is essential: Helen turns up denims, rolls up T-shirt sleeves, quietly however firmly warns him off lumpily stuffing pockets with telephones and keys.
I think vogue might by no means be a ardour of Owen’s, however the actuality of life within the public eye is that garments are observed, and judged, whether or not you prefer it or not. So it is smart to attempt to management, or a minimum of pay attention to, the messages you might be giving out. Our shoot is tightly sandwiched between talking engagements – 1 about Erdoğan, 1 about Gaza – however when Helen tells Owen the shops these garments got here from (Arket, Cos, new online brand FoR) he writes the names down on his telephone for future reference, and I don’t assume he’s simply doing it to be well mannered. I don’t assume we transformed Owen to the style trigger. But I hope we made him realise we’re not the enemy.