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Plus ça change

Fashions change, sometimes drastically. See any photo of yourself thirty or twenty years ago and if you don’t laugh at yourself, your hairstyle, your shirt and tie, or dress or makeup, you definitely have a serious problem, the operative word being serious. You need to take yourself rather more lightly and learn how to laugh more, at yourself, at life, at anything around you.

Fashions change and we adapt to, and adopt, new ideas without realising. Take trousers. For a few seasons— or weeks—they are fashionable drainpipes; then by the time you accept that trousers should be narrow and tight comes a new wave dictating that trousers should be monstrously flared or pleated. We - or some fashion icons - have even come to accept shorts being worn with jackets.

Further back in time, trousers for men were seen as truly barbarian and the ancient Greeks and Romans disdained them. If someone from those classical times ever comes back to visit they will be truly aghast to see us all.

Then there is the length of the trousers. I come from an era which dictated that only nerds wore trousers short. In Maltese we used to call anyone with trousers not amply covering his shoes as the guy off to cross the river. And a barrage of laughter would follow. Now the best-looking models all wear their trousers an inch or two above their shoes. Or has that changed again these last few days? Other more disastrous ideas and decisions have long—and sometimes irreversible—effects.

People of my generation sported sideburns or massively padded shoulder pads. All could so easily be dumped and with no effects. But fast forward and imagine the youth of today having second thoughts about their tattoos and piercings. What can they do to get back their pristine body? When I was young tattoos were the sole domain of sailors, ruffians and the true and tested low-life. Oh and some royals boasted them too—which again proves my point that only the lowlifes had their body inked.

Nowadays bodies like David Beckham and Angelina Jolie have been turned into art - or grotesque - galleries. It’s quite frightening to think, as some have hazarded, that once old, flabby and wrinkled, the good-looking tattoos will seem definitely tired and tiresome. But my major worry is worse - when the fashion changes, as all fashions do, how are the tattooed going to explain themselves away in the future? It is hardly acceptable today to tell a woman - can a woman ever be called a lady nowadays? - she is beautiful. You risk being accused of objectifying her and making her seem loose, useless or dependent on looks to win her position.

You have to tread most cautiously for fear the good mores brigade will slap a fine on you. Even paintings and how we see them and adorn our houses with them change all the time. It is not only Picasso and his cubist friends who struck terror into art which was previously representative of beauty.

When the Impressionists changed the way art was perceived and took art out of the atelier and into the plein air by painting nature with changing hues, lights and movement, horror and mayhem ensued. They were called refusés and not allowed to exhibit with the other painters of the day as they were not considered deserving of being called artists. Refused then by society and critics, they are today an important part of art and its history—and the price tags of all their works show that what was rejected then is valued highly today.

Beauty should have longer sellby dates but humanity proves otherwise. What was beautiful then is hardly allowed today—there are no rules which withstand the race, and rage, of time. Let’s creep back to fashion and how we looked some centuries ago. Men today are seen as vain and doing all they can to groom themselves into Adonises. When you laugh at a male in your life who preens and ogles at a mirror think of when men - men for heaven’s sake! - used codpieces to make their private parts more evident and pronounced.

The idea of codpieces must have been to get all women to swoon in anticipation of pleasure and fun to come. There was a time when the same males, to be masculine and alluring, had rouge plastered on their faces, wore silly fake wigs, sillier pantaloons and shoes and wore more embroidered silk than any bride today would think appropriate.

Life changes, life is fun because nothing, even that which seems irrefutably certain, can be certain tomorrow.

Last modified onTuesday, 16 December 2014 11:38
Victor Calleja

Victor Calleja has been involved in publishing, marketing, and anything concerning the written word, for over thirty years. He is now a part-time but very opinionated journalist who delves deeply into a number of subjects.

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