Thursday, 25 October 2012

Paxo vs Maxo

I hear that suave fellow Jeremy Paxman has stunned the viewing nation by presenting Newnight without a tie - and, to make matters worse, with not one but two shirt buttons undone. Apparently he's long been chafing against wearing a necktie. 'It has always been an utterly useless part of the male wardrobe,' booms Paxo. 'But now, it seems to me, the only people who wear the things daily are male politicians, the male reporters who interview them – and dodgy estate agents.' 
 Hmm, if he really believes that, he clearly doesn't get out much - but leaving that aside, what about his objection that the tie is 'utterly useless'? So are lapels, of course, which no longer serve any practical function. Perhaps Paxo will be switching to a Beatle suit next? It wouldn't do much for his authority but it would give us all a laugh, and it would be one more 'utterly useless' item dispensed with.
 The fact is, as Paxo surely knows, that clothes carry a freight of meanings, adding up to a message - often a very nuanced on - about who we are. That's why we have fashion: the fashion industry is semiology in action, creating and decoding tiny meanings (Barbey d'Aurevilly described dandyism as 'une maniere de vivre composee entierement des nuances'). If David Cameron were to appear on, say, Newsnight, in a tight pink tee-shirt, tartan braces and PVC trousers, his dress alone would say more than anything that came out of his mouth (and it wouldn't exactly be nuanced).
 Paxman is of course taking a deliberately bluff, utilitarian view of male dress. In these reductionist terms, everything we wear is 'entirely useless', except in maintaining a comfortable body temperature and protecting our flesh. As well as carrying meanings and messages, the uses of dress are also aesthetic. As Max Beerbhom puts it in his essay on Beau Brummell, 'So to clothe the body that its fineness be revealed and its meanness veiled has been the aesthetic aim of all costume.' Indeed, and this is where the well chosen tie plays its part, completing the effect of the suit, adding an elegant vertical and a splash of harmonious colour, and (mark well, Paxo) veiling the meanness of the ageing male throat. I have a suggestion for Paxman: if you hate ties so much, why not do the sensible thing and switch to a cravat? The nation would love you for it.

2 comments:

  1. Paxo takes this view of everything that cannot be rationally explained to his satisfaction: British nationhood is to him merely a 'surplus piece of clothing'. I expect when he retires he'll become a citizen of the world and stop cutting his hair.

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