Wednesday, April 30, 2003

I once had a deftly unkind colleague who had made it her life’s work to run screaming from the outer suburbs. Genuinely repelled by mission brown awnings, the prospect of PTA meetings and, indeed, crochet of any kind, she had fled triple fronted brick veneer the very millisecond she could. Suspicious of shagpile and eternally paranoid that she should ever be confused for someone without a Zip Code that Mattered, she developed a talent for scorn. Anxious to mark her difference from the world that had created her, she became an enviably gifted Bitch.
Although faintly appalled by this nastiness, I cultivated a certain liking for her cruel and daily observations. Hausfrau in gabardine at Twelve O’clock, she would mutter over lunch. In the city to exchange her Mother’s Day gift which was, of course, an Epi-lady. Her entire reality frame would melt should local Pizza Hut franchise run out of cheese. Tonight, invigorated by her brush with a flag-ship department store, she will tie Chuck to his JC Penney faux-Shaker bed posts with Wizard Wipes and ride him as though he were the pony of her adolescent longing.
Stop! No, please, I would beg, unsure whether to giggle or give my colleague the name of a good therapist. Ninety per cent of the time, her critique was just too brittle for my tastes. As a half-hearted suburban escapee at the time, however, I would occasionally mine some gems from the dark shaft of her self-loathing.
In particular, I recall one mid-nineties luncheon staffed by under-cooked salmon and deca-litres of Balsamic, she pointed her fish knife at some young temptress and pronounced, ‘Tracksuit Fairy’s coming’.
The Tracksuit Fairy, according to my colleague, was the only means by which the sudden change from Babe to leisure-suit could be explained. Had I not noted how in the course of days an elastic and fashionably clad young female suburbanite might metamorphose into a fleece-lined sack just WAITING to free-base Hormone Replacement Therapy? Honestly, she continued, sometimes it can happen in hours. One day, you’re in a size 8 Prada knock off, the next BAM: Tracksuit Fairy.
Malicious as were her reflections on strip-mall apparel, I had to concur: (a) some women, and indeed men, did embrace tracksuits quickly and inexplicably and (b) in a better world, this amorphous clothing would never be worn out of doors. I vowed then and there never to wear a tracksuit in any public place other than a jogging track. I swore to outrun the Tracksuit Fairy.
What am I and those countless others who have solemnly taken the Tracksuit Fairy Oath, to make of recent fashion week displays? Apparently, Trackie Dacks are the last word in chic. And not just any track suit: the really ‘hip’ ones are wrought from velour! Hello? Am I the only sentient being who perceives this double felony for what it is? I lived through the seventies, baby, and I was unwillingly clad in textured forest green velour track suits with brown trim and I ain’t going back.
Let me just repeat: consumers are being urged to wear TRACK SUITS made from VELOUR.
Couturiers Karl Lagerfeld and Valentino each own one. Gwyneth, Madonna and J Lo, who are each old enough to know better, are regularly seen in them. Catherine Zeta Jones swans about in one. One would think that her frail husband, Michael Douglas, observed enough of seventies excess to make her see reason.
The Velour Tracksuit, as some global fashion commentators would have it, is the new Pashmina Shawl.
I am tempted to trace my former colleague to see if she has ordered one of the new Juicy Couture suits. It is my fervent hope that she has refrained and is now quipping: if Velour is the New Pashmina then velveeta is the new sashimi, the ford pinto is the new Porsche and cheese-cloth tops are back. Oh wait…..

No comments: