Wednesday night I was in a Restaurant with some friends. I was wearing a blue and white checked shirt. About ten minutes later, a couple arrived and sat at the next table. Straight away I noticed the man was wearing the same shirt as me. That’s the problem with checked shirts. There’s only so many colours. You wear a checked shirt, anyone comes in with the same colour checked shirt, the similarities will be noted.
It was an embarrassing evening. It needn't have been. The man came in after me. He saw me while he still had his jacket on. He saw I had the same shirt. He had that advantage. He could've kept his jacket on or made some excuse to his partner and moved on elsewhere. Instead, he sat right opposite me. He could've sat with his back to me, which even then, the shirt similarities would've been noted but at least the humiliation would've been limited.
In those circumstances, a restaurant should offer a change of shirt service. It wouldn't be too dissimilar to when you wet yourself at school and they give you a pair of ill-fitting shorts to wear alongside the rest of your school uniform. Your parents come and pick you up, and all the other parents know straight away what’s happened to you. Back at St Mary's Junior Boys in Clapham, it was always the same kid in our class wearing the shorts. He wet himself so often, we named the shorts after him.
It was an awful evening. I was muttering at an angle to my mate about the guy. Duplicate Shirt
was muttering to his partner at the same angle. That got me wondering whether you can only mutter conspiratorially at that same specific angle. Maybe there's no other angle at which you can tell the person you’re with that someone’s wearing the same shirt as you.
I'll own up to the fact this guy looked better in the shirt than I did. Though in my defence, I had ironed my shirt. I hope everyone present recognised that. Maybe his partner would've made a point of mentioning that as they made their way home.
Meantime, I’ve subsequently seen the same shirt about on several people in the days since. They say a thousand years from now a middle-aged wardrobe messiah – probably quite camp - will emerge, part fashion designer, part hipster beard, to lead middle aged men out of the wardrobe wilderness. This saviour will design clothes for men of my age who have no wish to dress like a twenty-five year old.