Back in the day, the words ‘measured for a suit’ meant a certain something. I fully admit I haven’t had many ‘made-to-measure’ suits in my life. Not being of any particularly abnormal proportions, an ‘off-the-peg’ suit, how these terms come back to me in my retirement, has done me quite well. Until now that is and the impending wedding of number one daughter. This, the wedding, is at the end of May in fact but all this suit business has to be sorted out well before that date. Perish the thought that the wedding party – is that the term? – should not be wearing matching suits.
Now in my day, in the last century, in the age of doublets and codpieces such matters of etiquette did not concern us. I remember quite well going with my friend for whom I was his best man, going to Carnaby Street, this is really dating me isn’t it? And choosing our non-matching suits – brown velvet for me and pin stripe for him. Similarly, when he was my best man, we gave little to no thought as to whether we resembled something like a duo from Brotherhood of Man – remember them? I think to be honest, the cut of the suit, with it’s characteristic flared trousers, high waists and large lapel jackets – I’ve provided a visual prompt (see my wedding photos above – you don’t get full value for the flares this size and from front on but I’ve provided another photo later in the blog – at the end – which gives a better idea but still not quite clear, it would need a side shot for this and I don’t have one) in case you’ve forgotten, which, if you’re my age, you might well have although I assume if you’re reading this retirement blog, it probably did happen to you, you just can’t remember or believe that you would dress like that. My best man isn’t in the photos because he was also the photographer, in case you were wondering where he was. This was pre the days of £20K weddings and all economies were important, hence the doubling up of roles.
Anyway, the thing is, on Wednesday, I went for the measuring for the wedding suit. These are hire suits and at £80 a day it goes very much against the grain to pay that sort of money and then have to give the damn thing back. In my day you could have bought half a dozen suits for that price and had enough for fish and chips on the way home. Where was I? yes, Moss Bros, for it is they who are the centre piece of this blog. As I entered the shop I was greeted by two smiling assistants a young man and more elderly lady. Hire or buy? I translated this into a question I could understand. Hire, I replied. The smile dropped away from their faces. I was quickly shown ‘downstairs’ the term was used by the more elderly lady as in ‘get down to the dungeon’ and don’t be cluttering up the shop in case anybody actually wants to buy something.
It became clear quite quickly that the days of ‘Are you being served’ and all those jokes about inside leg measurement – how we tittered – are long, long gone. I was asked what waist I was and handed two pairs of trousers to try on – 38 and 40, since you ask. I made some ‘joke’ about inside leg measurements which went down like the proverbial brick budgie. Shall I put the shoes on, I asked? The somewhat crusty lady said, quite perfunctorily I thought, I’ve been doing this for 15 years and I know what your inside leg measurement is. It’s 30, actually whenever I have chosen a pair of trousers I have found 31 to be my best length but thought she would not necessarily welcome my input after all she’d been doing this for 15 years. Yes, my height (and my inside leg measurement) has been with me for much of my 66 years but this paled by comparison with her 15 years of judging inside leg measurements. So 30 it was. Mrs Summerhouse when I reported this to her said, and I quote, if they’re flapping round your ankles I’m going to garrotte her with them.
But the funny thing was, Mrs SH was in no position to be too upset with me. She was, as you might say, on thin ice vis a vis this whole suit measuring business. Let me explain. Do you know what plantar fascitis is? You can look it up of course on the many medical websites that exist these days. Basically, it’s a pain in your heel. Sounds innocuous enough but, at it’s worst, it means you can’t walk. I’ve had it before when we lived in New Zealand and was making pathetic attempts to keep my weight down (increased by significant drinking) by running. So that’s how I know about it and recognised the pain, quite unlike the other pains in my feet. It, as far as I could work out, seemed, this time, to be caused by walking around Leeds wearing my very best pair of shoes – a beautiful – to look at (see photographic proof) pair of Oxford brogues. As I say they’re great to look at, an icon of style you might say long before they became fashionable.
Their only downside is that you can’t walk in them. I exaggerate of course but they are a tad unforgiving, even after having cushioned insoles put in them and rubber soles and heel put on them, they are still not good for any lengthy walking. But, because I had my ‘towny’ hat on, not literally you understand, I decided to wear the brogues, even though I knew I would be doing some walking on pavements. But then, while my feet hurt in other ways – something to do with the diabetes perhaps, I hadn’t had this pain in heel pain for a long time, so it did not enter into my calculations. Anyway, long story short etc, since that time and until recently, I had significant pain to the point of not being able to take pups for their two walk a day (Mrs SH has had to do this alone). And talking of Mrs SH you might be wondering about why she is on thin ice. A friend who read this blog said she thought Mrs SH came out of the blogs very well, well let me tell you, she doesn’t come out of this one well.
I had rested my foot, as I say, even not taking the pups for their walks, and the pain had significantly improved to the point that, encouraged by number one daughter to get on with getting measured up, I thought I could go into Leeds and get the job done, wearing of course a different pair of shoes, I’m not stupid you know. Now here’s the irony coming. Daughter and partner had asked that the bridal party wear brown shoes (yes, I know brown shoes with a blue suit, whatever next?!). The only pair of brown shoes I own are the above referenced brogues. I’m not wearing them I said, for the fitting that is not the wedding, they will just bring the pain back. But you have to, Mrs SH says or you won’t get the correct leg measurement. To be a bit fair to her she did suggest putting the guilty shoes in a bag and carrying to the shop, like I’m going to do that. So I wore them and, even with restricted walking, they have crippled me all over again. I should never have listened to you, I said giving her full blame, and this means now you will have to continue walking the pups on your own. Laugh? I nearly went to Bradford as an ex-colleague of mine used to say.
And finally, the supreme irony of this little tale, Mrs slightly grumpy hire suit lady didn’t even ask me to put the frigging shoes on. In total, the ‘fitting’ consisted of – trying on one pair of trousers the bottoms dragging along the basement floor, these were grey not blue because they hadn’t got blue, then a blue jacket but it wasn’t the size I would be getting because, you’ve guessed it, they didn’t have one in my size. So wrong colour, wrong size, a guessed inside leg measurement and all visions of Mr Humphreys lost for ever. Not what I had in mind when I was told I had to go and be measured for my suit. I suppose most retired men would have long ago finished with being the father of the bride business unless they have a serial divorcee as a daughter and then it’s unlikely they’d be being measured for a suit after the first attempt. Retirement, so many little experiences that I never could have predicted.