In Praise of Holey Jumpers (Or, The Other Holy War*)

Oh, apparently, there are rules about what I’m allowed to be wearing in my own house—unwritten, unenforceable rules. So secret I didn’t know about them until I opened up the Times today at work to discover that, despite the Middle East going to hell in a handbasket and the upcoming inauguration of a certain American president-elect, both of which had made it to the front page of the paper, the centerfold featured a dozen full-colour photographs of a pouty blonde wearing various configurations of jumper-tights-wool socks. The headline was something quasi-clever, like, “The (Staying) In Thing” and the first line of the (article? blurb?) read: (and I paraphrase) “Hibernating is understandable. Doing it old holey jumpers is NOT.”

I’m a big fan of the old holey jumper. I have an entire collection of them, mostly inherited from The Man, who rips tears in the armpits of his jumpers at a rate of about two per week, it seems: oversize, thick, unraveling-at-the-hems. Basically old duvets with armholes. And as they are a staple of my household wardrobe, I was shocked to discover that it’s not understandable that I might wear them whilst, say, washing the dishes, or watching a film on the couch, or writing in the study (which tends to be very, very cold).

I’ve come to the conclusion, after a fairly in-depth study of fashion magazines (well, after reading a lot of them in the bath, anyway) that fashion is utterly arbitrary. Forget what Meryl Streep says in The Devil Wears Prada: cerulean blue was only ever in vogue because, well, it just was—and only fell out of vogue because it did. If I had the right job, I could make fashion decisions for the world, too: give me a column in the front of any glossy Saturday magazine and see if I don’t get everyone to start dressing like me.

But despite all that, there’s a certain fashion magazine tone of voice: if you’re a girl, you probably know the one I mean. It’s authoritative. It’s almost propagandistic, it’s so convincing. It doesn’t once occur to you to question the assertion that peep-toe ankle-boots are in (PEEP-toe ankle-BOOTS, the rational side of your mind screams, but you shut it up at the first glimpse of Kate Moss modeling the trend). What do we humble readers know anyway?

So not only was I surprised to find that I was breaking standard lounging-around-the-house fashion etiquette, but I also quickly came to the conclusion that, in fact, I’ve become unduly sloppy in my hibernation-dressing lately, and, really, there isn’t an excuse for wearing hand-me-down-jumpers with gaping holes in exciting places. It’s probably not what Kate Moss would do, and it’s certainly not what the pouty blonde in The Times does.

But here I am at home, and the only thing I want to be wearing is—what else—a holey jumper. Preferably with holey tights (yes, I do own several pairs) and mismatched socks. And that authoritative fashion voice cannot permeate this inclination! She’s not allowed in my house; at least, she’s not allowed near my old jumpers.

But the best response, the most astute, I think, comes from The Man, who, upon hearing the headline, had only one thing to say:

“Oh, fuck off!”

And then he turned on his heel in a jumper which is beginning to show a little wear in the armpits.

*despite my penchant for bad puns, The Man actually came up with this one...