If your sense of style has been turned on it’s head and your concept of acceptable popular culture is in retreat then perhaps like me you are an unwitting victim of – shamefluencing.
I became aware of this new threat, the converse of influencing, when the obnoxious right honourable member for the 18th century appeared on the national political scene in what is his default attire, a grey flannel double breasted suit, almost the twin of one in my wardrobe acquired at a sale in Savile Row. The suit was never a favourite of mine. Whenever I wore it I had to find ways to dress it down and make it seem less like the staple of an estate agent. Nonetheless I clung on to it for those occasions I felt the need for a vast flapping notched collar.
No more. In all honesty how could I wear anything favoured by someone so unpleasantly disingenuous and a tory anti European to boot. I hung on for six months before offloading it on ebay.
But alas the MP for north east Somerset is turning into the shamefluencing equivalent of Paris Hilton. Just the other week he was depicted on the front page of another national newspaper scoffing an ice-cream in a double breasted blazer, not dissimilar to a vintage Yves Saint Laurent version I have been wearing for years. The last occasion was for my speech at my friend Robert’s 60th birthday do in Clerkenwell. I think I wore it at his 50th too at The Groucho Club. It has raised as few eyebrows over the years, what with its brass anchos buttons, and suggestions of old majors and cricketing types. But I love it, or I did until that infernal front page.
It’s a neat and infuriating trick turning the new advertising norm of influencing on its head.
Influencers earn fortunes, and I don’t mean the Kardashians. I’m talking about non celebrity influencers; young and attractive with exceptional teeth. Millions hang on to their every pout on social media earning them eye watering sums to buff themselves with the latest cosmetics, slip into some new garb, and hang out at cool gin joints. A bit like my time with The Sunday Times’ Good Gear Guide except instead of earning millions I got to keep a few free anoraks and walking boots. I still have a portable espresso maker in a box intended for a quick caffeine hit off the beaten track.
Influencers mean nothing to me being immune to coercion whether disingenuous (faux life) or overt (advertising). I don’t even feel a twinge when I see Ray Winston plying his down-the-pub cockney lilt urging me to ‘bet in play’. My generation- post hippie pre bling – was gifted with a healthy dose of scepticism, ie nausea, whenever someone with status and money sought to flog us anything – be it crisps, sherry, cars, insurance, breakfast cereal, sugary drinks and footwear,you name it.
But things seldom pan out as planned and I now I find myself succumbing to more insidious shamefluencers. An altogether sinister celebrity cult with the possibly unintentional aim of undermining our faith, trust and desire of long cherished items. Antithesis marketing shaming us to renounce those which we held (wore) dear.
That other right wing scourge, the thin lipped former banker and Brexiteer, is also making a name for himself at a shamefluencer. For years I have treasured my single breasted covert coat with a brown velvet collar bought from my favourite vintage clothes store Hornets of Kensington (coincidentally the source of the Yves Saint Laurent blazer). Nowadays the man who can’t buy a seat in the House of Commons can’t be seen wielding a pint of beer without his covert coat and it is surely only a matter of time before someone puts two and two together.
I used to enjoy cheese too until it was revealed that our prime minister’s self confessed obesity is due to his fondness for fromage. I’d choke if I ate another slice and thence his odious slap-head adviser, the one who drove 60 miles during lockdown to check his eyesight while the rest of us weren’t allowed any further than the supermarket, declared a ‘hard rain’ would fall upon the civil service. In one tainting the Freewheelin’ album and just about any other Dylan track for the sad and simple reason that henceforth whenever I hear them I’ll be reminded of the geek who currently has our prime minister’s arse.
Quitting when things look wrong is easy. I quit Amazon 12 years ago when I discovered how many bookshops the company was directly responsible for putting out of business. At the last count it was north of 40,000 in the US alone and now has its sights set on grocers. Fast food became a no no during mad cow when we were treated to daily images of industrial animal rearing. And Medjoul dates – the big plump juicy and very delicious variety from Israel – when it was revealed most come from farms stolen from Palestinians. Electric cars as it became clear where the lithium and cobalt in their batteries is sourced (the Democratic Republic of Congo) and the child slave labour used to mine them and the cancers and ecological destruction therein. Then knock out anything by Roman Polanski and Michael Jackson or containing Benedict Cumberbatch.
As yet shamefluencers don’t receive any renumeration for making aspects of my wardrobe untenable. I daresay there are some in north east Somerset who as I write are banging on the doors of Gieves & Hawkes demanding grey flannel double breasted suits and covert coats. I just pray non of the above discover a latent appetite for Bill Evans or Fulham Football Club.