Big thank you from

Think of the drapers as well as the farmers...

by The Rambler 07/07/2002

FARMERS are at their wits ends with the atrocious weather that we have been having. Cattle are having to be housed and fed on silage, and new season grass cannot be harvested. On top of the foot-and-mouth disaster, they are really having a bad time.

But it is the drapers that I have been thinking about. It is bad enough having to keep pace with rapidly changing styles in ladies wear, but much worse when spring and summer stock lies on the shelves, while constant downpours and low temperatures deter shoppers. 'Sale' notices are to be seen all over the place. On the men's side it is a case of 'buy one and get a second one free', demand for suits appears to be almost nil.

I have been casting my mind back to 'the old days' which few o your readers will remember. The bowler hat, which country men called 'the hard hat' is one of the few items of men's wear which has survived down through the years as an essential item of formal wear. At one time every church goer, every mourner at a funeral - in fact any man wearing his best suit, would never have gone without his bowler. Gradually the habit has dwindled, nowadays even marchers in the 'Orange' and 'Black' parades go bare headed ('big shots' excepted). What is the country coming to?

Ties seem to be on the way out as well. Just watch the TV screens. Shirts with collars nicely laundered, but no neck-ties! The 'dickie bow' ties have long been rare sights, now they are out, except as formal dresswear.

Collar studs, tie pins, tie-chains and cuff links still survive, but stocks are nearly as rare as hens teeth. Denim jeans have ousted tailored trousers for men and fashionable skirts for women.
Tee shirts are everywhere in spite of the bans imposed by bouncers at swanky night spots, who bar the tie-less brigade, and/or jeans.

Male traditionalists who carefully guarded their bowler hats and sashes in their wardrobes down through the years must take a very dim view of the 'hangers-on ', attired in clumsy trainers, jeans and t-shirts who have lowered the tone of ceremonial demonstrations (have they no shame!).

I well remembered being fascinated, in prewar days, when I pounded the pavements of
Belfast city centre at the morning peak hour, as the 9 o'clock mass bells rang out on 'St Pats', Donegall Street and 'St Mary's', Chapel Lane, myriad identically-clad female figures streamed out of the back streets. Each wore a black shawl, heavy-knit black stockings and black'gutties' (canvas shoes). Like ants, I thought. No permanent waves, plunging neck-lines or peep-toe shoes there: sex appeal most definitely out!

When I was a teenager I had a good understanding (i.e. feet) and I squeezed into smallish shoes rather than move up a size. Now even five-year-old lads and lassies have to get giant sized trainers, and teenagers would need a potato-basket to hold their big foot wear: size is beautiful.

As for the ragged jeans, 'stone-washed' skin fits, mini-skirts and bare mid-riffs, childrens fashion has gone mad. Happily most schools now make uniform-wear compulsory.

It's a long way back to the hob-nail boot era, clumpers with sparbled soles, metal heel` plates, whangs (leather laces, leather leggings and spats, not forgetting the golf-bags (plus-fours) and the teenager knickerbocker trousers (reaching below the knee and button-fastened there). A bit like riding breeches, circa 1925.

I have seen them all nowadays, bare flesh is right for all occasions it would seem. TV programme makers seem to think that whatever, the theme, the more nudity the better, (pity the drapers).
If this July weather does not mend, I'm off for a pair of long johns!

Ulster Star