After a fashion? Tony D’Souza’s awkward truth about Quaker style

‘There are some style clues in Quaker scruffiness.’

‘There’s scruffy, and then there’s Quaker scruffy.’ | Photo: by Jason Leung on Unsplash

It had been a long relationship. We had been through a lot together, but now it was coming to an end. I needed some space. I just knew it. I needed some time to collect my thoughts and adjust to my new reality.

And so it was, on a Sunday morning as I dressed to go to Meeting, I looked at my old blue jeans and decided it was time to say goodbye. Jeans might look good on cowboys but they no longer look good on me. I had been thinking about it for some time, but now I had the courage to admit it. I had to move on.

These days, you can pretty much tell how old a man is by how high he wears the waistband of his jeans. Mine is now almost up to my navel. It’s just not a good look anymore. They are ‘dad jeans’ and they look slightly ridiculous. I once saw the late Jonathan Miller at a dress rehearsal in London and he was wearing his own pair of faded denim trews. It just did not look right.

The problem is that a whole generation grew up during the sixties and seventies, when denim was de rigueur. But those times are long gone now. It is no longer necessary to wear jeans to look good or to fit in, just as it is no longer necessary to believe that communism might be a good idea.

Jeans are a bit scruffy, but Quakers are scruffy, and many of them wear jeans. That’s only part of the story though. Quakers have a special kind of scruffiness. It is never a down-at-heel scruffiness, but a very subtle, even refined, genteel kind of scruffiness. ‘Smart casual’ comes close to describing it, but it is not that either.

There are some style clues in Quaker scruffiness. For a start, you never look like an unmade bed (it’s not that kind of scruffy). Whatever you wear, it has to be clean and presentable. Casual but voguish is the look you are after. If you are wearing a waterproof jacket, it’s got to have a good label. If you are wearing shoes, they should be high quality casual shoes; sometimes, the leather shoes favoured by Quakers resemble Cornish Pasties.

So, there’s scruffy, and then there’s Quaker scruffy. Don’t mix them up and don’t make the mistake of putting a crease in your jeans. That’s going over the top, and will mark you out as someone who has nothing better to do than iron their jeans. You probably iron your bed sheets too, which is just showing off.

Obviously, the main thing is to feel comfortable in whatever you are wearing. Especially if you are going to Meeting for Worship. I now wear proper trousers most of the time, and I occasionally feel the need to wear a tie. Sometimes, I might even feel the need to wear a more bohemian garment. I draw the line at a kilt, however, which has the unfortunate effect of making me look like a bedside lamp.

Wait a minute! What did I do with that old pair of jeans?

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