(Note that the closest to Speedos – the form-and-function zenith of men’s swimwear – we get from this American website is the stripey 1975 number. It’s all downhill and kneewards after that.)
The ‘Dave’ of ‘Made by Dave‘ is the name of Michael Barrymore’s pet Jack Russell terrier.
I rather like the idea of upmarket men’s clothes line designed by a diminutive dog with a big personality. Fashion labels can be notoriously snobby and pretentious. And after all, Barrymore is a working class Bermondsey boy who became a mischievous, chaos-causing much-loved fixture of the nation’s front rooms. His hugely popular TV act often consisted in him bounding off the stage and jumping all over his audience, covering them with licks – to their loud, giggly shrieks of delight.
Barrymore’s seismic success in the Nineties and early Noughties as ‘Mr Saturday Night’ – before disaster struck, and Simon Cowell nabbed his crown – meant that he could develop a taste for the finer things in life. Back then, when I lived in a leafy part of London, I would often spy an immaculately turned out Barrymore sailing past in a gleaming Bentley convertible, top down. A geezer from the South London docks scrubbed up nicely and looking like the proverbial million quid.
Speaking of which, Made By Dave togs don’t come cheap – a jumper will cost you a ton and a half. Perhaps that’s why they’re aimed at being ‘what City lads wear at weekends’.
In an interview with The Telegraph he admits that people are likely to scoff at his new venture:
Always a natty dresser on screen, Barrymore was hardly ever a style icon. “I know what everyone will be thinking,” he says, “he thinks he’s a bleeding designer now. It’ll be one rail with a few shirts that a few mates put together in Peckham, and Aunt Cath’s knitted him some Aran jumpers. Then he’ll run around the room screaming ‘Awright, awright, awright…’?”
But as the sometimes rather snobbish GQ put it: ‘the most shocking part of this enterprise is that some of the clothes are actually quite good, especially the shoes’.
GQ knows rather more about clothes and shoes than me, though for what it’s worth I think some of Dave’s clobber is quite tasty too. Or maybe it’s the model.
The other predictable response to Barrymore’s fashion line launch involved loads of online ‘comedians’ tweeting (and commenting beneath the GQ piece) about the lack of swimwear, or how ‘this fashion line is already dead in the water’.
Being used as a crappy punchline, and much worse, has often been Barrymore’s lot since the death in 2002 of a party-goer in his light-entertainment success-symbol swimming pool. The bespoke efforts of Fleet Street’s finest to fit him up as some kind of murdering gay rapist sold a shed-load of newspapers for years afterwards, but no one really bought any of it. In fact, what’s remarkable is – a few Twitter trolls aside – how fondly regarded Barrymore remains with so many people more than a decade after his TV career ended so abruptly.
I wish him and Dave every success in their dead posh new venture together. And suspect that the vast majority of the British public does too.
Last Saturday’s The London Times Magazine ran an extract from ‘The Man in the Gray Flannel Skirt’, a memoir by Jon-Jon Goulian ‘the New York Review of Books first cross-dressing staffer’. I haven’t read it yet, but the extract inclined me to do so very soon.
Here’s Goulian on the semantics of earrings in the 1980s – a semantics which I also recall as having a very definite and decisive import when I was at school in the UK back then which you ignored at your peril, but which now seems as daft as Crystal and Alexis mud-wrestling:
In 1984, in La Jolla, California, as was true in most places in this country, a huge amount of significance was attached to which ear an earring appeared in. If it was in the left ear, that meant you had a liberal conscience, and that you wanted people to know it. It was essentially like having a bumper sticker on the back of your VW bus that said NO NUKES. It was a gesture. Nothing more. So no one took it seriously.
An earring in the right ear, on the other hand, meant that you were gay, and that you wanted people to know it. That, people took more seriously. An earring in the right ear could get a bag of Tater Tots thrown at your head, which I saw happen to a gay kid at La Jolla High School. In La Jolla, Tater Tots. Other places, bats and bullets.
Earrings in both the right ear and the left ear were unclear. They meant that you were a) gay; or b) that you were not only gay but also a budding transvestite; or c) that you were not gay but only a budding transvestite; or d) that you were not gay and not a budding transvestite but, just weird and confused and in need of some sort of counselling.
When my mother set eyes on me, the same thought ran through her mind as would have run through the mind of any middle-class woman who grew up in Park Slope, Brooklyn, in the Fifties – ‘Oh, my God! I don’t understand! Is he a or b or c or d? Or all the above? This is not a fair test! I don’t understand the question!’
His poor mother.
Nowadays, the monosexual semantics of earrings on boys has broken down. The earring war is over. It ended, like most things have in this new century, not in white doves and petals and earrings being beaten into plowshares but incoherence.
Or as someone on this thread put it, in answer to a quaint question about which side was ‘gay’:
‘Um. Are you stuck in the 80s? It doesn’t mean anything any more.’
Which is perhaps bad news if you wanted like Jon-Jon seems to have back in the day, to make a statement that ‘people took seriously’. But then, it’s not just earrings that have suffered that fate.