Conundrum of the man in the clothes shop
It is said someone somewhere records economic cycles by following sales of men's underwear as a leading indicator of sentiment.
I bought four pairs on Friday morning, and four pairs of socks to boot, thus averting a looming crisis.
On that basis, the economy is surely looking up.
So much so, that it has also sent me shopping for a suit, and leaving me wondering at the advice now on offer in men’s apparel shops.
At the first, a bloodless youth fiddled nervously with something that would have looked good on me when I was 20, until an older chap, probably in his 60s but immaculately attired, quietly took over.
Their suits were too expensive. On to the modish men’s shop that specialises in Italian-style corporate clobber.
Here, a beautiful cloth turned out to hide trousers designed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that I'm in my 50s, with consequent middle region body issues. They were like what I would once have called hipsters.
Low-slung, I was informed, was the Italian man's favoured look, including among the middle-aged and paunchy.
He encouraged me to embrace "it" – we never gave it a name – seeming almost to imply that the mild pot belly of the mature patriarch is a mark of age and mana.
It was not an argument that was going to survive the wife test, so I left the shop.
At my next port of call, a nicely cut, New Zealand-made suit at a sale preview. Perfect.
The bloke who first served me was adamant the trousers were too long. The style, he said, for "a lot of the guys now" is a shorter, Mod-style short look, with a bit of sock showing.
Luckily, he got busy with another customer, and another bloke in the shop was adamant the other guy was wrong and always giving that advice. Another lucky escape.
Of course, buy a suit in a sale and the agenda will turn idly to ties. And here, chaps, we need to take charge.
Always conservative, following a playbook about what works with what for a muted and inoffensive look, the helpful tie-picker can be difficult to dissuade.
It makes me think most blokes don't feel comfortable picking their own look, so the guys in shops are trained to expect everyone to be a dodo who needs molly-coddling into a nice blue striped number.
Either that or a thought not worth contemplating: that my taste in ties sucks.