“What’s so wrong with red trousers?” This was the innocent question that our French Art Director asked – no doubt now regrettably – the day another member of the team decided to don a pair one Thursday. It’s not so much that I don’t like red trousers, it’s more that I just find I have an awful lot to say about them – mainly negative. Mostly in jest… mostly.
Much like the unofficial uniform of the Ivy-league dwelling, Hamptons-holidaying youth of America where pastel chinos are simply de rigueur at “Daddy’s Country Club”, the RT (as they are known) carries with it a wealth of connotations. They stand for what the majority of the population loathe (those not born with a silver spoon in their mouth); the obnoxious hedge-funder, the deceitful banker or worse, the Chelsea Trust-Funder. This was not, however, how history intended them. In the 15th Century a man in red breeches was seen as highly fashionable and the status bestowed upon such a man continued for centuries to come. Across the Channel, the military during the Napoleonic Wars wars wore red trousers through until World War I, supposedly so they could be easily seen by their comrades in battle. The RT now, however, bears no high-fashion label, nor mark of military honour.
Where once the RT was as much a regular at regattas, point-to-points and county shows as Pimm’s and smoked salmon, it has, in recent years, branched out of it’s country dwellings and entered the well-heeled realms of the Royal Boroughs of London. Populating the pubs of Chelsea, the clubs of Fulham and, well, pretty much every corner of Kensington from Holland Park Avenue to Old Brompton Road, it’s hardly surprising the stigma they carry with them.
Having witnessed the RT’s rise to fame as a teenager when many a public school boy convinced themselves that with a pair of RTs, a designer (preferably Jack Wills or Ralph Lauren) shirt with the collar artfully ‘popped’, pair of brown suede loafers and a bottle of WKD in hand, the world was in fact their oyster. A few years later and it was the rude-boy look they adopted; Adidas three stripes, rotten trainers and snap-backs making them both “one with the people”, and more readily, highly flammable. Fast forward to 2015 and these same sartorially-confused young men are now back firmly in their RTs and unapologetically so. Easily identifiable, the RT wearer only addresses friends by their surnames, dates girls with flicky side partings, cashmere twin-sets and exclusively names that end in ‘ie’ or ‘y’ (Hettie, Chetty and Fluffy are preferable), and speak in a well adapted code of “yahs” and “rahs”. The RT wearer is more rife than ever.
It’s important to note that – before an onslaught of abuse descends – that I have (for my sins) dated a RT wearer, am both a sister and a daughter to the occasional RT wearer and have many a friend, too, who is regularly mocked for their sartorial choices, but this doesn’t change my stance on them. It’s not the wearer that bothers me, but rather the symbolism of them; the toff-like, castle-dwelling, KR-partying and Rah-shouting man that is so often found within them. But to hate RTs because of their Sloaney connotations would be like hating beards for their hipster ones and quite frankly, isn’t it all a little passe to be hating such things?
In short and as my poor Art Director has now learned, after a hefty office rant ensued, my issue with RT’s is not so much the item in question, but rather the wealth of ironic mocking that goes with them. Moral of the story? Hate the trouser, not the wearer.
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