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It is autumn, which means certain things will happen. Leaves will fall. Evenings will Draw In. Parents will lovingly allow their small children to dress up as malevolent spirits of dead people. And women’s fashion magazines across the world will run preppy fashion spreads inspired by the film Love Story.
If you have not seen Love Story and have no idea what I’m talking about, I can only imagine that you have never read a women’s magazine between the months of August and March. As a matter of fact, I’ve never seen Love Story either. But I don’t need to – I’ve read so many derivative fashion stories that I feel like I’ve watched it seventeen times.
The point is this: there are sub-plots to the film about young love, class divide and tragic early death, but the main message is that Ali Macgraw wears unfortunate 1970s polo necks and woolly hats. A lot. And, at some point between meeting Ryan O’Neal on campus and, well, dying, she evidently finds time to run crunching through autumn leaves in some of the finest municipal parkery ever captured on the silver screen. Ryan gamely matches her step for step with striped college scarves and the like, and the result is a blueprint for Preppy Style which is aired by fashion editors every year like some dusty old school blazer brought out from the wardrobe every September:
According to Filmsite.org, one of the film’s most touching scenes is “the montage of the couple tossing snowballs at each other.” Jesus.
It’s frightening how the magazines never deviate. I have, in fact, seen one bit from Love Story, in which Ryan O’Neal was sporting some minky ice-hockey gear and trying to catch Ali’s eye with some daring puck-related moves. I’m not sure what she saw in him, actually, but then, she wasn’t well. Anyway, there are never any “How to dress like a porky male ice-hockey player” spreads in the magazines. It’s always, “How to look waifish in a punt with some young Etonian”. And who needs help with that?
I’m betting that none of the fashion editors have actually seen Love Story, and have all been copying the same feature published in Paris Vogue in 1981.
The annoying thing is that readers in the northern hemisphere really don’t need to be told to wear flared jeans, brown boots, warm coats and minging 1969-apres-ski-in-Gstaad knitwear when it’s October. It’s as natural as farting in the bath. What we do need help with is, for example, how to wear low-crotched trousers without looking like MC Hammer, how to wear the Folk-Gypsy-Luxe look without getting incarcerated by Italian police, and how to run away from rapists in Christian Louboutin shoes. By contrast, the preppy style is impossible to get wrong.
How extraordinary, then, to find in October’s issue of Germany’s Amica (“Das Fashion-Magazine”) that they have fluffed up the obligatory Love Story feature! How is that possible, you ask? Well, they score points for cable knits and some argyle sock action, but then they go completely off piste by putting the model in Russian fur hats and, even worse, sixties mini-dresses. Nein, nein, nein! Das ist nicht Preppy! Haven’t they READ the source material?
I’m afraid this is the nail in the coffin in my relationship with German women’s magazines. Try as they might, they never get it quite right. There’s always loads of horrid real fur, the shoes are grim, and the photography doesn’t show the clothes off well at all. In Amica, a model is pictured lounging on a furry white carpet in wrinkled beige tights and a rabbit-skin jerkin while caressing a lobster. That, I’m afraid, is beyond the pink. Adios, Amica!
When a newsreader is reaching the ‘And Finally’ part of his slot and begins a new story with “Levi Stubbs, the lead singer with the sixties soul group The Four Tops, …”, you somehow know the story is not going to end well for Mr Stubbs.
The same goes for “Robert Lantz, one of the most influential Hollywood agents of the 1950s…”, or “Isaac Hayes, the American soul singer who won an Oscar for scoring the 1970s film Shaft…”. The BBC World Service is not going to mention blaxpoitation movies unless there is a pretty deadly reason.
No, I’m afraid there is only one way these bulletins are going to end, and it is not going to be with the news that said celebrity has launched a new cruisewear fashion line.
It would be nice if, just for once, instead of finishing the line with “has died at the age of 72”, they could say, “Levi Stubbs, the lead singer with the sixties soul group The Four Tops, has released a new acid jazz album.”
Or, “Levi Stubbs, the lead singer with the soul sixties group The Four Tops, has converted to Islam.”
Or, “Levi Stubbs, the lead singer with the sixties soul group The Four Tops, has had a new Stannah StairLift installed in his Albuquerque mansion, where he lives as a virtual recluse with his three former band members and a butler from Azerbaijan.”
I look out of my window this morning and see a young man in my neighbours’ garden with a shotgun. He is inspecting the gun intently. It is shiny and conker brown. I hope he is not trying to work out which end the bullet comes out of. Then he takes up a killing stance, and stares down the barrel. Is he going to shoot one of the chickens that run about the garden? Or a dog. Please let him maim one of my neighbours’ intensely annoying dogs. Perhaps he is waiting for his family to emerge from the house, ready for church no doubt. They have cut him out of his inheritance, and he is going to blow them away.
No, he takes the gun away from his face and inspects it again. Fascinating. I note he has got a TopMan scarf tied in the city-boy way around his neck. This seems a bit incongruous with the general hunter-stroke-assassin vibe. Ah, here comes another male – his father? – and they drive away in what looks like a Toyota HardCore 4×4 Destructor. Perhaps they are going off to shoot things together. This is a huntin-shootin-fishin-killin kind of place.