Are you a man? Do you have legs wider than the average pipe cleaner? Then this article is for you. You’ll need something to read as you sit at home, unable to go out because you’ve got no trousers. British clothes shops, you see, no longer sell ones that fit you.
At first I thought the problem was me. Every pair of jeans I tried on in Gap hugged me like clingfilm. Had I put on that much weight? I tried the only other place I ever buy jeans: Fat Face. Same story. As indeed it was with their trousers, even the combats. God help the soldier sent into action wearing those things: he wouldn’t be able to bend at the knee. Lost in a sea of labels reading ‘Skinny’ and ‘Slim’, I realised that (to misquote Gloria Swanson) I hadn’t got big — the trousers had got small.
Friends confirmed the problem. On Just a Minute Marcus Brigstocke was given the subject ‘skinny jeans’, and went into a rant about how there should be a shop that sells trousers for ‘normal’ men. Don’t get us wrong: we’re not aiming for Shaun Ryder circa 1990. We just want legwear that allows us to speak in a note below top C. And yes we know that skinny is the latest fashion. That’s the problem: fashion is for the likes of James Anderson, who I saw at a corporate do recently in a suit with trousers that might as well have been tights. He looked fantastic. Of course he did: he’s an England fast bowler with a body to match. He’d look good in anything. The rest of us: not so fortunate. We look like Tony Blair in that photocall at Camp David, wearing jeans so tight he could only get his fingertips into the pockets.
Things looked hopeful a couple of weeks ago, when my friend Chris excitedly announced that he’d found the solution. There was a shop, he said, that was still selling proper jeans, and what’s more they didn’t charge the earth. Even as he prepared to reveal the secret, I had forebodings. Sure enough, Chris uttered those three little words: Marks and Spencer. No! I cannot buy my jeans from M&S. I’m planning on living more than another 18 months.
So the search continues, and it’s a dangerous business. Last week I found myself in Reiss, a shop I’ve always viewed as a touch dandyish, but needs must. Within minutes I’d put my back out. This is not a joke for journalistic effect: I had put my back out. You can tell a pair of jeans are going to be too tight as soon as you put your leg in, can’t you? But just to see how ludicrous things had got I persisted, and tried to get the jeans on completely. This I managed, just about.
Then came the challenge of getting them off again. The waistband couldn’t be pushed any further than mid-thigh, so I sat down (or rather fell against the cubicle wall and slid into the seat), ready to start pulling at an ankle. Needless to say the first effort yielded naught, so I tried again — and felt a horrible twinge in my latissimus dorsi. There were only female assistants on duty, so I had to sit and wait for the pain to subside. The alternative wasn’t an option. Me: ‘My back’s gone, please could you come and help me get these jeans off?’ Them: ‘Not that old chestnut.’
But never mind my minor injuries. The real danger concerns nothing less than the survival of the species. This horrifying thought occurred to me in a branch of Jack Wills. (Don’t be silly, of course I wasn’t trying to buy clothes there. Have you seen their jeans? You might as well spraypaint your legs blue. This was just research.) A whole generation of young males are forcing their Intimate Areas into garments that, were they to be issued at Guantánamo Bay, would be classed as infringements of human rights. Perhaps a few of these unfortunates will learn to retract their testicles like samurai warriors, but for the rest there’s only one possible consequence: they are going to be the final branch on their family tree. The British leisurewear industry has become death, the destroyer of worlds.
If we ever want to see our grandchildren, we need to act now. I would suggest a million-man march on the headquarters of Gap. But the men in question would be wearing Gap jeans, so wouldn’t be able to take steps of more than three inches.
We have to do something, though. Come on, chaps. This is a call to arms, for the sake of our legs.