Connacht Tribune - Opinion Piece
Races bring out the sharp dressed men – for one day onlyAugust 8, 2012 - 9:50pm
IT’S the get-up of the ladies that draws all of the attention of course, but one of the funniest sights of Race Week in Galway is the sartorial elegance of the county’s young males, trussed up like turkeys in their best bib and tucker for Ballybrit.
These are guys who, quite honestly, wouldn’t be seen dead in a shirt – let alone a suit – on any other day of the year and here they are, parading around town in their shiny suits and ties as though they were heading for a night at the opera as opposed to a day at the races.
And these aren’t the sort of suits we might have had back in the day on the off chance of a job interview – the kind of suits you hoped you’d one day grow into, where the sleeves were down over the knuckles and the trousers were belted up to the chest.
No, these look like Louis Copeland was working overtime to ensure they fitted our young fashion followers like the proverbial glove, topped off with shiny shoes, gelled hair and a two day old growth – if they were old enough to shave – for the premiership football look.
There wasn’t a bus stop in Galway last Wednesday or Thursday that wasn’t frequented by dozens of sharp dressed young men looking like a flash mob from a Quentin Tarantino movie – even young fellows who didn’t have a suit to their name at least had a well ironed shirt on their back and what we used to call a pressed pair of slacks.
Half of them may have looked like they were enjoying a feed of pints after making their first Communion and loads of them looked like the fella out of Crystal Swing, but at least they made an effort – at least to the point where the shirt came out and the tie was loosened and the eyes began to roll of their own accord in opposite directions.
And that also – it must be said – saw a level of aggression and stupidity on the streets that we could live without. It’s all good and well to don best bib and tucker, but it takes more than a sharp suit to make you a man.
But really the question is why is it that these young bucks are prepared to tog out like superstars once a year and then spend the other 364 days looking like they were dragged through a hedge backwards?
Perhaps it’s just the novelty; maybe it’s because the fake-tanned girlfriend insisted on it, or simply peer pressure insisted on it – and in any event it’s no bad thing.
There used to be a theory regarding Sundays in Ireland that those who wore suits all week opted to dress down on the day of relative rest, while those who dressed casually would don shirt and tie for the one day of the week they were off.
As a fully paid-up member of the anti tie brigade, there are only a few occasions a year when I’m forced to constrict my breathing by closing my shirt and knotting a tie – and, yes, sometimes the Galway Races is one of them.
But at this stage I’m way past impressing the ladies – that’s, indeed, if I ever did – and it’s more down to manners and etiquette than anything else.
You roll back the clock to the height of the dancehall days and every male in the ballroom had a suit; then came the disco era of long hair, bell-bottoms, paisley shirts open to the navel with perhaps a medallion to complete the look. The late Tony Gregory has a lot to answer for as well, as the first man who refused to wear a tie in the Dail – now we have Slick Mick Wallace in a print tee-shirt and People Before Profit prophet Richard Boyd Barrett in a crumpled shirt, and it’s all gone to pot in Leinster House.
The geeks at the cutting edge of the digital phenomenon probably don’t own a single tie between them – indeed some of them don’t seem old enough to own a pair of long pants – and the dress code is strictly beachwear even when multi-billion dollar flotations are going down.
So given their influence on the youth market, it’s probably a good thing that an event like the Galway Races presents itself as an annual chance to dig the suit from the back of the wardrobe, if only for an airing.
And anyway, if they dressed like that all the time, they’d look like members of Young Fine Gael – which, in fairness, probably isn’t a big magnet with the ladies.
Fair play to them for making the effort because they add just as much to the gaiety of the day as the best trussed ladies – but we’re probably all happier to see them back to normal now in shredded jeans and torn tee-shirts.