Corbyn’s worst policy? Reviving the shellsuit!
SIR CLIFF favoured geometric multi-colours. Tony Bennett still wears his with gold jewellery. fidel Castro has worn nothing else since 2006. And David Icke chose a lurid turquoise number in which to announce, on Wogan in 1991, that he was the son of God.
It’s safe to say that shellsuits have never, ever, been cool — at least not for very long. Even during the Eighties, when you couldn’t see for highly flammable polyester and Elton John, rod Stewart, Paul Gascoigne and half the cast of Brookside wore them day and night.
They were ridiculed by Ali G, dismissed as ‘chav leisure wear’ and were the world’s greatest fashion disaster of all time — narrowly beating the mullet haircut for breath-taking awfulness.
So when Jeremy Corbyn stepped out boldly — not just once, but several times over the past month — in an extraordinary grey (or should we call it pewter?) Wilson shellsuit, complete with nylon sheen, enough baggy material to clothe a small constituency and cherry red go- faster flashes to match his smart red raleigh push bike, he caused quite a stir.
Perhaps he’d seen the portentous announcement on the website Vogue.com in September: ‘The tracksuit is back!’
Either way, the Twittersphere went mad. The internet was swamped with pictures of Corbyn’s ‘vintage’ Wilson, a renowned fashion brand most associated with tennis. Everyone wanted to know where he’d got it. How long he’d had it. Was he wearing it for a dare? Was his sartorial style slipping under the strain of all that nasty Syria business?
More worrying, some commentators mistook Jezza’s shiny two- piece for ‘ just a tracksuit’. Heaven forbid.
A tracksuit is something you might actually find an athlete in, and is occasionally even made of natural fibres.
Whereas a shellsuit is traditionally made of a really nasty mix of cellulose triacetate and polyester, possibly in a Chinese sweat shop — not something Jezza should approve of — and usually sports a garish geometric design of some sort. It’s also shiny on the outside and uncomfortably electric- shocky on the inside against your skin.
On the upside, shellsuits are wonderfully practical — all those zip pockets, plus a nice elasticated waist and cuffs to allow for that third Cornish Pasty. Not forgetting, machine washable, dripdry, no-iron, and shower-proof.
And so much comfier (if you have a nice old T-shirt between the suit and your skin) than all that horrid white tie stuff the Queen likes so much, and which the Labour leader reluctantly climbed into for a state dinner last month. And just the job if you’re facing a stressful byelection on Thursday and find the sound of rustling polyester strangely soothing.
Next April, synthetic two-piece outfits will have a place in a new exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London featuring loungewear and ‘leisurewear’.
No doubt there will be high- minded spiel about how the first tracksuits were made from wool in the Twenties, but that synthetic materials were adopted after Nasa developed them for use in boiler suits. They were at least used for sport until they became daywear in the Seventies and Eighties.
So, back to Jezza’s own shellsuit. Is it the real deal? Is it authentic vintage? How long has he had it? Was it part of the original Eighties motorcycling get-up which helped woo Diane Abbott all those years ago?
Who knows? But what is certain is that the minute Corbyn walked out in his Wilson, head held high and hands deep in those vast nylon pockets, all those eager young Corbynistas will have rushed to their laptops to log onto eBay to try to buy their own.
So, before we know it, shellsuits (even the polyester kind) will be back in fashion again.
Which will of course be wonderfully comfortable. Just so long as we steer clear of candles, sparklers, bonfires, cigarettes and, well, anything vaguely hot.
Was it the original outfit he wore to woo Diane Abbott?
Shell shockers, clockwise from above: Jeremy Corbyn, David Icke, Sir Elton John, Paul Gascoigne, James Corden, Tony Bennett and ex-Cuban President Fidel Castro