Despite erring, hopefully, on the side of quality fabrics and a decent fit, I'm not particularly partial to either trendy or traditional clothes. Both schools of tailoring are capable of producing stylish and functional results, if you ask me. Except, that is, when it comes to men's swimming trunks and other seaside fashions designed for turning lethargy into an extreme sport. In other words: resort wear. the unacceptable face of summer.
"I am a human; nothing human is alien to me" wrote the affable Roman playwright Terence, who obviously never set foot in a store selling resort wear. Such an experience would surely shake his faith in benign homogeneity. Voluminous board shorts, plastic flip flops, marijuana themed t-shirts, over-sized sunglasses, neon thongs, colored beads, novelty Rasta wigs and unidentifiable objects woven from hemp. Need I go on? These are clothes for bovine oafs who consider being hungover, high and comatose to be a reasonable way of life. I'm not saying vacationers should sunbathe on the beach in evening gowns, or wade in the breakers wearing tuxedos with the pant legs rolled-up, but surely there is a certain level of decorum to expected. Whatever happened to the good old days of light-colored linen jackets, Panama hats, rope-soled shoes and elegant Bermuda shorts? You can call me uptight, an old fuddy-duddy, even possibly embarrassed about revealing my surgical scars to the arch eyes of all and sundry on the sands of Bournemouth, San Tropez and the New Jersey shore, but I think I have the cultural prestige of classical antiquity on my side.
Terence most likely dressed in a uniform of simple leather sandals and a pale tunic tied at the waist. Highly appropriate for a Roman summer spent wandering around the Forum. There were no Keith Haring flamingos decorating the material he wore; no stoner slogans printed across the chest. Nor were the soles of his sandals bolstered by three inches of lizard green, inflatable rubber tread. Finding himself in a modern resort-wear store, he'd probably assume he'd stumbled into the lair of interplanetary surfer bums; or, considering the XXXL sizes on display, he might even think he'd happened upon an ogre's monstrous wardrobe. Either way, he would certainly never associate the merchandise with anything of civilized origin. "Cheap barbarian garbage" is undoubtedly the phrase that sprung to our playwright's mind when confronted with these vulgar and outlandish goods.
Yet any alternative beach attire is almost impossible find these days. If you're not comfortable with baggy, waterproof knickerbockers hanging halfway off your backside then you might as well just not bother heading to the boardwalk at all. Consequently I have to wear my wet-suit, snorkel and flippers whenever I go to the beach. People often look twice at my harpoon but I've grown used to their stares by now. Sometimes my wet-suit isn't dry after the previous days swim, so I'm forced to climb into my deep sea diving outfit with the lead boots and brass helmet. I don't mind telling you that it can get a little hot in there, even under the shade of a beach umbrella. But still, at least I don't look like a lazy slob in ill-fitting and idiotic resort wear.