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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Licentiate Column 21/10/10

A woman's experiences with camel in all it's permutations are usually interesting. It's close enough to beige to be neither exhilaratingly good or mood-shrivellingly bad, but it's far enough away from that perennially tedious shade to be just the right side of interesting. Yes, 'interesting' is definitely the word.

Like many girls of my generation, the first time that I saw a camel coat was a particularly sharp Jil Sander number on my mother as a toddler (I was the toddler, not my mother. Camel may be interesting but it isn't powerful enough to implicate time travel). I remember thinking even then just how impossibly grown-up the long, double-breasted overcoat was - how the shape precisely delineated just how much of an adult my mother was, and still is, in my eyes. It was a world away from the one that I inhabited. I wondered when I would be the grown-up lady with the grown-up coat. I'm still waiting.

The second experience with camels was riding one by the ancient pyramids in Giza last year. As the slurping behemoth bobbed and juddered around unfenced tombs of the pyramid's foremen and architects, little more than holes in the ground, I got the same feeling that I did when looking upon my mother's camel coat for the first time. I was just not ready for the experience.

Even though the style reports tell you otherwise, a camel coat is not just for this season; it's for life. The moment you become an adult is not when you turn 18 and legally ged drunk on lager shandies, it's when you buy on of these babies. Unlike an actual camel though, a camel coat will not cost you money in food and stable fees. A camel coat will not earn you extra pocket money charging passing tourists for joy rides and it will definitely not spit on you when the going gets tough (but I promise nothing).

In fact, most camel coats aren't actually made of camel hair but synthetic fibres that are dyed a uniformly dromedary hue. "Oh good", I hear you sigh, "No animal has been harmed in the making of my new car coat from Oasis". Bless you, for you are incredibly misinformed (but fair dues for worrying about whether your clothes are ethically sourced or not). Besides wool, camel hair has to be the kindest of all animal fibres, collected from the two humped Bactrian camel and not my stinky Egyptian friend. The best to be had is casually collected of the animals neck and flanks as it falls off during moulting, thus making camel hair harvesting the easiest job since the Arctic got it's first weatherman.

Many people accuse camel of being nothing but a another word for the dreaded beige. For future reference, real camel is actually a shade of brown. It's darker than beige, with a golden, honeyed tone. Camel hair also has thermobaric properties that NASA would be proud to develop, enabling the wearer to stay warm in Peruvian mountain snow and cool in desert climes (or just on a windy December day waliking down Patrick Street, if that's what you prefer). See what I mean about camel being interesting? You can accuse it of being scarily grown-up or a bastardised beige, but it'll never be boring.