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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Licentiate Column 16/03/11: Couples with matching jackets

Normally, I quite like the stories that my parents tell me about their courtin’ days. Bike rides to the beach on the Kerry coast and trips to see Thin Lizzy and Eric Clapton are played in my mind through a fuzzy, hazy sunshine imbued filter not unlike that used in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

In reality, my parents are one part Sundance and Etta and another part Homer and Marge Simpson. For example, my father brought my mother a box of chocolates on the night of their debs ball. Par for the course, except that he ate all of the soft centres. For every instance of cutesy-poo, there’s another one that is mind-bendingly embarassing (but still very sweet).

Once, my parents decided that it would be a good idea to purchase and wear matching jackets. Not just matching jackets, but matching silver puffa jackets. With red and blue stripes. The mind boggles.

My mother now reassures me that it wasn’t a conscious decision. My father was living in Dublin, my mother in Tralee. She bought the jacket, knowing that my father liked it, but reasoning that they would never turn up in the same place, wearing the same jacket. She was very wrong. Apparently, this was one of the most testing periods in their relationship. If anything, it’s proof that my parents have very middle-class problems.

I told myself that this would never happen to me. That lasted about five minutes when I started going out with my first proper boyfriend. The silver puffa jacket was, mercifully, not an option, but we would manage to turn up separately for afternoon dates in battered converse, slim jeans (skinnies had yet to be invented) and leather bomber jackets. We looked like the world’s worst Ramones tribute band. Don’t get me started on the time we both wore sparkly LBDs to a family wedding... This may not have happened.

For better or worse, if you pick a partner with similar tastes to yours, it’s likely that this will extend to your clothing. It could be little things, like wearing the same colours, or it could be a full-on matching fest of the highest, most tasteless order.

On one end of the spectrum, there’s Ralph and Ricky Lauren. Ricky’s effortlessly preppy style was what inspired the designer husband to branch into womenswear and today, both are perfect examples of co-ordinated collegiate cool. On the opposite end, there’s Posh and Becks. Do we remember the leather jumpsuits? The double disaster of cream and purple suits at their wedding? I don’t think I need to go any further.

In other countries, wearing matching outfits is a source of pride. In eastern Asia, where PDAs are frowned upon, it’s normal for unmarried couples to wear identical outfits as a sign of their togetherness. It has become so popular that retailers now sell outfits in pairs. It sounds terrible but it is probably no more visually offensive than the average PDA.

Like it or not, if you’re a part of the world at large, this dilemma is one you will have to face many times. So, look on the bright side; it’ll make a good story to tell your children - just don’t mention puffa jackets.