COLUMN: May 24, 2018

Look at how happy this man is to be wearing sunglasses. Can you imagine being that happy about anything?

WHEN I bought my new varifocal confuso-spectacles a few weeks ago, I received a free pair of varifocal confuso-sunglasses. It seemed wildly optimistic. Imagine needing a pair of sunglasses in the United Kingdom in spring. I might as well have bought shorts.

However, for once in my life, my optimism was founded. The sun has been cracking the flags like the Kettering All-Elephants Jogging Group. Men have been showing off their awful leg tattoos. Women have been showing off their awful men.

And I have been wearing my sunglasses. That is an oversimplification. There are two types of people in this world. There are people who wear sunglasses and there are people who are worn by sunglasses.

I am in the latter camp. I look at best like a Mafia hitman, and at worst like somebody who has gone to a fancy dress party as the sunshine emoji. What I do not look like is a man wearing sunglasses because it is sunny and they are a sensible item of clothing to wear under the circumstances.

It is ridiculous. The use of an umbrella during rainy weather does not appear like an affectation. If I wear a jumper in the autumn, nobody says, “Ooh, look at swanky-pants Alan Titchmarsh over there!”

But because somebody once decided that sunglasses are cool, it follows that only cool people can wear them without comment. If you are not cool, and you wear sunglasses, you look like somebody who is trying to look cool. And I am very much not cool. Not in this weather.

So I undergo a process every year of breaking in my sunglasses, in order to look comfortable while wearing them. For the first couple of occasions, I wear them only if there isn’t a cloud in the sky and it’s impossible to see without them, but I remove them the second I go indoors or board public transport.

Then I’ll gradually step up the pace. I’ll wear them even if it’s suddenly gone overcast. Before too long I’m leaving them on when I walk into shops – unless they’re too dark, like Hollister, when I’ll swap them for my normal glasses, or while on the bus. I will even wear them when entering work, which is extremely brave of me as newspaper offices are full of observant people with regard to glasses. Lois Lane is very much the exception to that rule.

And, once I have got past my reservations, sunglasses are absolutely brilliant when you are on a bus because nobody can see your eyes, which means I can indulge in my favourite bus pastime of people-watching without getting my head kicked in, a boon for anybody with a big nose who doesn’t want it broken.

I have been able to take in some awful sights. I do not want to get into the terrible business of bodyshaming, but nobody looks good in a muscle top, not even people with muscles. As for those calf-skimming not-quite-shorts that men have taken to wearing in this weather… when I was growing up it was a cause of shame to wear half-mast trousers, and rightly so.

By far the worst man I have seen, I saw a couple of days ago. I exited a dark shop into the blazing sunshine and stepped straight onto the bus, time for once working in tandem with my body.

It was a single-decker and I sat at the back – the Golden Seat on a single-decker. A couple of stops later a shaven-headed man boarded the bus and sat opposite me. He must have agreed with me that muscle tops were bad, and thrown his in the bin because he was topless, his sweaty back doubtless soaking the seat as a treat for the next passenger.

He was wearing those not-quite-shorts. And, above his left nipple, he had the grimmest tattoo I had ever seen. I think it was meant to be a lion. Or a camel. It was hard to tell. It was the Mona Lisa of bad tattoos.

I took it in and suppressed a grimace. At least, I did around the mouth area. My eyes, shielded by my lenses, told a different story, bulging with disgust, as I took in the full horror of this inept display of animal anatomical drawing.

And if only I had put my sunglasses back on after I had left the dark shop, the owner of the tattoo would probably never have known.

It was not cool.

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