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A clothes line fit to last a long time

I HAD lunch with a friend on Monday, more to get out of the torrential rain than anything else.

At one point, while we were waiting for the food to arrive, she leaned towards me and tilted her head in the manner of one about to ask an unwelcome question.

"That suit," she said. "Had it a while? It's too tight - it's nipping you across the chest."

I was just about to say that I'd had it for 14 years, when she spotted something else.

"What about that shirt?" She peered a little more closely. "Is it pink?"

I glanced down, and shifted uncomfortably. My right shoe had let in the rain, and the sole of the sock was wringing. Thank God she couldn't spot that.

No, I said. The shirt was pristine white when I bought it eight years ago but has been washed and re-washed so often that it had lost any pretence of whiteness.

From time to time, mostly during the wildly unpredictable weather that passes for a Scottish summer, I make a dutiful effort to keep up with the trends in men's fashion.

Dutiful, and excessively short-lived. I don't know if it's an age thing, but all this talk of what-to-wear oppresses the spirit even more than a shoe that lets in the rain.

"Invest in the classics," one fashion magazine advised this week. "A cashmere rollneck, a navy pea coat, a narrow pair of dark blue jeans."

"Expect to pay £200-£300 for a decent winter coat, and replace it after five years (if not before)..." Five? Five? I've got winter coats that are older than the magazine writer's children.

The coup de grace was the advice to "make sure your shoes are well-maintained and polished."

In a photograph the guys from the magazine sported everything from suede jean jackets ("the new casual") and brogue boots ("the new essential") to a "classic, beautifully tailored Gucci suit", a Paul Smith jacket and Nudie jeans.

Nice, I think. But is there an age beyond which such things are wasted on you?

I think about the too-tight suit I bought from Next 14 years ago. Should I discard it and update my wardrobe? I decide to keep it - it's probably good enough for a while yet.

I have, however, just bought some new shirts. No Paul Smith, Boss or Tommy Hilfiger for me. Three shirts in a box from M&S. £30. White, long-sleeved, easy to iron.

The best part: it will be 2022 before I even have to think about replacing them.

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