ONE swallow does not a summer make.

However, in the flighty world of fashion, one jauntily-worn accessory can spawn a whole new vogue. Therefore, the decision of Scots actor Gerard Butler to don a sheepskin jacket the other day has been greeted rather feverishly, in some quarters, as the Return of the Sheepskin.

Last sported by the nation's favourite mover and shaker, Del Boy Trotter, the seventies staple has something of a mountain to climb in terms of A-list associations but, like all fashion fads, naffness is no barrier to popularity.

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My own memories of the humble sheepskin are warm. Literally. As a baby of the seventies my formative years were spent being carried around next to a sheepskin as my parents had a matching set.

In fact, I have the sheepskin to thank (or blame, depending on your viewpoint) for my Scottish upbringing. My sun-loving mother could only be persuaded to return home from balmy New Zealand on the condition that, at passport control, she was furnished with a sturdy sheepskin car coat to see her through the long Scottish winters. Said coat was procured and, boy, did it earn its keep.

Its uses extended far beyond the sartorial. Childhood car journeys, for example, were instantly transformed into enjoyable snooze-fests when you were snuggled under an expansive sheepskin. Though, to be fair, the body heat generated from being squashed between three other siblings was probably significant.

Those matching car coats also proved an unlikely source of fun during the seemingly endless hours spent at church on a Sunday morning.

We discovered that if you brushed the fabric in one direction it was much darker and so we were able to "write" words with a fingernail. Soon our parents' backs became tantalising blank canvases in the same way dirty white vans have lent themselves to side-splitting witticisms over the years.

Even after hitting the style doldrums and being banished to the back of the cloakroom, the old sheepskins remained just the thing for a spot of gardening or indeed a seventies-themed fancy dress party.

Rarely do fashion and practicality collide but, when they do, we're loathe to move on. The sheepskinned look hung around for so long it could technically be dubbed an era. Perhaps it could see the kind of comeback enjoyed by tartan or tweed in recent years. Surely, if flares can have two heydays in one lifetime, anything is possible.