Category Archives: Clothing

Magma Beard

Anyone who knows me knows my beards. Until my wedding day (on 1/2/3 – or 2/1/3 if you’re American) I went clean-shaven for most of my life. But on that happy day, I got best-man Ed to carve something new in my face, inspired by my new Paul Smith suit complete with thigh-length drape jacket.

Ever since then, I’ve kept some variation on the same theme. Since Gill and I never did get around to exchanging rings (and since Ed had promised to make us wedding rings), I guess you could say that my facial hair is my wedding ring (NB: the same doesn’t apply to Gill). It has evolved since then though: through subtle changes in facial anatomy and less subtle rescue jobs on shaving cock-ups, it has crept around my face, grown thicker and thinner, stripes have changed position, angle and number. A few months ago at Razor Stiletto I had my face painted, tiger-style, with a couple of beard-stripes doubling up as tiger-patterning. When I got home, I thought I’d take the similarity further (forgetting that I had done something very similar exactly two years earlier).

Going tiger-striped seems to have inspired me to new shaving confidence, and to trust my facial hair to find its own shape. Shaving has now become an almost meditative activity, a sort of automatic-drawing but with a sharp implement, where I allow the contours of my face and the movement of my razor to conjure up new patterns of their own, with little conscious intervention from me. As a result, things have got sort of… well, fancy.

Here’s the latest result:

Magma beard

For the first few days after it shaved itself, I couldn’t help thinking that the design was somehow familiar. I was sure I’d seen it somewhere before. Then it struck me: it looked just like the logo for 70s French operatic prog-rock band Magma. OK, so it actually looks quite different now that I’ve seen the original again, but it was close enough to jog my memory.

Any suggestions as to which prog heroes’ logo I should carve into my chin next? Hmmm, carve into my chin… [thinks]… my face could become like some sort of prog-rock Mount Rushmore.

Sheffield Bench store launch party

On Thursday night, I was hired to photograph the launch of Bench‘s new flagship shop at Sheffield’s Meadowhall, and the subsequent VIP party.

Mani (Stone Roses/Primal Scream) and The Yell at Bench VIP party

I have to admit, my hopes weren’t that high. I mean, how exciting can a Meadowhall shop be? Well, how wrong could I be? The shop was amazing, and the evening even more so.
Continue reading Sheffield Bench store launch party

Katherine Mansfield, American Splendour and Hats

I finally got around to reading some Katherine Mansfield, after reading glowing praise from M John Harrison and others, and spotting Harvey Pekar reading one of her books in a scene from American Splendour. I picked up a pleasingly 1950s-looking hardback “Collected Stories” from the book stall on the South Bank, under Waterloo Bridge.

Last night I was reading Je Ne Parle Pas Francais, my mind particularly sharp, and almost every phrase within the story dripped with significance. She starts it off by saying:

I don’t believe in the human soul. I never have. I believe that people are like portmanteaux�packed with certain things, started going, thrown about, tossed away, dumped down, lost and found, half emptied suddenly, or squeezed fatter than ever, until finally the Ultimate Porter swings them on to the Ultimate Train and away they rattle.

I was cheering with the appropriateness of this simile, until a few paragraphs further down she puts herself down, calling this a:

rather far-fetched and not frightfully original digression

But the bit which really had me sitting back digging into my own mind for resonances was this:

I’ve no patience with people who can’t let go of things, who will follow after and cry out. When a thing’s gone, it’s gone. It’s over and done with. Let it go then ! Ignore it, and comfort yourself, if you do want comforting, with the thought that you never do recover the same thing that you lose. It’s always a new thing. The moment it leaves you it’s changed. Why, that’s even true of a hat you chase after; and I don’t mean superficially �I mean profoundly speaking . . . I have made it a rule of my life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy, and no one who intends to be a writer can afford to indulge in it. You can’t get it into shape; you can’t build on it; it’s only good for wallowing in. Looking back, of course, is equally fatal to Art. It’s keeping yourself poor. Art can’t and won’t stand poverty.

Suddenly I was cast back to the days when I had a hat. I was seventeen, studying for my A-levels at Richmond-upon-Thames college. I’m sure that to most people who saw me at the time, I was defined by that hat. I’d picked it up at Kensington Market, during one of my many trips to that magical bazaar, a floppy wide-brimmed felt thing with a light-blue cotton scarf tied around and dripping over the brim, pulling it down on one side. I wore it everywhere. I felt strangely connected to it as my main distinguishing feature.

Then I went to Southampton, for a meet-up with fellow players of the Saturnalia play-by-mail game. I cruised the drinking establishments of Southampton’s red-light-districts with the Southampton Uni students who ran the game, got very drunk, crashed the night in Mo’s flat listening to eternal B52s, left early the next day to catch a train to Woodcraft Folk camp in the Forest of Dean.

I soon realised I’d left my hat behind, in the room of a particularly obnoxious student who had been limbering up for his finals. We corresponded, the hat was still there. He finally brought it along to the next meet-up. Unfortunately, by then the finals had passed, as had post-exam drinking binges, and in a night of excess he had returned to his room to find only one receptacle suitable for holding vomit: my hat. He’d tried washing it, but it had lost its shape, it was not the hat it had been before. I tried wearing it, but it didn’t feel right. Of course, this was largely down to the negative effect of puke on the shaped-felt, and I did lament my hat and wish that I had it back in its previous form, but I think that sick-receptacle or not, that couple of months spent separated from my headgear had changed both me and the hat in ways more subtle that those immediately obvious. Even if it had looked the same as when I’d left it, I don’t think I’d have gone back long-term to wearing the hat. Time had divorced me from my hat.