I've never considered myself to be an avid follower of fashion; if anything, I prefer to set trends than follow them. This isn't particularly easy either, as the best way to set a trend is to be visible in the public eye, and immune from ridicule. Consider David Beckham at his peak (rather than his bottle-blond, what-is-he-married-to current state of decay) when even wearing a skirt wasn't enough to have the whole country (deservedly) laughing at him. I hate the limelight, it's just not my colour, so setting a trend for me means that I have to appear in the right places at the right times and catch the eye of the right people. It's tough, but I usually make the effort once or twice a year.
Back when I first started doing this the intoxicating rush I got from watching as the trend took hold was incredible; I literally couldn't believe how exhilarating it was to see people copying the way I dressed and the way I accessorised. Naturally as soon as the trend was clearly taking hold I stopped wearing it, as I have no wish to appear to be the same as everybody else. Underneath everything we are all the same, but that doesn't mean that I want it to be obvious. Friends and acquaintances (you know, those people who know you and think they can talk to you and don't realise how annoying you find them) would come up and comment on that fact that I wasn't following the fashion, and I would smile smugly and point out that I'd been wearing it half a season ago and was over it now. Shortly after that I had to find new friends and acquaintances, but I've been doing that all my life anyway.
I am tempted occasionally to see how far I can push it, but having done it once I won't do it again. As entertaining as it was to watch a ballroom full of fashionistas turn into a conflagration due to my having set a trend for highly flammable wispy fabrics and their industry awards having gone for the faux-romantic look of real candles, it was expensive in many ways and the thrill was remarkably short-lived. I kept the newspaper cuttings though; everyone should have some record of what they've achieved in life.
I entertain myself now by watching the trends, and rarely nudging them when I feel they're getting too ridiculous, or when I think that someone is attempting to exert the kind of influence that I once did. The current fashion for declaring whatever is in this season to be the new black is irritating me intensely though. The only circumstance under which pea-green can be the new black, for instance, is if a particular fashion designer is colour-blind. And to declare red to be the new black is simply to show a fundamental lack of understanding of the basic colour palette. To take out an entire primary colour like that leaves you in a drab, vaguely aquatic world. It makes me feel asthmatic, not uplifted and enlivened.
However, looking around the breakfast salon of my 5-star hotel this morning (not one of my choice I feel I should say, I am here at someone else's expense, though I feel as though I am here at the expense of my taste and sensibilities) I wonder if perhaps it would not be hyperbole to declare that ugly is the new black. It is surely the only explanation for what I see in front of me. Since when have wrinkles been fashionable? Yet everywhere I look I see them, on faces, on arms and legs, and even in the tablecloth in front of me. That at least I can smooth back into something more acceptable. The only place that wrinkles absent themselves from is the folds of fat on obese people who wobble into breakfast and collapse onto a chair which creaks self-pityingly as it strains itself to support the corpulence of its occupant.
Between the fat and the ugly I am left looking most incongruous indeed, being thin and easy to overlook. I would never dare to praise my looks, for the chorus of voices to contradict me would deafen me for life, yet here I am most out of place. I have no unsightly facial hair, I have no large boils or pimples. My features are mostly symmetrical and inoffensive. I am almost everything these people are not, and yet I am the exception to the rule, the odd one out. The odd dogma of fashion dictates therefore that I am unfashionable and out of place. Ugly is the only acceptable way to be.
And so, if ugly were to be the new black I would be terribly relieved, as black belongs in the shadows and at night, when the lighting is poor and dim, and what in plain daylight is seen to be something so hideous as to make you feel obliged to book an appointment at your own expense with a reputable plastic surgeon is at night only intriguing and mysterious. This then I shall tell myself, that ugly is simply the new black, and that I am doomed to be unfashionable for another season.