03 October 2011

Tarting yourself up?


When you compare fashion from one country to another and look at England, you've got to understand that the country's obsession with anything celeb-related is, literally, mental, which is crucial if you want to grasp how most English women go about it.

Guaranteed, wherever it is that you come from, there are also lots of people making a fuss out of the X-Factor (or whatever its local equivalent), Big Brother, some footballer's wives/lovers or others. No doubt, there will also be a few magazines devoted to perfecting the art of shallowness and turning grey stuff into pulp. Perhaps a gossip TV programme and so on.

Whatever the amount, however, when you think about Britain, multiply it by at least 10 and then add another 100 for good measure. Square.

The telly and the press are bursting at the seams with that shit. People are OBSESSED with what their celebrities do. They talk about it at work, at home, on the bus, on their death bed.

Cheryl Cole's new hairdo, Tulisa's gnashers, Victoria Beckham's 75th boob job, Jordan's tan, Wayne Rooney's prozzas, Jody Marsh's obnoxiousity, Bob Geldof's daughter's sweaty armpits, the appalling The Only Way Is Essex, you name it. In England it's a humongous money-making monster...

For instance, just think that this is the only country in Europe that has several daily papers (that is millions of copies sold everyday, think the Sun, the Mirror, the Daily Mail, the Daily Star, People and minor ones) dedicated exclusively to gossip, tits, "bingo wings" and assorted bullying. One American research a few years ago (I wish I remembered the link) also stated that the UK was home, by far, to the highest number of celebrity weeklies in the world. Even more than the US, which is a much larger country.

It's no wonder, therefore, that an alarming number of British girls (this is deffo common to the whole of Britain) will strike you for their "overstyled" style. Their hair will have been sizzling after 2 hours of slaving under the curling tongs or, if not their thing, straightening and counter-ironing ("it's how Whatsherface from Big Brother 34 does it, innit?"); the layers of make up will be enough to make a cake for a whole regiment; the fake tan will positively make Cristiano Ronaldo look like an albino. And so on...

I am, of course, generalising. But I dare anyone to question the fact that British girls are quite possibly the biggest fashion victims in Europe. Walking down the streets of a large English city in the winter of 2009-10, I decided to check how many women were not wearing Ugg Boots (or replicas). You could literally count them on your fingertips and still have two or three of your digits amputated.

Whatever happened to individuality...

But I guess coordinating looks with the rest of the country must be part of the fun. Magazines are packed with tips as to how to look like Kim Kardashian, Beyonce' or The Saturdays and you too should wear the same belt, necklace and latest accessory from TopShop! It's only 30 quid, go on! Oh and let's not get started on Kate Middleton...don't you just wanna be like her and secure yourself a prince? A quick trip to New Look and Bob's your uncle!

As well as false eye-lashes and other false bits and pieces, mandatory is to wear as little as possible and the highest heels imaginable. That will make you sexy, the British mind goes, no matter if you'll have to walk bending your knees and looking like Jon Cleese doing "The Ministry of Silly Walks".

England is the only culture (apart from possibly the United States) where looking as fake as possible is actually seen as a positive thing, whereas elsewhere women generally appreciate at least an element of the so-called "natural beauty".

Sceptical? Official statistics show that the Brits spend more on cosmetic surgery than any other European country and, just to round it all off, only three days ago the papers reported that boob jobs are now being offered as prizes in some nighclubs. Classy.


As far as Spanish ladies are concerned, there's a big difference regarding both a) the area of Spain you're talking about and b) if you're talking during the day or "going-out-time".

Going out and partying is a massive feature of Spanish culture, which means that looking the part is integral to it.

When I was in Catalonia, however, I noticed that the so called au-naturelle look (perhaps in common with France) is definitely favoured. Make up free, unstyled (though generally very long) hair, feminine clothes but without looking tarty.

In the North of Spain though, the female concept of tarting yourself up for a night on the town seems to be more present. It is rare, however, to spot as many artificial-looking and doll-like females as in the UK. Natural beauty is certainly more valued.

In terms of footwear, Ugg Boots (and cheaper versions) are rarely spotted but you will lose count of some sort of proto horseriding boots that tend to come out in force between October and April.


On average, German ladies are probably somewhere mid-way along the tarting-up spectrum between England and the Mediterranean. You rarely see artificial-looking freaks looking like they've just come out of a cake fight and it's also uncommon to spot people looking so blindingly orange that you wish you'd taken your shades with you. However, it seems to me that fashion, styling, make-up and the notion of looking good are valued.

Ugg Boots (and imitations) are almost as popular as in the UK. And, yes, I really wish I could say it's not true, but I'm afraid an alarming number of people do wear the dreaded socks/sandals combo as commonly spotted in holiday resorts, though it must be said that it's overwhelmingly past the age of 40 and it's to do with a minority. Thank god.

Very popular in Germany is the hiking boots-wearing type, complete with rucksack and water bottle poking out of the netted side pocket. The thing is, you won't just spot them on a Sunday. Several of them will be sporting this look mid-week on their way to work.


As far as Italian ladies are concerned, this is a chapter in itself. One factor that needs taking into account is that, unless there's 30 degrees centigrades and the sun is raging, most Italian people will tell you that they're cold and will be quite happy to wear winter boots, thick woolly jumpers as well as sleeping bags used as coats (which often make them resemble maggots, but don't tell them).

I will never forget flying mid-April from England to Italy, where there was 23 degrees and everyone was still wearing winter coats, roll-neck jumpers and, of course, sunglasses. I hope to god deodorants were being used.

Another aspect to consider is that your average Italian is quite fashion-conscious but in a classic-looking sort of way. The place is definitely worth a shopping trip or two if you're after smart coats, suits, shirts or the rest of it, but if it's a trendy-looking  number you're after, you may find that the Italians do their own thing - which may not be to your taste (especially if you come from Northern Europe). Cue coats looking like sleeping bags as well as Alan Partridge-style jumpers over the shoulders, shirts tucked into slacks and deck shoes.

The funny thing is that many refer to it as "English-style", even though no English person would touch any of that with a bargepole. At least, no one since Sloan Rangers circa 1985.

One final word about how to spot an Italian abroad. If the mandatory sunglasses (even at midnight)  aren't enough, be aware that roughly 99,9% of the Italian population are proud owners of the same brand of rucksack. They are called Invicta, they look vile, and they can be spotted from a mile at any touristy spot in the world and, by the looks of it, no Italian can consider themselves Italian without one.


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