Friday, July 26, 2013

Getting Shirty: Tourist dress protocol

Many years ago, that legendary lunatic, Vivian Stanshall, took to the streets of Willesden Green in order to ask people about shirts. Was the shirt, he asked one elderly gentleman, still necessary? Should they stop making shirts? Oh no, came the reply. "A man's not dressed if he's not got a nice shirt on, guv'nor, is he."

A few years after Stanshall and the Bonzo Dog Band created their "Shirt" epic, I encountered a different set of lunatics. They had wandered into a college square at university. Who were they, I demanded to know of their escort. "They're from the Anti-Feet On Seats Society."

The problem with shirts. Or no shirts. The problem with feet on seats. Or feet without footwear. The problem with tourists, male predominantly, who are constantly minus shirt. The problem with other tourists who have, it would seem, forgotten to pack their flip-flops or who choose to rest their plates of meat on a bar's nice seats either with or without flip-flops.

It is now five years since I raised the shirt problem with one particular bar owner. "Never thought about it," she replied. Which is as well, given the acreage of flesh typically on display inside the bar and on the terrace. Rare it is for it to be covered, unless by a replica football shirt when the owner, for reasons that escape me, spurn the attractions of the beach on a hot afternoon and opt instead to watch a pre-season friendly being played on the other side of the world.

This same owner, however, has found it necessary to put up a sign respectfully asking people not to put their feet on the seats. The notice was, I understand, due to be slightly less respectful, as in "keep your asterisks feet off the asterisks seats, you asterisks", before someone with greater diplomacy wrote it in respectful terms.

To shirt or not to shirt, that is the question. To be barefoot or not to be barefoot, this is also a question. To put feet on seats or not to put feet on seats, this is yet another question, which comes with its with or without options.

On the shirt front, I am with another bar which has a sign saying "no shirt, no sale". This might seem counterproductive in these days when any sale is a good sale whether it comes shirted or not, but there is still such a thing as decorum. A man's not dressed if he's not got a nice shirt on, guv'nor, is he? Well, it doesn't have to be a nice shirt. It could, for instance, be Liverpool's new away kit, but it is still a shirt. Just. It's the principle which matters even if the shirt, as with Liverpool's, has been modelled (badly) on a retro Space Invaders game.

It is reasonable enough to distinguish, as with smoking, between on-terrace and in-bar shirt protocol. Outside ok, inside not ok. But there again, bars are bars. In-bar informality does stretch to the no-shirt law. A bar, however, is not a supermarket or a chemist.

Though Britain has been experiencing some uncommonly hot weather recently, I very much doubt that the checkout staff at Tescos across the land have been subjected to the sight of pink beer guts drooping over the piles of six packs loaded onto the counter. A supermarket is, after all, a supermarket, except when it is in Mallorca. Eroski, as an example, appears to have given up its fight in trying to get customers to adhere to a shirt and footwear policy. No one took any notice of the notice. Unpleasant it can be to the point of exhibitionist when the non-shirted has only a skimpy pair of Speedos on. For God's sake, cover yourself up, man.

Were the resorts of Mallorca all sparsely urbanised, lacking in main roads and offering only wooden huts under palm trees as beachside accommodation from which the occupants would walk on no more than velvety white sands to the turquoise sea, then the shirt and footwear issue wouldn't arise. But the resorts are not like this. What on earth goes through someone's mind that makes him or her wish to walk on flaming hot concrete and tarmac, through whatever Rover has left behind, on top of whatever the dustmen have left behind without flip-flops on? And then, go and put the feet up on a seat.

The people from the Anti-Feet On Seats Society were plainly mad, but not nearly as mad as some of those who put their feet on seats. They just don't where the feet might have been.

Any comments to please.

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