Thursday, July 23, 2009

Remembering Ben

A hundred years ago when I lived in Northcote, Australia, I was in the habit of travelling to the more trendy Fitzroy for my haircuts. One of the salons I frequented was called Antenna. I think it's closed now. But in any case, the guy I usually booked to style my hair decided to open his own salon and he let me know the address.

It was in a seedy part of Fitzroy - a part no one who cared for their safety would venture into after dark. So I booked in for 2:00 on a Saturday afternoon and rolled up on the dot. It was the dead of winter and I shivered as I took my seat ready for Ben to do his work. "I don't have hot water so you'll need to put your coat back on while I wash your hair," he told me. "I don't HAVE a coat, I came by car," I whimpered.

Ben told me he was thinking of buying up coats from the local op (thrift) shop for his customers to wear while he washed their hair with icy cold water. "Do you think that'd be a good idea?" he asked me. Was I in Charlie Brown's hair salon, I remember wondering during a Lucy van Pelt moment.

I remembered Ben today when I sat down at the Cafe Albert in Stockholm's Ostermalm district. You can see the pink blankets in the photo above. And around the corner there was a cafe with blue blankies. Seems that Ben may not have been so silly after all.

After I had my cafe latte and my little reminiscence about Ben, I set off to shop. I decided I'd spoil myself and buy something Swedish to show off in New York. After a bit of a wander I came across this. Obviously in need of a blanket ...

I went to lots of shops and tried on quite a few clothes but nothing inspired me. I settled for buying a pair of gray tights at Wolford, which the attendant wrapped exquisitely. You can see the package below, stylishly placed amongst the geraniums on my hotel room balcony.

But it doesn't work. I just can't get that Swedish style. I'm just too new world I suppose. Or should I be American and say, "I guess". I suspect style can't be leaned.

At least that's what I was thinking when I had my second latte for the day. I was sitting nearby some Parisians who were impeccably dressed in an oh-so-casual-stylish way. Even the way they had their scarves carelessly knotted and slung round their necks was perfect. I sat there feeling very unrefined and non-European. There's just no way I can ever be elegant.

I thought of Ben and his overcoat idea. And of the pink blankets. I thought of the refreshing crassness of Americans. I thought of Beyoncé singing, "Put a Ring on It". I thought of the in-your-facedness of Australians. I thought of the Cobert Report and the Chaser's War on Everything.

Style, who needs it!

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