Someone who thinks that hats and handbags are alternatives to each other lives in a completely different universe of discourse to me.

A genuine stereotype observed in its natural wild habitat! Teenage obsession with trainers! OK, its a but last-century, and it was never as extreme as the The-Youth-Of-Today whingers made out but it not only did exist it still does. At least in Deptford.

Yesterday, on top of the 47 bus making my way in the general direction of the Den (don’t talk about the match. We was robbed). There was a group of girls sitting behind me chatting loudly. Very loudly. All black, most mid-teens I guessed, maybe 14 or 15 – from what they said at least some of them were deciding whether to stay at school into the sixth form or else go to a college so they are certainly about that age.

Another young woman got up to go downstairs and get off the bus. As she got to thte top of the stairs the girls still behind me started giggling and shushing each other and stage-whispering: “Be quiet! Don’t say it yet! She’ll hear!” When she had got downstairs they started laughing and joking about what she had been wearing. “It looks like its going to burst!” I assumed this referred to the rather tight white trousers she had stretched around her somewhat large rear end. Though I couldn’t help thinking cynically that the general effect was somewhat pleasing from a bloke’s point of view, and that at least one of the girls doing the talking was quite a bit plumper all over.

And then they moved on to footwear. Apparently the trainers she was wearing were hilarious. How can she bear to go out in them? Can’t she save up and buy a proper pair? I couldn’t quite hear all the conversation – the stage whisper had subsided into ordinary quiet talk and buses are noisy places so I wasn’t sure whether the problem pair of shoes were Reeboks or they were suggesting Reeboks as a cheap but acceptable alternative. I know there are symbolic codes and agreed protocols to assign meaning to these things but, being a Bloke, I don’t know what they are and even if I learned they would be changed soon after, partly because people like me knew them. So I have no idea what Reeboks signify to these young women.

Then they moved on to classmates not present, demolishing their pathetic choice of trainers one by one. The worst of the losers seems to be a young boy whos Dad bought him a pair of Dunlops. And he wore them! “That’s so African!” Apparently, no Jamaican Dad would let his children be seen out wearing no-brand shoes like that! They would insist on proper brands. Like… well, like I can’t remember because the two or three examples were completely unknown to me and by the time I’d been to the match (don’t mention the match. I blame the ref. And that idiot lino) I’d forgotten their names if I’d ever heard them clerly in the first place.

But I’m not meant to remember the names of shoes. They are numbered amongst those Things that Man is Not Meant to Know. The rules of fashion are impenetrable to blokes. Deliberately so, because they are partly about demonstrating publically that you are not like people like me, so if people like me started dressing a certain way the fashion-struck would stop doing it.

Its not only women on buses. Last week, on a train to Waterloo, I overheard two young women talking about what they had been buying recently, and what they intended to buy in whatever shops it was that they were going to visit that day. One asked the other if she was going to buy a handbag. Oh no, she said, no handbags, none of the current styles suited her, so she never went out with a handbag any more, and for the last month or so she had been wearing hats instead, so she intended to buy another hat.

Someone who thinks that hats and handbags are alternatives to each other lives in a completely different universe of discourse to me.

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