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The ultimate menswear style swap

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The ultimate menswear style swap
Henry Lloyd-Hughes, actor
When people meet me in the flesh, they often seem disappointed that I don’t resemble Mark Donovan, the character I played in The Inbetweeners, a bit more closely. “Where is the French crop, where is the sportswear?” they think. Instead they find someone with a lifelong enthusiasm for dressing snappily – for men’s tailoring, militaria and exotic vintage. But sports casual not so much.

In fact my all-time fashion inspiration goes a bit like this: West Indies cricket teams of the 70s-80s. David Niven. David Hockney. Joe Strummer. Jack Nicholson. Chet Baker.

My clothes mean a lot to me; they have history. The more long-lived the item, the greater its ranking in the wardrobe. I’m thinking of a shabby Italian tweed jacket of my mum’s that I poached when I was 15. I remember being told I was dressed like a “young fogey”; I took it as a compliment, and never looked back.

Not that I don’t rock shiny new sportswear. I do – but normally sticking to a singular theme. I might be doing my best impression of a West Indian cricketer from the 70s, with bucket hat and wide collars, or Jamel Shabazz-era hip-hop style, high-tops and bomber jackets. Or more recently, travelling long haul, I might go full Nike Tech Fleece. What I don’t often do is cross the streams. I always want an outfit to feel complete.
Perhaps it doesn’t help that I’m colourblind and often wear strongly contrasting colours, as they don’t confuse my eyes as much as blended tones. But in aiming to never be underdressed, I occasionally end up overdressed. Maybe swapping clothes with Elgar for a day or two will teach me to find the in between spaces, the levels between levels of dressing, like that hidden floor in Being John Malkovich.

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When the outfits Elgar has chosen for me arrive, I get a warm sense of nostalgia; the brands and style feel familiar. The first outfit is APC jeans and a red tartan Fred Perry shirt, which fit very well, as does the navy Baracuta jacket with bright red lining. I have a flashback to owning two Baracuta jackets myself, but in lurid pink and neon yellow. In this incarnation I feel very blokey, and a little muted. My Air Force 1 trainers are a lone beacon of white in a sea of navy and grey.

The whole ensemble is not unflattering; I feel well put together, but a bit anonymous, as if I’m dressing to blend into a crowd, like an undercover cop.

Young fogey? I take that as a compliment
At lunch, my friend Jemima points out the almost matching shades of plaid on my Fred Perry shirt and my jacket lining. “I like the coordination between the collar and the jacket.” “Thanks,” I reply, grateful for a bit of early reassurance. But as always I’ve underestimated her French sarcasm. “I mean it’s too obvious,” she says. Ouch. “Your casualwear is more stylish,” she offers by way of comfort. “Is this normcore?” I ask the table. “You look more like the slick guy in a movie about football hooligans,” my friend Nikesh muses. I’ll take that… I think.

The one thing I hadn’t bargained for is the cold. My winter wardrobe is full of layers, shirts and cardigans tucked under thick coats and blazers. I feel very exposed in my lightweight jacket. I resolve to dig out an old fishtail parka for the rest of the day. It’s kind of sports casual, so I hope it’s not cheating.

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