Fashion likes nothing more than a trend to confuse the norms. Men in kilts, say. Wearing your coat just on your shoulders (aka shoulder robing). Or hiking sandals becoming the height of fashion. Oh how these insiders laugh when they are laughed at. The latest thing to warrant a quizzical eyebrow and the potential for pointing and giggling when worn to do the weekly shop? The back-to-front shirt.
If in the 90s Jarvis Cocker’s lyrics referenced wearing one’s body back to front and Kriss Kross had some LOLs with back-to-front trousers, it’s the humble shirt in the frame 20 years on. While you might say it has its roots in the Martin Margielaor JW Anderson wonky aesthetics, this isn’t a catwalk trend, really. It’s more something that fashion editors have adopted on the front row at the latest round of shows. Maybe they got a stain on the front so turned their shirt around. Or, more likely, they had a eureka moment when laying out the contents of their suitcase. Whatever the reason, the inevitable street pics snapped of them have a lot to answer for.
Including me, standing in my newsagent in a back-to-front shirt. I have popped out for a mid-afternoon snack and come out with some odd looks, second glances and the obvious “you know your shirt’s on the wrong way round?” comment from my friendly newsagent in his usual sensible fleece and rimless glasses. It’s all a bit uncomfortable, as is the weird feeling of having the collar the other way around your neck and my resemblance to some sort of pageboy. Hearteningly, nobody seems to even notice on my journey to work – that’s the London Overground for you. On arrival, after the initial “Why have you got your shirt on back to front?” questions, the consensus is that it looks quite cool. One colleague ventures: “Margaret Howell does brain surgery.”
Still, I’m not sure I can face this much attention for the rest of the day, and am soon compelled to turn it around. While doing the back to front is tempting – everyone has a shirt in their wardrobe, don’t they? – wearing it IRL takes more guts than I possess. Partially the problem is that is feels physically odd – the weight is all wrong and constricts the front of my neck. Living in east London provides something of a free pass when it comes to eccentric dressing but, it seems, back-to-front shirts are a step too far.