Why I wear black
By Josh Spero
The picture is full-spectrum colour: 10-year-old Josh in the boys’ department at C&A, camper than is wise, lighting on a furry, rainbow-striped sweater. It looks like someone has trapped and skinned the Muppets, but I have to have it.
For the best part of the next 20 years, my wardrobe will be full of colour: hot-pink slacks and blue-check jackets and even, for a grim while, matching purple shirt and tie.
At the jollier courts of Europe, however, colour dominated until rationalists and republicans gained in confidence in the late 18th century and royals started losing their heads.
“Previously, upper-class men wore colourful clothes, wigs and make-up,” says Andrew Groves, professor of fashion design at the University of Westminster in London. “But a new rational approach to dressing emerged that rejected the royal-court approach to menswear.” Utility and functionality, he says, became more important than flash and flair, appealing to the new business class of the industrial revolution. This shift is known — like the recent story of my dating life — as the Great Male Renunciation.
Since the second world war, black has found itself taken up as a uniform by all sorts of subcultures, says Groves: “the studied and self-referential cool of the beatniks in black berets”, the “crimped hair and layered black outfits” of yearning 1980s goths, Tom of Finland’s “ritualised and regulated approach to power dressing”. It’s the colour of masculinity in crisis too, he says, whether the violence of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho or Reservoir Dogs’ killers, disappearing in their black suits.