Ndumiso Ngcobo
Ndumiso Ngcobo

Apparently, I have no fashion sense

A few weeks ago I was invited to an ANC election rally in Sandton’s trendy Taboo nightclub. I think they called the rally the Fikile Mbalula Birthday Bash. I went because I can’t resist free beer. Also, the Afro-pop songstress Kelly Khumalo was performing there. I like looking at listening to her.

Because the invite specified a dress code (“smart sophisticated”, whatever that means) I wore a black suit from Woolies — minus a tie. I generally avoid any place that prescribes what I should wear. This is why I haven’t been inside a nightclub since the days when MC Hammer was the shits. When I got to the ANC rally, a friend leaned over and whispered, “Dude, that whole shirt collar over the coat lapel look? You look like a performer on Gospel Gold“. I didn’t fancy being mistaken for a member of The Mighty Clouds of Joy, so I tucked my shirt collar inside the coat.

I was reminded of this episode this weekend. Gillian Anstey of Sunday Times Lifestyle wrote an extremely kind profile of me. But she couldn’t resist throwing in something about me being dressed funny. I think she said I looked “scruffy” or was it “sloppy”? Okay, you get the gist. Anyway, on Sunday afternoon someone sends me an SMS; “Nice profile in the Times. Ouch @ frumpy-dresser”.

None of my friends would send me that SMS. My dress sense (or lack thereof) is well-established in those circles. I’m apparently the proudest fashion dork in the world about my geekyness. Take the Gwede I’m wearing in my profile picture of this very blog. (That’s what I call my cap. It’s an aspiring intellectual/communist thing. You wouldn’t get it.) I’ve been told that my Gwede is “hideous”. When I recently changed my profile, regular Silwane Files reader Mandrake described me as looking “like a ZCC member who’s just won a tender to sweep Park Station” if my beer-marinated memory serves me well. I wish I could fib and retort, “I always knew my cap was ugly. But I don’t care, see?”

The truth is a little different. I actually thought it was a cool cap that accentuates my deadly good looks. And that’s how I feel about my fading Richard Chang (who?) denim jacket. Until I took it off and checked the label two minutes ago, I wasn’t even aware what brand it was. I can’t tell you if it’s good brand or a Chinese fong kong. All I know is that it’s comfy and has served me for the greater part of a decade.

Before I met my wife, I wasn’t aware how dire the situation was. Roughly every three years I’d realise that my jeans were starting to look like a frayed orange sack around the knees. Then I’d go the mall in search of replacement jeans. The majority of jeans available in stores were the kind I’d seen on Jack from Will and Grace. But when I put them on, they’d make me look like Ray McCauley trying to pull off the gansta look.

I believe they stopped making jeans for normal humans round about the return of the exiles. If they’re not gonad-hugging, they keep sliding down and baring one’s crack. And from what I’ve seen, most men either wear rear cleavage-exposing baggy jeans or family jewel-displaying tight jeans — with no discernable middle ground. The few times I’d find decent jeans, they’d cost about R3 000 a pair. I’m sorry, but I’m not wasting the equivalent of thirty trays of good lager on a yard-and-a-half of fabric. So I’d saunter towards Mr Price, grab about five of the cheapest, ill-fitting R99 pairs I’d find and wear them until they started taking the shape of my rump. One of my favourite pairs when I met Mrs Ngcobo made her gasp and ask me why I was wearing jeans the colour of dog crap that’s been baking in the sun for two hours. And then an innocent mix-up happened the next time the Salvation Army came a-knocking.

Because I never seemed to find the time to go shopping, she took to sommer buying things for me and organising mix-ups with the Salvation Army with my old stuff on a regular basis. The problem is that these new clothes don’t feel good on my frame. Plus they make me look like an extra on Generations. And I believe that heterosexual men should generally look like heterosexual men to avoid being accidentally nut-rubbed by Somizi. So now I have a stash of my old stuff in a secret hiding place. I may look like a geek, but damnit at least I don’t look like that dude with cornrows from Generations.

Seriously though, it worries me that I lack the fashion sense gene. Nowadays people keep on inviting me to public places to speak, another endeavour I’m horrendously bad at. Then they feel uncontrollable urges to take photographs of me. And then my wife starts hyperventilating. Apparently my slovenly disposition reflects badly on her. Anyway, I don’t even know why I’m bragging about this.

In a totally unrelated development, scientists have discovered that there might be an inversely proportional relationship between a high IQ and a highly developed fashion sense. Apparently Albert Einstein regularly gave public lectures in cat-puke-inspired jackets that would rival any outfit Mrs Patrice Motsepe can assemble.

I have no idea what correlation exists between that last paragraph and the rest of this piece.

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  • http://mynewsblogs.24.com/sipho.hlongwane Good Charlie

    i think the Gwede cap (in fact, your entire ensemble) makes you look somewhat scruffy, yet harmless… you wear it well, old chap!

  • siyabonga ntshingila

    *ponders what Gwede would make of aspiring intellectuals emulating his choice of headgear*

  • http://hardtalk Siphiwo Siphiwo

    never mind the clothing and fashion…just look at that smile…hmmm


  • Obs

    Can I edit ur work before I come to your fashion sence? The last time I checked Patrice Motsepe was MR not MRS, Getit?

  • http://UnderConstruction Mandrake

    NO correlation. However i agree with you…try being a “frumpous dresser” and be short.

    I used to buy a lot of Levi’s straight cut in Access Park, Cape Town. but the bloody things tear at the crotch hardly lasting 2 years. My friends wouldn’t wouldn’t be seen drinking cheap beer with me wearing a pair of Mr Price, i stopped buying those when the buttoned crotched raised grievious risk to my beer olympics. my bathroom runs became risky.

    i found another jean which fits without problems at woolies, and now they have some stupid STUDIO designer line. so will have to hunt for a normal fitting jean and my collection of plain golf-shirts.

    i’d rather spend my money on my toys, books and drinking habits than on a R1400 Ed Hardy T-shirt and R2000 Hugo Boss jean.

    and stop spreading malicious rumours about Mandrake, he didn’t say anything about Gwede Mantashe’s red-and-chequered blazer at the 2009 inauguration.

  • http://www.obama.com Phillipa Lipinsky

    Gosh, Ndumiso, you are gobsmackingly, utterly, bone-crackingly, hilarious! Wow, please do us favour and start your own comedy show (seriously). There is a lot of bad comedy. I’d been attending some comedy shows at Baxter with my husband and we were so disappointed. The guys not only recycled old jokes but they were almost trying to guilt us (the audience) into laughing at their humorless jibes. I don’t want to say who the comedians are because I realise it’s a small industry and they will struggle if they get bad press but seriously, you are funny and witty and just plain cute!

    I also love how you speak so fondly about your wife. Lovely! Too many men hate their wives out there but you are “the shits” (your language, not mine).

  • Sizwe

    Dont sweat it Ndumiso, fashion sense is way overrated. What’s fashionable today may not be tomorrow, what was fashionable two/three decades ago is making a come back. When I grew up yellow & pink was a no-no, but these days its in, and for men at that…..or did i just miss the latest fashion bus?

  • http://kwerekwere.blogspot.com mundundu

    my teenage son has said a lot of these same things about our new lodger’s fashion sense. he has taken it upon himself to sort out the man’s fashion sense. all of us in the house are greatly amused.

    when in doubt, stick with the basics: black, white, blue, grey. it’s very difficult to *not* match in those color combinations. really. it is. use one of those four colours as a base and mix and match out the other three.

    problem largely solved.

    btw, somizi is *ugly*. i don’t let ugly guys get close enough to me for them to rub my nuts. if you’re worried about random people doing that, maybe you should buy those really expensive trousers — that way, you won’t have the money for those 30 trays of beer which would suppress inhibition.

  • Frank Wilking

    I couldn’t agree more!!! I spent all my working life among the randy-trendies and arty-farties. I’m retired now and can afford to be myself. What you think matters, not what you wear.

  • Natalie

    Never-ever mention the name Gwede & fashion in the same sentence!! The horror!!

  • http://gillian-fromundermyhat.blogspot.com/ gilli

    Brilliant!!! You are the best. Oh, and Obs, think the Mrs Patrice Motsepe was intentional – pretty sure she dresses her husband.

  • Pete

    I agree with the public speak issue. I have being exposed before. Contrary to your fears about the nut rubbing by Somizi, I wish to get it.

    Experience is the best teacher and I am learning how to teach my teenage son what not to do in life.

    I look forward to the “Malema’s matric dance” rally.

  • http://www.laura-land.blogspot.com Laura

    “I may look like a geek, but damnit at least I don’t look like that dude with cornrows from Generations.”

    Or that guy who always wears pastels. Oh dear.

  • Lyndall Beddy

    There is also a correlation between genius and insanity (mild version).

    I used to drive my daughters nuts – if I found something passable in Woolies (maximum shopping time 1/2 hour) I would buy a few. The girls would say “Mom, they are all the same AGAIN”!

  • Alan

    The innocent mix ups with the Salvation Army sounds familiar, as does the habit of bringing home a little something to try on. I have found that once every yaer or two I can go on a power shop with wifey and actually come home with some pretty good stuff. I have to avert my eyes from the price tags, because I’m not fond of big numbers, but otherwise its an exercise that leaves us both feeling a bit better. Of course it helps if you can find a shop where you are unlikely to bump into anyone you know. It would be most embarrasing to be caught by your beer buds wasting hard earned time and dosh on such a despicble activity.

  • Dave Harris

    Ndumiso – those that pick on your fashion sense probably envy your intelligence, charm and sense of humor…one’s dress sense can be easily remedied but those other qualities take a lifetime to cultivate.

    In the words of some famous writer – Don’t sweat the small stuff.

  • http://akanyangm.blogspot.com Akanyang Merementsi


    What a fun piece, with humour too.

    Are we all (or is it most of us?) senseless when it comes to fashion?

  • http://www.thoughtleader.co.za Musa

    Obs, really now!Yu haven’t heard of Mrs Motsepe the fashionista? Or would you rather we call her Dr Mostsepe?

  • Jama ka Silwane

    Yeah ndums sometimes your choice of on screen couture on Drawing the Line does make some of us cringe kodwa lets not lose sight of that timeless Martin Luther King gem: “a man should be judged by the content of his character and not the cut of his jeans”.

    On that note I think MLK’s dream of fashion tolerance has come to pass, and you are a perfect illustration of it.

    Live the dream Mapholoba, because (like Obama) Yes, YOU CAN!

  • Dithabana

    I did not say that Gwede has got a taste that goes with his wildly beareded self and you don’t.

    My experience has taught me to keep away from the jazzy looks and avoid the Gwede-capped types.

    They can be found to have wet themselves in the bar loos. They are synonimous with locking themselves in their garages and claim that they have “lost the key”

  • Kit

    Try a frilly apron. It will surely offset the Gweden nicely and also prevent that close body contact. :)

  • Token

    I have to say that in my twenty something years of breathing this has been one of the most hilarious articles I have read, maybe it came at the right time hence the effect.

    I am aithin the range that is classified young but I promise you me and my friend fall in the same basket as you, what makes matters worse is that us being loayl fans of hip hop for over 15years never helped at all

    But great piece of work sir.

  • Belle

    The cap looks fine, Silwane, but I’d return Mugabe’s spectacles.

    Seriously, (nooit!) be a proud, designer rebel. Its so waay more cool to cock snoot at the desperate fashionistas who spend fortunes feeding the coffers of Levi and Gucci. Ive even worn my threadbare Pick n Pay crocs to weddings.

  • http://www.thetimes.co.za Fred Khumalo

    Good friends find it difficult to comment on their friend’s fashion sense – or lack thereof. Thankfully, the masses have done the difficult job for me. Now that we’ve established to the next step. The next step is: don’t buy your clothes where you can get your lamb chops and yoghurt. And we shall take it from there. Will be with you, every whisky-inspired step of the way.

  • http://www.thetimes.co.za Fred Khumalo

    oops, the third sentence was supposed to read: Now that we’ve established the facts, let’s move to the next step!

  • Sam.K

    A friend of mine informed me the other day that “real men wear pink.” I would also like to mention that the said friend(who is a guy) idolises Britney Spears. Can I trust his insight, of what real men should look like, to be true?

  • Captain Pissgums

    Phillipa Lipinsky – are you for real? Or are you really Pieter Dirk Uys lurking here while trying out a new character?

  • mathoba

    “The few times I’d find decent jeans, they’d cost about R3 000 a pair. I’m sorry, but I’m not wasting the equivalent of thirty trays of good lager on a yard-and-a-half of fabric…”

    hahahaaaa…just made my day!!!!