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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  • Once upon a time, Ndumiso Ngcobo used to be an intelligent, relevant man with a respectable (read: boring-as-crap) job which funded his extensive beer habit. One day he woke up and discovered that he had lost his mind, quit his well-paying job, penned a collection of hallucinations. A bunch of racist white guys published the collection just to make him look more ridiculous and called it 'Some of my best friends are white'. (Two Dogs, ISBN 978-1-92013-718-2). Nowadays he spends his days wandering the earth like Kwai Chang Caine, munching locusts, mumbling to himself like John the Baptist and searching for the meaning of life at the bottom of beer mugs. The racist publishers have reared their ugly heads again and dangled money in his face to pen yet another collection of hallucinations entitled 'Is It Coz 'm Black'. He will take cash, major credit cards and will perform a strip tease for contributions to his beer fund.


Ndumiso Ngcobo

Once upon a time, Ndumiso Ngcobo used to be an intelligent, relevant man with a respectable (read: boring-as-crap) job which funded his extensive beer habit. One day he woke up and discovered that he...

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