Archive for the ‘colour’ Tag

Work Your Socks Off

I was once conned at the South Bank by a man wearing grey socks and sandals. He stung me for twenty quid for his “train fare home”. It still hurts. How could I have been taken in by nerd socks?

I’ve been fascinated always by colour. During the summer I went to the Bauhaus exhibition at the Barby. One of my favourite exhibits was a Bauhaus entrance exam paper with a blank circle, square and triangle. The question, set by Kandinsky, was: fill these in in the right colours. If you didn’t make the circle blue, the triangle yellow and the square red, nul points – your modernist art education died on the start line.

What do your socks say about you?


Worn by: Gentlemen, Well-dressed villains

The classic black speaks authority, power, sophistication and mystery. Stylish and timeless, black socks remain the first and only choice for the gentleman around town.


Worn by: Eighties throwbacks, Commercial radio DJs

While white usually indicates innocence and purity, in a sock it can easily be a mortal sin, especially when worn with open-toed sandals. White socks are also the tell-tale sign of the gym-goer too lazy to get changed after a work-out. White-sockers are usually up to no good.


Worn by: Bankers, Vicars, Con-men

Neither black nor white, neither here nor there, grey socks betray a dull life built on compromise, boredom and poor laundry skills. You may put your trust in a man in grey socks, but could live to regret it. With sandals, even worse than white – immediate arrest and beating in cell by the Fashion Police.


Worn by: Would-be Casanovas, Politicians.

Confrontational, emotionally intense, and quick to anger. Red is the popular choice of stolen car, but red socks deserve no such favour.


Worn by: Attention-seekers, The office joker

When he’s not wearing his Homer Simpson socks, the joker thinks yellow socks are cool. The most difficult colour for the eye to take in, people in yellow socks get inadvertently kicked in the shins more than any other social group.


Worn by: Gardeners, Librarians (male and female)

Good, solid and reliable – brown betrays a serious, down-to-earth personality that is quite happy to be in the background like a wallflower. There is probably a brown-socker within ten feet of you now, and you haven’t noticed.


Worn by: Traffic wardens, Doctors

Blue projects an image of success and security. High street store signs are often blue, as this tells the consumer they are a dynamic, growing brand. You can trust a blue sock wearer with your life (but with the nagging doubt that they don’t quite have the confidence to wear black).


Worn by: Lottery winners, Premier League footballers

Gold signifies success, achievement and extravagant triumph, yet is entirely impractical in everyday footwear. A sign of conspicuous consumption, no true gentleman – whatever his wealth – would flaunt his bank balance with so little class.


Worn by: Cyclists, Nobody over the age of eleven

‘See and be seen’ they say, and we are all for cyclists wearing fluorescent colours as part of their everyday bike kit, providing they change into something less eye-catching the moment they reach their destination.

Odd socks

Worn by: People who dress in the dark; Derelicts, curs and ruffians; Would-be wacky

The odd sock wearer is more than likely emotionally unstable.

Adapted lightly from  a missive (a monthly black sock subscription service for discerning gentlemen).

Agree with these? Anything to add from your experience?

A wed wose, how womantic

Kathleen Byron in Black Narcissus

Kathleen 'The Lips' Byron in Black Narcissus

Kathleen Byron in Black NarcissusKathleen Byron in Black NarcissusI’m a Romantic at heart. I love the paintings of Johns Minton, Craxton and Piper (as gorgeously gathered at the Barbican in 1987 in A Paradise Lost). And I love Jack Cardiff’s Technicolor red. I was saddened to hear of his passing yesterday – he was one of British cinema’s greatest. I met him once a couple of years ago at a tribute in his honour at BAFTA – and the honour was mine .

When I first saw it in my 20s, I was really taken by Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951) with James Mason and Ava Gardner, for its 50s surrealism and its Romantic colour. Cardiff shot it for the literary maverick Albert Lewin (who also made the off-beat The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)). It reminds me of the graphic style of Abram Games, my mum’s teacher and mentor, designer of the quintessentially 50s Festival of Britain logo.

Much though I admire A Matter of Life and Death (1946) and The Red Shoes (1948), it is the third great film he shot for Powell & Pressburger that I reckon marks the highpoint of his career – Black Narcissus, for which he won an Oscar in 1947. How can you forget Kathleen Byron’s bright red lips?

I was fortunate to encounter Michael Powell – it was in Cambridge in 1985 at the Arts Cinema (then in Market Passage)  when I was at college. I had set up the University Film Society and he visited with his Mrs, editor Thelma Schoonmaker, for a screening of Colonel Blimp. I have his autograph on the Arts Cinema programme on my Wall of Honour – alongside my signed picture of Neil Armstrong (swopped for a signed Damned single with editor Mark Reynolds), and photos of Chaplin, Muhammad Ali and Gandhi. Powell and Cardiff were perfectly attuned in their neo-Romantic outlook.

On the plane back from Dublin this evening I read he spent two years developing a script for my beloved Ulysses in the early 60s but it never came to anything. I reckon it is filmable but you’d need to stray a long way from Joyce (but not in spirit) to pull it off. I organised a 16mm screening of Joseph Strick’s 1967 effort with Milo O’Shea in my 20s for some reason that entirely escapes me now.

Cardiff was born on 18th September (1914) a date which has a special meaning for me – but I’m not telling you why. The point is we’re connected – 18th September, Elstree, The Archers, Lewin. (Powell was born 30th September, Lewin on the 23rd and Madeline Kahn on the 29th, significant clustering vibe here.) Cardiff was a real craftsman of my grandfather Ian Harris’ generation and had that special English Romanticism. I was struggling all day yesterday as I left England for Ireland to pick anything out of St George’s Day. Those red crosses of St George all over the pubs were just an unsettling embarrassment. But Cardiff’s red shoes, red rose (in Life & Death), red lips have the quintessence of what is great about England. In the words of Lili von Shtupp, with her distanced Teutonic view across the water: A wed wose, how womantic!

A Matter of Life and Death

Kim 'The Lips' Hunter in A Matter of Life and Death

A Matter of Life and Death

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