It’s been one of those weeks – an Oxford week – where time falters and schedules go to die. In a single day, you can do more than you can manage in a week at home. Nonetheless it is the circus arts which get you through – the mastery of juggling being key – from Mao and Plato to dinners with editors and politicians, then throw into the precarious mix university societies, Consultancy formations and college debating clubs. Without the use of illicit substances or friendly prescribed Ritalin, one is knackered by the end of it. So at this time of exhaustion, I take a moment to reflect. Reflect, that is, on gloom and depression.
Fear not, I’m no agony uncle, your emotional plights or mental states concern me not. Naturally, I’m thinking of the greater entity – Britannia herself. We are living in a time of recession. Darkness has snuffed out the light of employment prospects, and apocalypse looms. The hopes and dreams of a generation crushed. Ought we be so bleak? Or can austerity offer us promise, optimism, buoyancy? I contend that it can. Aside from the suffering which undoubtedly occurs, just like exhaustion offers us a time of reflection, austerity offers us the chance to take heed – to re-think Britain.
All around us, from politics to the world of fashion – the great and the good, the mavericks, the radicals and the innovator are all offering us new visions for a shaken world. Tweed, corduroy and velvet are leading the charge. Fabrics once suited to geography teachers, our class superiors and those hungering for a bygone age have been reinvented. Slick, slim, skinny, redesigned for the urban classes, fit for the modern world. From Burberry to Topman, with Primark (I assume) quick in the pursuit – the democratisation of fashion and reinvention of our traditions is at hand and will lead us out of the darkness. A fickle example? A meaningless case of consumerism? I think not. An urban armoury intrinsically linked to the history of our forbears, slimmed down and now in vogue. It is the innovation, the strategies deployed and the modernisation of traditions used in this process which are so significant. When today feels so glum, we must look back to yesterday in order to see tomorrow.
In an age where greed has fallen from its pedestal, perhaps we ought to replace Gekko’s aphorism with ‘tweed is good’, and all that it embodies. Britannia, like tweed, will rise again: slimmer, slicker and redesigned for our urban, competitive age.