Take 6th form.
For the first time ever free from the stylistically limiting potential of standard school uniform and feeling confident enough finally to not let my mother buy all my clothes for me I made some unfathomably bad choices.
Corduroy trousers in blue, green and black. The black, colourwise, were probably the least offensive but nevertheless the auditory properties of corduroy meant I was accompanied by a “fwip-fwip-fwip” backing track wherever I walked. And I walked everywhere.
Blue and green corduroy also did not do much for my vaguely burgeoning goth tendencies.
And then there were my glasses.
I’d gone through much of my school career (a)stigmatized by the good ol’ never-let-you-down NHS spectacles that all children grow up hating. Even those who never have to wear them. Of course, Jarvis Cocker made them trendy years later but for me, with my school career firmly ensconced in the eighties, years before Pulp made a name for themselves, they were another burden on young shoulders already weighed down by the cheapest Burton shirts I could find.
But when I started 6th form I was given the opportunity to cast off the yolk off NHS speccyness for good. I could go for some proper metal framed grown-up ones.
My innocence and unworldliness meant I was easy fodder for the advertising industry and before I knew it I’d been taken in by those awful eighties adverts for Reactolite Rapide glasses. Spectacles that become prescription sunglasses the instant they are hit by even the tiniest light wave from the earth’s nearest star.
On the telly this was fine. Chisel jawed models sunbathing on yachts in the Med or quaffing Bacardis from the roof-top garden of a skyscraper in Madrid.
But not so fine on a white skied day in Leamington Spa.
Because what the adverts didn’t tell you was that Reactolite Rapide glasses could not be seasonally adjusted. You couldn’t turn off the ability to sun-glassify in winter. Or even when you were indoors and happened to be sat near a window allowing access to direct sunlight of varying degrees of intensity.
Because of Reactolite Rapide I was the one kid in my 6th form who wore shades in December. Who wore shades inside the classroom. Who wore shades even when it was raining and overcast and the sun was obliterated by atmospheric precipitation.
Reactolite Rapide glasses were not cool and never made me cool. They just highlighted and drew attention to my fundamental uncoolness.
To be frank, wearing a brown paper bag would have had the same effect but at a fraction of the cost.
Do girls make passes at boys who wear sunglasses?
No. They do not.
It took me another decade to finally rid myself of hang-ups about not being cool, to stop trying to be anything but myself.
Once I managed that things came a lot easier. And not wearing corduroy helped too.
But even now, even on genuinely sunny days when I can feel my retinas crisping beneath an ultraviolet barrage, I still cannot bring myself to wear sunglasses.
As affectations of coolness go, it is an affectation too far.
I would rather squint like a nerd and not see properly at all.
Weirdly, the world is much better that way.