Good to be grey
‘You can never be too rich or too thin,’ advised Wallis Simpson, the scheming American divorcee who snatched a prince of the realm from us. To which I would add ‘… or have too many grey polo necks.’ I realised this as my hand headed unconsciously for a rather splendid grey Donegal jumper in a new (to me) charity shop in a part of town I’d never been to before.
I did ask myself ‘Do I really need another one?’, honest, and I did do a quick mental audit of the grey polo necks (GPNs) in particular, and grey knitwear in general, already in my wardrobe and came to the conclusion that I didn’t have anything quite like this one. It joined my collection.
The great thing about grey is that it isn’t black. If I didn’t have grey in my wardrobe I would probably head out the door most days looking like a Mediterranean widow – though of course in the niceties of Victorian etiquette grey constitutes half-mourning.
And because it isn’t black, grey is subject to any number of exciting variations of tone and texture: pale grey, dark grey (I’m valiantly resisting a famous novel title here), marl, flat colour, flecked – as in my newest trophy. Perhaps that’s what gives grey knitwear its hanger appeal: you can instantly see the softness, or the detail of the stitch – and imagine it settling round you like a cosy invisibility cloak.
I suppose that, as a long-time civil servant, I am inevitably drawn to grey – everyone knows that we are grey men and women, and grey is the colour of compromise. Dare I suggest that we need a bit of grey knitted thinking at the moment, instead of intransigent blue-sky pie-in-the-sky thinking? (In fact, where is the grey man of politics now, when we need him to see off a few ‘bastards’?) But I digress.
It’s lovely just to retreat into a snug GPN and merge with your surroundings, hidden in plain sight, but the beauty of grey is that it doesn’t have to be that way, as it’s the perfect foil to really bright, zingy colours: cyclamen, lime, orange. If you’re into bling, silver looks brilliant on grey. And here’s an up-to-the-minute fashion tip from the dames (well, from The Pool in January 2018): apparently it’s de rigueur to have half your hair tucked into the collar – presumably the bottom half. Remember, you heard it here last.
My collection to date is illustrated in the photo above, with secondhand stuff on my right hand and new stuff on the left. I think I may now claim that these garments haven’t just been bought, they have been carefully curated over years. (Shove off, Marie Kondo – my guest spot at the V & A cannot be far off.)
And as if all this were not proof of the intrinsic elegance of the GPN, consider this: when the four founding dames met up for their works Christmas lunch some years ago, we all arrived wearing GPNs of very different descriptions, entirely without prior consultation. I rest my case.