Men In Black

Forget fascism and referees, the Black Shirt is an iconic staple of a man's wardrobe. Disagree? Take it up with Johnny Cash, the Viet Cong and the All-Blacks.
Publish date:
Updated on

#116786984 /

It was a black day when I came across the opinion in a newspaper that men should  never wear black shirts. I was sitting on the back seat of a bus at King's Cross reading the paper wearing a black  shirt. I shuffled indignantly and fired off a missive to the editor of the paper concerned. To suggest an item of clothing defines all the men who wear it is plain stupid. The black shirt is one of the most iconic item of clothing in film and rock and roll history. I've got black shirts by Paul Smith, Kilgour and 6878, long sleeved and short sleeved, not to mention the odd fading rock and roll t-shirt from The Cult and Worn Free.

Ok there's the obvious arseholes like football referees, fascists and Rodney Kings friends in the LAPD but for everyone of them I can give you ten  decent counter-arguments. From Johnny Cash and Ian Curtis to the Clash and Brandon Flowers, from Yul Brinner in The Magnificent 7 to Keannu in The Matrix, from the SAS storming the Iranian Embassy and The Viet Cong and the Black Panthers taking on American imperialism and racism.

Everyone a pin up, a dark icon of menace and inspiration.   Imagine Public Enemy if they'd appeared in lilac? And who in their right mind would tell the All Blacks they look rubbish and should change their look to cream. Would Elvis have looked quite so sexual if he'd wore green?

Maybe it's generational, maybe it's the result of a bad experience the style editor of the now defunct paper had had with some irksome smoothie but to damn a man with
such a sweeping generalisation is a tough thing to do.  Maybe it's just a gender problem. Maybe girls see berks and boys see heroes. My girlfriend later agreed that the only guy she knows who always wears black shirts (with a silver suit) is a total cock but this seemed insignificant against the army of heroes that immediately spring to mind who have looked great in black.

For men black is the look of the rebel, the outcast and the lonesome.  From cowboys to war to rock and roll black shirt mean dangerous. Examples are everywhere from rare Subbuteo goalies to Sabbath and AC/DC, from Russell Brand to Run DMC. From Torres and Rooney in their club away colours and Joe Strummer and Mick Jones in their prime to Richard Pryor  challenging white America through his comedy. I could go on like this till the sun comes up and goes down again. Key in every great man in history and you'll probably find him in a black shirt. Ok maybe not Ghandi.