Goal: To journey along Oxford Street in London, trying on ladies angora sweaters.
Philosophy: there’s nothing wrong with a heterosexual male wanting to wear women’s clothing.
Guidelines: 1) I shall have a bag of disguises in order to adopt various angora-wearing personas. 2) I shall drink Brandy Alexanders along the way for inspiration.
Philosophy On Guidelines: There’s nothing wrong with a heterosexual male wanting to drink Brandy Alexanders
As I stand, looking down from t he top of Oxford Street, I wonder what monsters lie ahead, waiting to foil me. Will it be an evil arch-villain, or just a bunch of annoyed sales clerks? This is the beginning to feel like a grand adventure equivalent to Jason and the stuff he did with those Argonauts. Only, there aren’t any Argonauts here, only angora sweaters made from the softest angora wool, mmmmm.
Store: Marks and Spencers
Persona: Businessman Humphrey Lemington III
I finish my first Brandy Alexander of the day and head into Marks and Spencers. I’ve put on a white shirt and tie. Also a short, curly-haired wig to cover my nappy head. There’s an old woman salesclerk putting a jacket back on a hanger. She looks like she’s worked here a long time. I’m sure she’s seen many styles come and go. Perhaps even angora bell bottoms.
“Excuse me. Do you have ladies angora sweaters?”
She slowly turns around.
“Yes we do”
“Its for a Mothers Day present.”
“Well,. what we have is not really suitable for Mothers Day.”
“Oh, I’ll be the judge of that!” I snap.
“Well, they’re right this way.”
I follow her at her heel as we make our way past cardigans, waist-coats and various other kinds of sweaters.
“Its a Mothers Day present,” I say again as we arrive at the rack.
“Oh, how nice,” she says.
“Obviously not for me” I say, letting out a nervous laugh.
“Its for my mother – who is a woman.”
She speaks slowly and distinctly.
“As you can see, they’re cut in a manner which is more suitable for a younger woman.”
“No! That’s just the way she likes it!”
The jumpers are in three colours, pink, lilac, and baby blue. I chose pink. I pick it up and its like a sacred religious article. My eyes widen.
“Oh yes! This is nice! This is very nice!”
I turn to the very attentive sales woman
“My Mother- who is a woman has big shoulders, maybe 16 is better?”
We agree on 16. I pick up the pink jumper and again hold it to myself.
“Would this wrinkle if worn under, oh…a business suit?”
Her eyebrows scrunch together.
“No, angora shouldn’t wrinkle.”
She’s in the later stages of getting sick of me. I start slowly rubbing the sweater.
“Yes this is very nice, mmmmm! This will make me – I mean my mother – very happy!”
With a tense fake smile she says, “Well, if you find something you like, please let me know.”
Where did our love go? I feel like I lost her. I hand her the sweater.
“I’M NOT GAY YOU KNOW!”
I abruptly leave the store.
Store: John Lewis
Quality: None. They don’t carry Angora sweaters.
Persona: German tourist Deiter Lietershvantz. He speaks only in the third person and in a thick German accent.
I stop at the pub for my second Brandy Alexander. It’s almost as embarrassing to order it as it is to ask for women’s clothes. I’ve changed into a black turtleneck, big fuzzy hat and German sense of humour. There’s a fixed scowl on my face.
The ladies sweater Department is fairly empty. There’s a young saleswoman. Her name tag says Jeanne. She looks bored. I have to stand in front of her, scowling for a moment, to get her attention. My throat is cleared.
“Dieter wants ladies angora sweater!”
I pound my chest with my fist. She looks up. There’s a look of bored annoyance for being interrupted.
“SHOW ME ANGORA SWEATER!”
I remain unmoved. Her hands are palms down on the counter. She’s still trying to figure out exactly what I want.
“Show me Angora sweater NOW!”
I tap my finger on the counter. She realizes I’m harmless and just want women’s clothing.
“Sorry we donate have angora sweaters.”
“The closest thing we have is lambs wool.”
“It makes Dieter chafe. DIETER ONLY WEARS ANGORA!”
She wonders why I’m shouting. The clerks of today are so unhelpful. Where’s Mr. Peacock from Are you being served? He’d understand my dilemma.
“Maybe you should try Selfridges.”
“Dieter shall never RETURN!”
I goose-step out of the store.
Store: DH Evans
Quality: A bit tarty. Not really my style.
I made a quick stop for another Brandy Alexander. Mmmmmm, Brandy Alexanders! I’m starting to like these. Wait! Must resist!
I’ve put on a black stocking cap and shades. I wrote on my right knuckles with a marker pen so that it says S-W-E-A. On my left I have T-E-R-S.
There’s two elderly women standing by the angora sweater rack.
“This one is darling.”
“Oh yes, its quite lovely”
“It’s short, like the girls are wearing.”
I join in.
“I really love angora!” I add.
We smile. We know. I hold a lilac angora sweater up to myself. Looking into the mirror I sway around like a schoolgirl. The uniformed Security Guard is eyeing me. He secretly hates me. But what can he do? There’s no law against being odd… is there? He makes an angry face. I hear a voice behind me.
“Can I help you?”
Why yes, she can.
“Do you think this sweater would look nice on me?”
She laughs. I don’t. It occurs to me that shopping for women’s clothes is a great way to meet women. I must do this again, but under different circumstances.
“Would it look nice with a skirt?”
I mime the skirt area with my hands.
“It would be lovely,” she says again with a smirk.
I spew my philosophy.
“Is it wrong for a man to want to wear a ladies angora sweater?”
“Of course not.”
She raises her eyebrows and giggles. I look serious. The angora sweater and myself are shown toward the dressing room. The curtain is drawn. Just me, alone with my lilac angora sweater. I slip off my shirt and put it on. It feels quite nice against my skin, mmmmm. Wait! Must resist! This is what drove Ed Wood mad. I will not be consumed by a sweater fetish. I force my thoughts to football and the women of Baywatch. I look into the mirror. My midriff is showing. I can see my navel. I look like a tart — cheap and easy. There is a muffled talking and giggling coming from the other side of the curtain. I can’t make out what they’re saying, but I do hear the word “bloke”.
I pop out. There’s a few more people gathered than before. I speak slowly and softly.
“Do you think this sweater makes me look fat?”
She eyes me seriously.
“No you look lovely,” she says with confidence. A woman behind her agrees.
“But not fat, right?”
She’s very professional and knows how to answer. The Security Guard is whispering something to his mate. The two elderly women from before let out a medium laugh. Then look at each other. Perhaps I helped them decide on a purchase. I take a long, serious look into the mirror and head back towards the dressing room.
On the way back I accidentally knock some cardigan sweaters on the floor. It must be the Brandy Alexanders.
“Don’t worry, I’ll get that” she says.
I change back into my clothes and reappear.
“I need to think about it.” I pause a moment. Maybe my hooligan persona has been tarnished by this cross-dressing escapade?
“I’ve decided to spend my money on kick-boxing equipment.”
I strike a pose, and leave.
After a tough afternoon like this, I treat myself to one last Brandy Alexander (they’re not bad, really.) Though I remain unchanged by this experience, perhaps tomorrow I will return to do a story on silk panties.
(Previously published in Axcess magazine, spring 1996.)