You might know all about Man Repelling. It's those clothes that women at the pointy end of fashion love, and men just do not get. Man Repellers are not dressing to impress the opposite sex. The truth is, they don't need to, because they are young and striking, or they move in the kind of edgy circles where the only thing that repels the opposite sex is conventionality.
Not being in either of these camps but quite keen on fashion, I am alert to Man Repelling tendencies. Like most civilians over 40, I have learnt to walk the tightrope between clothes our girlfriends will admire and the ones men appreciate, or at any rate don't detest. (I don't mean all men, by the way. Some men are lost causes, and there is no point whatsoever taking their feelings into consideration, or you will end up in a skin-tight, V-neck pink cardigan, a short skirt and Mary Janes.) And, to be fair, striking a balance is not that hard.
It is common knowledge among women what will and won't fly with the average bloke. We talk about it in the changing rooms. He's got a thing about peach. I would, but he can't stand stripes. I know he'll take one look and say "You look like you're wearing your pyjamas." Wide-legged trousers. Peep toes. Anything that reminds them of their mothers, especially big amber-ish jewellery and floral prints.
There is a universal list of items that men find challenging - sleeveless coats, loafers, big-knickered bikinis - which we have committed to memory over the years and at this stage we're pretty confident of how far we can push it, before he ends up with his head in his hands.
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Only you cannot always second-guess what will repel men and cause them to hunch their shoulders up around their ears, fold their arms and assume the You Have Crossed a Line position. You may go months, even years, and then out of the blue, there it will be: the jaw set that says, "Oh, dear God, why is she doing this now?" Even if they're pretending to watch television, every woman knows the Man Repelled face.
But also there are the following clues. He might say, "Won't you be hot in that?" (Since when have they ever cared about hot?) or, "Is that meant to be sticking out at the side?", and variations on that theme, including, "Is it definitely on the right way round?"
Alternatively, the repelled man will just crack and come right out with it, like my husband did when I tried on my latest Zara purchases last week: the embroidered velvet cropped trousers and the embroidered faux-fur jacket (sounds bad, I know, but in my defence I wasn't planning on wearing them together). Well, it turns out that the bohemian/gipsy vibe - or, as he described it, the ex-Mrs Putin in exile at the dacha: "All you need is a steel grey bun and a duck under one arm" - is the bull's-eye of Man Repelling.
And this, I now realise, is because it coincides with an image from a sort of rogues' Repellers gallery in their heads: a series of mugshots of people (not even all of them women, by the way) from throughout history, real and fictional, who have at one time or another pressed their Repeller button. In the past, I have accidentally triggered: Carrie's mother, Larry Fortensky (remember Liz Taylor's seventh husband of the stonewashed jeans? I know!) and Wendy Craig in Butterflies.
And this is the trouble with fashion in general, I find. Women look in the mirror and think, "Get me, in my chic, navy cropped trousers, I so could be French", and men are thinking: "Why is she trying to make her legs look short? Bloody fashion."
Anyway, you have been warned.