Róisín Ingle on ...

... how to be cool

I ’m reading an article about how what you wear to drop the children off to school reveals “where you’re at” in life. Big sunglasses and big hair say “don’t talk to me, I’m far too important”. Jangling a massive set of keys says you’re very successful what with having lots of doors to open elsewhere when you’ve finished your business at the school gates. When I did the school run myself for the first time earlier this week I wore runners and tried to jangle the solitary key on my keyring and had my hair swept to one side the better to hide my roots. The article doesn’t tell me what all of this says about “where I’m at” but I suspect it’s not good.

Later, I tried to cover my roots with one of my children's brown crayons (it doesn't work) and began a one-way conversation with my boyfriend about what to wear to Electric Picnic this afternoon. Because what you wear to festivals probably reveals "where you're at" in life too.

“I was thinking my Mad Top might do the trick.”

“What Mad Top?”


"The one with the multi-coloured studs on the shoulders that looks like something Lady Gaga might wear on casual Friday."


“Well, plastic ones. The point is it looks vaguely cool and, you know, out there.”


“Well, whatever the current equivalent word is. Rad? Awesome? Just, cool. Basically I think my Mad Top is the only thing I have in the wardrobe that is suitable for a festival. Also, when I wore it down the pub I got funny looks whereas nobody will look at me twice at the Picnic. Anyway, they’re just a few harmless little plastic studs in crazy neon colours. But kind of cool in a ‘take your eye out with that’ kind of way.”

"Yeah. You should definitely wear it," he says but in that couldn't care less, stop interrupting my recording of Match of the Day kind of way so I know I'm on my own with this sartorial challenge.

The holy grail would be not to care what I wore. That's the kind of cool I'm really after. But in the absence of such effortless awesomeness I take down the Mad Top and scrutinise it for festival suitability. It's only had two outings, to the pub and to the opening of a restaurant where I met Rosanna Davison in the toilet. It was quite a moment. I came out of the cubicle and she complimented me on my Mad Top and asked me where I got it.

"Asos, " I said, kind of mortified, but mesmerised by the shape of her eyebrows and a little bit thrilled.

“Me too,” she said. “Mine is from Asos.”

And there we stood facing each other, two online fashion identical twins except one of us was impeccably groomed, had won Miss World and appeared in Playboy and the other, well . . . the other wore a wine-coloured velvet Laura Ashley dress with puff sleeves to her wedding and doesn't even regret it, years later, post-divorce.

"If I wear my Mad Top, do you think it will look like I'm trying to hard to be cool?" I ask later during an interval on MOTD.

“Probably. But who cares? If you like it, wear it.”

"Who cares?" I say. "I care. I'm going to be interviewing Amy Huberman in the Arts Council tent and she's going to be 'working' that 'festival look', you know the one that looks like the whole thing just came together by accident, but is just exactly right and nonchalant and . . ."


“Yes. Exactly. Cool. I’ll need something going on outfit-wise and I just thought the studded shoulders could be that something.”

I go off in a strop to examine the Mad Top a bit more. Then I start thinking about some of the people I admire. Nell McCafferty. Maya Angelou. My friend Eda Sagarra who had her 80th birthday party recently. (The main speech-maker compared her to Leonardo da Vinci. I think his exact words were "she's better than Leonardo".) Malala Yousafzai. I think what they have in common is they don't care much about what people think of them, they're just themselves. They're cool.

So I think I’ll wear my Mad Top to Electric Picnic this afternoon but because I like it, not because of what it might say about “where I’m at” in life. I’m trying, that’s where I’m at. I’m struggling. I’m laughing. I’m learning. I may as well do all that with neon plastic studs on my shoulders as not.