Hose maketh the man – Frank McNally on a male sartorial dilemma

A 28-year-old film star with GAA-honed ankles sets the pace

Paul Mescal at Milan Fashion Week. Photograph: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

It’s just as well that the Diarist is not an international style icon (readers are of course free to disagree), because it’s very hard to keep up with what’s considered fashionable for men these days.

Even before that Paul Mescal front-page photo yesterday – for which some of us think the stylist should have claimed responsibility in a coded phonecall to the newsroom – I was wrestling with news that the king of Spain now sometimes wears short-legged suits with no socks underneath.

This sort of thing would normally have passed me by. But it was brought to my attention by a sartorially judgmental friend – we’ll call her “Sarah” – who sees him as a role model for the rest of us.

“Drooling over the king of Spain’s style and finely turned ankle,” she posted on a group WhatsApp, under a photo of the monarch emerging from a car with a lengthy expanse of flesh visible between his sawn-off trousers and the top of his shoes.


Felipe VI is without doubt a good-looking man. Finely or otherwise, however, his ankles turned 56 in January (I happen to know they were twins, born very close together).

And it used to be received wisdom that men of middle-age or older should not only always wear hosiery but should err on the safe side with the trouser-sock overlap, lest any skin appear.

Whereas now, it seems, a 56-year-old statesman may freely flaunt his lower legs while a 28-year-old film star (with GAA-honed ankles) is encouraged to cover his with convent-girl-style white stockings up to his shins. This, in Mescal’s case, along with patent-leather black shoes, and shorts of a brevity that was last in fashion during the 1989 FA Cup Final.

“Sarah” is currently on a beach holiday in the Algarve, partly for her own sartorial reasons. She prefers more adventurous trips but says this is “the only way to tan my calves effectively”.

Between that and a general fondness for royalty, she sees certain parallels in hers and Felipe’s missions. “Tanned calves. Finely turned ankles. You’ve got to put the work in,” she said.

As for the Mescal outfit, she was somewhat less approving than the king’s. When I shared it for comment, her reaction was: “Jesus Christ.”


Speaking of calves, that horrific video from England of a police car running down a stray farm animal was painful enough to watch in its own right without almost every media report of the incident referring to the young animal as a “cow”.

Yes, it’s a minor issue in comparison with the deliberate collision.

Even so, it derives from the same profound ignorance of farming life that makes a policeman think the best way to deal with frightened runaway cattle is to ram them with an SUV.

It later emerged that the bovine creature in question – also widely described as a “calf” – was a 10-month-old female. So the word reporters needed was “heifer”, a term apparently obsolete in urbanised England.

Happily, this was one calf that did not end up tanned – in the leather-industry sense of the term, anyway.

As I write, the animal is reportedly limping but otherwise well.


It’s doubly unfortunate that that incident (and the RTÉ Investigates exposure of abuse in a Kildare horse abattoir) should coincide with the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, about which I was writing last week (Diary, June 13th).

But at least the Galway man who helped found the society, Richard “Humanity Dick” Martin, would have had no trouble identifying the animal mown down by police.

His pioneering legislation of 1822, the “Ill Treatment of Cattle Act”, specified “ox, cow, heifer, steer, sheep, or other cattle” as animals you couldn’t henceforth abuse.

It did not, however, specify bulls, which were the subject of much torture then in the name of sport. This had to be remedied in a later Act.


Getting back to clothes, it occurred to me in The Hague last week that to the existing judicial institutions in that city, somebody should consider adding an International Court for Crimes Against Fashion. I have a friend who’d love to be one of the judges.

Readers may recall that last Saturday’s Diary was accompanied by a picture of me standing before the International Court of Justice.

I was, as I thought, respectably dressed in a semi-formal jacket (from Massimo Dutti), a shirt with only the top button open, and 32-inch-leg navy trousers that reached well below the top of my socks, which were also dark.

So confident was I in the suitability of the ensemble for such an august location that I posted the picture to the aforementioned group WhatsApp, including my judgmental friend. Soon afterwards, she filed an indictment from the beach in Portugal. It read in full: “Polish your shoes!”