On cardigans

Every hotel has its shtick, and the Hyatt on Union Square’s is a lobby that smells of cinnamon, and cardigans.

Staying in a Hyatt? Isn’t that, well, a bit plush for me? I can only concur: it is actually a source of great mystery why I am here. Last time I came over to New York for work I, along with the full editorial board, was put up in the SoHo Grand—an equally up-market affair. That time I presumed that, because the editorial board were entitled to a level of luxury, I got slipped in as an extra on a bulk booking. But this time it is just me, and I explicitly stated that supposed luxury—which seems to often come down to more pillows than that upon which it is actually anatomically possible to rest one’s head, and ten dollar “artisan water” in the minibar (yes, really)—was less important to me than my inveterate loathing of having to walk anywhere, and that I would happily take a less salubrious hotel that was geographically closer to the offices of New York University Press. What I got was the Hyatt—one block from the Broadway offices of NYUP, but if anything a notch up in the luxury rankings.

Anyway, the cardigans. Hotel staff dress codes are quirky, to but it mildly, in New York. At the SoHo Grand breakfast was maître-d’ed by a guy in a suit and smart shoes but no socks; a sartorial choice that placed exactly one less layer of fabric between my toast and jam and his toe jam than I would consider hygienic. Here at the Hyatt, things are different. “Dress down,” the front of house staff seem to have been told. “Look comfy. We want our guests to feel—notwithstanding the uplit copper screen, random wooden strips hanging from the ceiling, inexplicable odour, and chairs that not only it would be glib to say appear to have been designed more for style than comfort, but inaccurate too, as they look pretty awful—that they’re just in someone’s lounge, a four-star homestay.” And this means cardigans. Beards, too. Paisley and chequerboard patterns. Of course, these are not just limited to the Hyatt: the look that is, I understand, termed lumbersexual has been prevalent for a couple of years at least, and this distresses me greatly.

I turn 40 this year. I’m not particularly concerned about the round number in my age; the fact that we have a base 10 counting system seems to me a poor reason for an existential crisis. But there’s no denying that, though I like to think I am a youthful 39, I am approaching the age where young people are starting to confuse and anger me, and nothing so much as the lumbersexual look.

Of course it is important, when young, to dress in a manner that contravenes the expectations of your elders. For me this consisted of long hair—a perennial favourite of youthful self-assertion—and later a leather jacket which utterly failed to suit me. But cardigans? Beards? And not slim-cut, figure-enhancing cardigans, nor carefully sculpted and trimmed beards, but saggy, shapeless, diamond-patterned, for goodness sake comfortable cardigans, and huge, barely-styled facial hair that can only merit the term whiskers. This I understand not. It contravenes expectations in the most gratuitous way: my parents may have thought my long hair made me look like a girl, but the young ’uns of today—as epitomised by the lobby of the Hyatt—seem to be trying to look like us crusties—or at least as we do in our innermost hearts, for I still sport a hoodie and V-necked teeshirts in a desperate attempt to hold on to what remains of my youth.

Young people: this is too much. Dress as shockingly, as ridiculously, as outrageously as you please: let your trousers hang round your ankles, gratuitously expose those Calvin Kleins, wear shorts in winter. Get a mohican, or shave half your head. Wear knee-length boots with a miniskirt—and I don’t just mean the ladies—and weigh your arms down with bangles and friendship bands and cheap kudos-grabbing charity bracelets. Do all of these, and I may think you look daft (or, more accurately, say you look daft, whilst secretly admiring your uninhibited freedom of spirit), but I will celebrate your right to affront my style prejudices. But dress like a crusty? Willingly wrap yourselves in the beslippered, saggy, comfort-oriented dress that beckons, increasingly unrefusably, to me from every M&S window display?

Fuck you, young people: fuck you. This isn’t rebellion, it’s satire.

(The hotel lobby really does smell of cinnamon, by the way. Therein lies a whole new level of bemusement.)