Daytime TV: A cut above

Gary Day is dazzled by Ozwald Boateng's style, but less so by England's performance on the pitch

June 17, 2010

Film-maker Angus Aynsley was having his hair cut. He was also being interviewed. So, you see, men can multitask. Angus was enthusing about his friend Ozwald Boateng, the subject of Why Style Matters (BBC Four, Monday 7 June, 11.30pm). "He is a beautiful black man", said Angus, as scissor blades flashed round his head, "who stands at six feet five inches in his Cuban heels", a remark that may or may not reveal more than a mere knowledge of men's footwear.

With his shaved head and acid-bright suits, Ozwald is certainly an awe-inspiring figure. A deity, a burning bush, a dazzling blaze of colour. The camera trembled whenever it looked at him. We never saw his face except at a distance. But we did see close-ups of his mouth. Lots of them, in fact. I wouldn't mind betting that I now know more about his teeth than his dentist.

Ozwald has an OBE for his services to tailoring, though he prefers the term "bespoke couture". He has dressed many of the rich and famous (but not Jeremy Clarkson, obviously). Ozwald showed us round his store. He compared it to an art gallery, but it was more like a church: hushed, dark and sepulchral. The mannequins were arranged like saints and the shirts shone like small stained-glass windows.

The camera, still shaking, followed Ozwald to Portobello Road. He tried the door of where he used to work. Open. A man called Lee lives there now. Ozwald ran his splendid hands over the walls to get "the vibes of the place". This was the place where the renaissance of the British suit began. "It is not just about the design or the cut, there is always a greater meaning." I know, Ozwald, I know. But it forever eludes me.

Andrew Ramroop, a fellow denizen of Savile Row, asked Ozwald if he knew the collective noun for their profession. It's a "disguising of tailors". The art lies in creating clothes that make a man's chest look broader and his waist more narrow. "Style", Ozwald proclaimed, "is much more important than substance." This was probably very profound. Indeed, there was something Zen-like about many of Ozwald's pronouncements. Style is an individual expression. Style is an expression of group identity.

Perhaps it was exposure to Ozwald's gnomic utterances that explained why Suzy Menkes' coiffure was in the shape of a question mark. Ozwald was visiting the veteran fashion journalist to discover who she thought were the great designers. He looked disappointed when she did not mention him. But he cheered up when he met his hero, Giorgio Armani, who was better able to appreciate him. "Mr Armani would like to congratulate you on your elegance," sang the Italian translator.

"How spiritual are you?" Ozwald asked. "I don't do this work to be rich," Armani replied, "but to give something of myself to others." He made his name by "deconstructing" the suit. He destabilised the hierarchy of jacket and trousers, showing that neither was dominant; he drew out their warring significations and generally undermined the foundation of Western metaphysics. "Wow," said Ozwald. "I mean, wow."

It was the sort of conversation that would not have been out of place on The Review Show (BBC Two, Friday 11 June, 11pm). Tim Marlow, a truly spectral presence, hosted. The combined intellects of Kwame Kwei-Armah, Gillian Slovo, John O'Farrell and Gary Younge were trained on the World Cup. What did it mean for South Africa? The opening ceremony featured a giant dung beetle nudging along a football. John said it was a metaphor for the state of football while Gary raged against such "demeaning and degrading" imagery.

There was much talk of how whites saw themselves as the victims of violence when in fact it was blacks who suffer the most. Europe was criticised for stealing the continent's best footballers - "yet another form of people trafficking" - while the game itself was blamed for fostering an individualist instead of a collective mentality. Since the combined intellects clearly didn't know that football is a team sport, you began to wonder what they actually knew about South Africa.

Few things are certain in this life, but one is that Adrian Chiles will never smile. Another is that England will always disappoint. The two are, of course, linked. Adrian presented World Cup Live: England v USA (ITV1, Saturday 12 June, 6.15pm) with all the enthusiasm of a man organising his own funeral.

Why did Gerrard have to score? That gave us hope, the gods' the most cruel gift. Even so, could it be that we were going to win? We had the talent, the experience, so why not? Because we are more comfortable with failure, that's why. Either that, or we really do prefer style to substance.

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