Band Of Brothers
When our columnist and his housemates all become single, he tests whether fitness triumphs over style.
Single again. And there must be something in the air, because I’ve had the fortune – good or bad, I’m not sure which – to arrive back on the market at exactly the same time as the two men with whom I share a house. They do say that things come in threes. We’ve been friends since college, which was the last time we were all simultaneously single. That, dear readers, was 2005. And here we are, a decade on, right back where we started. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Bachelor Number One has just mutually parted ways with his girlfriend of three years. She works as a campaigner against austerity, corporate tax avoidance, the one per cent… you name it. He works at an investment management firm. I know that love’s supposed to conquer all, but in this particular case you could say that the writing was on the wall. Bachelor Number Two has just returned from a six-month diplomatic posting in sunny Tegucigalpa, Honduras, murder capital of the world, where he wisely spent most of his time indoors.
As you can imagine, our coinciding arrival on the London dating scene – combined with the fact that we’re now sitting comfortably in the late-twenties bracket, otherwise known as the “kill zone” – has lent our makeshift bachelor pad an air of friendly competition. And by friendly competition, I mean panic. “It’s any port in a storm now,” as Bachelor Number One put it. “And with three supertankers attempting to dock, things could get choppy.” He always has had a way with words. Also, modesty.
It has been a while since I donned my “dating hat” (Editor’s note: never wear a hat on a date. It makes you look as if you’re hiding something), so it’s high time that I engaged in the all-important bout of honest self-evaluation. It’s important to remember at all times that the dating market is just that: a market. Bring an inferior product to a market and you can expect it to fail. That’s just simple business sense. And what is dating, if not an especially ruthless form of business? You have meetings (“dates”) with potential clients (also “dates”) in the hope of arriving at a mutually profitable outcome (you get the idea).
What I’m trying to say is that the best way to succeed is to adopt a marketeer’s approach to dating and start thinking of myself as a consumer product. Not only will this increase my chances of finding “the one”, but I expect it’ll help to keep the blues at bay. And my first step is to identify my unique selling point. To that end, I must assess my immediate competition: my two closest friends.
Bachelor Number One first. He’s the sporty one, though his choice of sports leaves something to be desired. He once played Ping-Pong for Great Britain (under-eight category), and currently plays field hockey to premiership standard. He also earns more than me – but women aren’t interested in that, thank God. As for Bachelor Number Two, he’s the good-looking one. At college he was referred to as “symmetrical Tom”, and while in his first job he earned the nickname “the face”.
So, sporty is taken. Good-looking is taken. What’s left? A couple of years ago, when I was last single, I adopted the Field Of Dreams approach to dating – “if you build it, they will come” – and invested in a gym membership. My tactics met with moderate success, but will I be able to replicate it now? This is 2015; these are strange new times. It’s now acceptable, apparently, to drink a protein shake in the office. A good body has become such a common thing that, in order to differentiate yourself, you need a really good body – the sort that raises difficult questions about the way a man chooses to spend his time.
No: the only sensible conclusion is that the gym is overrated. A man should look healthy, of course. Nobody wants to date a walking cardiac arrest. Beyond that, though, working out rapidly succumbs to the rule of diminishing returns. Take the much-desired six-pack. Not only does it represent a crippling investment in time but it’s of limited use in the dating game, which is over and done with by the time a man is required to take off his shirt. The shirt itself is arguably a great deal more important than what lies beneath.
And thus, we arrive at the closest thing I have to a unique selling point: the contents of my wardrobe. My tenure at MR PORTER has left me handsomely furnished in that regard, at least. The only problem is keeping this war chest to myself. Only a few weeks ago, I witnessed Bachelor Number Two returning from a date that had clearly gone quite well, if the grin on his face and the hour – 11am the next day – were anything to go by. He was bleary-eyed but immaculately turned out in a handsome Saturdays Surf NYC denim shirt (mine), chinos (model’s own) and a pair of Lanvin sneakers (mine). I might have to think about installing a lock.
I can hardly blame him, though. We’ve all been guilty of this kind of behaviour, whether it’s overstating our salary or seniority, using a misleadingly youthful picture on our Tinder profile or borrowing our housemate’s clothes to pass off as our own. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and these are desperate times indeed. We’re the guys who spent so long at the bar that we failed to notice the dance floor emptying.
Now, it’s 10 minutes until closing time, the lights are about to come on and we’re still dancing on our own.
What to wear...
Illustrations by Mr Giacomo Bagnara