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JEFF CORBETT: A tour of the Hunter’s unimpressive fashion

​It’s true that fashion these days is often more about confrontation than appeal, and while I know that not all of you will see me as sartorially accomplished I do know horrible when I see it, and I saw it this week. If you’re not one of the aberrants you’ll know it too.
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It occurred to me that the range of shake-your-head horrible in the Hunter could be promoted as a tourist attraction, one of those self-drive tours snaking its way from Newcastle out through Wallsend, Raymond Terrace, Thornton, Maitland and the highway towns to Muswellbrook then back through Cessnock, Kurri, West Wallsend, Cardiff before finishing with an overload in the university dormitory suburbs.

My sighting this week was of two young fellows slumping along with the fork of their jeans between their knees, the waist held mysteriously well below what would be buttocks if they had any. I’m always reminded of a toddler with a nappy that desperately needs changing and is working its way down the legs, and so I call it the loaded nappy look.

It’s the uniform of a gang, I’ve read, although there was nothing intimidating about the two saggy slouchers I saw at Edgeworth. The absence of buttocks is so common among them it may be a prerequisite for membership, and the absence of a job is probably another.

As our tourists move through Raymond Terrace and Thornton they should be looking out for women wearing slippers and, better still, women wearing a dressing gown in the afternoon. You’ll see them hanging over the fence talking to other women, who with a bit of luck will be wearing their pink dressing gown too.

If you’re doing the tour at a weekend you may see a gaggle of girls wearing winter pyjama pants. Like me you may assume they’re going to or leaving a sleepover, but I think now they wear flannelette pyjama pants because they see it as fashionable. A decade or two ago a teenage girl would have rather died than be seen in public in pyjama pants.

Passing through Maitland look for men or women wearing socks with sandals, and be warned that you may smell them before you see them. Generally harmless and friendly in gruff sort of way, but best to keep them at waving distance.

That great anachronism, the cardigan, can still be spotted in the streets of Lochinvar, Greta and Branxton in all bar the summer months, and fashion hangovers have seldom been as longlived. It’s particularly eye catching when the cardigan is buttoned up to act as a type of corset.

Moving further west look for tracky dacks, the shapeless bottom half of the tracksuit that was briefly a few decades ago seen as civilised. Those you see up through Singleton and Muswellbrook look as though they’ve not been washed since they had their moment in fashion, and those who wear them now are clearly the type who see lounging around as a worthwhile life.

By now you’ll have seen the hoodie slinking along the streets. Its purpose is to hide the face of the wearer from security cameras, and it’s a fashion created largely by graffiti vandals and other enemies of the community. That the hoodie suggests ill intent may be the attraction for some who have not yet found their adult place in the world.

On your way back down the valley in all bar the summer months you’ll spot the man scarf in Pokolbin, the replacement for the man bag and worn by men who see themselves as upper. I’ve noticed that very few men wear their man scarf when not in company with their wife, which I think is wise.Cessnock is likely to provide the sight that renders you frozen in the face of screaming demands from somewhere within to avert your eyes. Picture a woman who should never, ever wear lycra shorts and you’ll spot her at Cessnock. You’ll be gasping.

Further down the valley you’ll see male cyclists in lycra and if you see them off the bike you may see why male cyclists should wear only black lycra shorts, but first you should spot the bricky’s crack in Kurri. If there’s one around you’ll spot it, believe me. Not confined to brickies, or in Kurri even men, it is the buttock crack that carries on for some centimetres above the waist of stubby shorts. How far it carries on depends on the size of the buttocks.

It’s in the Coalfields that you have the best chance of spotting a G-string strap above shorts or jeans of a certain size, and if you don’t keep your imagination in check you’ll boggle your mind.

Further east as you moved through the dormitory suburbs for Newcastle University students you’ll find yourself in the land of pudding bellies and horribly deep navels, which is the more repugnant because they belong to young women. It’s the bared midriff look promoted by female pop stars, and while all of the pop queens have an attractive flat stomach the look has been commandeered as anti-fashion by girls we can describe best as blubbery.

And as you drive into Newcastle to finish your tour you won’t have any trouble ticking off the silly new fashion of men wearing shorts that look like boxer briefs.

Almost too much to bear.

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