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Finishing Touches

(How to spruce yourself up if you're going out any further than the off licence)

[GQ, 1998]

“GOD is in the details.”The modernist architect Mies van der Rohe said that. “Don't forget to wash behind your ears.” Your mum said that. Assuming your mum no longer supervises your bathtime, you need to take care of the details yourself. You might think you can step out of the shower and into a fancy suit and you'll be sorted. Wrong. You'll want to towel yourself down for a start. But that aside, there are all manner of seemingly trivial factors which, like a tiny meteorite blocking out the sun, can scupper your best efforts at elegance. Have you failed to, say, clean under your fingernails? Then you can dispense with the whistle and leave the house in a dubiously stained dressing gown for all the good it'll do you. It won't matter if you're reamed, steamed, dry-cleaned and togged up like Beau Brummel. You'll still look as if you stopped the cab en route to rummage through a bin that caught your fancy.
  Brushing your tongue is also essential. Cleaning your teeth is a start, but unless you use the toothbrush to scrape the detritus off your tongue while you're at it, you risk breath that can fell a police horse from across the street. Do not, however, tell anyone that you do this. I once blithely mentioned it to a group of male colleagues during a lunchtime drink. Each one looked at me as if I had just fondled his crotch and called him Violet.
  Check, too, that you have shaved thoroughly beneath your underlip. You don't want to go out looking like the late Frank Zappa. This has always been unacceptable, even for Frank Zappa. Worse yet is when you fail to completely clear away the stubble from that little dent right below your nose. You might as well slick your hair across your forehead, put on a faded swastika armband and goose-step into the bar whistling Deutschland Uber Alles.
  Feet need close attention. Shiny shoes alone won't provide the right effect. Particularly if you omit to peel off the sticker on the sole that reads “Shoe Express 14.99”. If spotted, this gives the impression that you have just been

released into the community. You can resign yourself to a night of fixed smiles and very slow converstion. Should you nurture any hopes of not being alone when you undress, then talc your feet. Cut your toenails. Wear good quality socks - a pair that matches - and not the sort that make it seem as if the Grime Fairy has come to visit, leaving black, sweaty fluff between your toes. Proper socks are also less likely to roguishly reveal the selfsame toes through unplanned peepholes. And while you're waving the talc about, put some down your underpants. Even if the month has an “R”in it, there is no ripe oyster season when it comes to personal grooming.
  Get a proper anti-perspirant that doesn't turn your shirt underarms into the Utah salt flats. Despite the claims of the adverts, no deodorant will lure strange girls (not even the strangest) into your arms, or make them pounce on you in public. Or, for that matter, private. Don't try to compensate for excess sweatiness with pungent aftershave. Women generally prefer it when you don't reek like a perfumed mountain goat. If you insist on smelling of anything at all, use cologne so sparingly that it simulates a pleasant scent in the far distance. Otherwise, simply walking along the pavement, you will leave in your wake a trail of hunched and gagging passers-by, and any companions will have to communicate with you by semaphore.
  If you have rebel eyebrows, gel the bastards. Show them who's boss. Finally, and crucially, trim all rampant nose hairs. Don't scar your septum with one of those useless, buzzing Acme Nostril-Matic devices. Just get a pair of round-ended scissors from Boots and do it by hand. Overlook this detail, and you may feel that you are spending the evening in a gallery full of sinister portraits whose gaze follows your every move. That's because all eyes will indeed be fixed in horrified fascination on the single bristle extravagantly protruding from your conk in an unabashed display of follicular self-advertisement. It'll be the one and only thing everyone remembers about you.

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