When you’re away from home you are forced to adjust your lifestyle. You can’t access your favourite brand of toothpaste. You don’t update your blog as much as you should. You’re lucky if you can lay hands on a newspaper from your homeland, let alone your publication of choice.
It is this state of affairs that led me to flick through a copy of the Sunday Times Style magazine and remember why reading it makes me feel depressed, but also assures me that I still have a soul.
A good newspaper supplement should be a style maven for its readers, distilling and assessing the week’s events, and giving a heads up on current happenings and future trends. But Style is the magazine that would, a couple of years ago, have given you a feature on ‘What’s on Michael Portillo’s iPod’ if the Weekend on Sunday Magazine in Nathan Barley hadn’t gotten there first. This week in its ‘Going Down’ list is ‘Posh Farm Envy’, ‘£1000 Valentino Sunglasses’ (not because of the cost, but because ‘we sat on them the first day we got them’) and ‘Facebook Time Wasting’ (I guess their journalists didn’t get the memo that facebook jumped the shark six months ago before they all signed up).
Style seems to think its readers are, or aspire to be Sloaney socialites, members of celebrity dynasties, or City bankers. These are not groups of society who pioneer new cultural ideas or trends, in fact they tend to be achingly unhip, echoing and emulating the timeless style and mannerisms of the super-rich who have come before them.
New trends usually germinate in groups of young people, or writers and artists, who have enough time and energy to sit around deciding what will be deemed cool for the next five minutes (as well, hopefully, as new ideas to back it up). But unless you’re a Branson, Geldoff, or Jagger, Style probably won’t be calling you.
This week’s piece on VIP partying in Ibiza by Kate Spicer is a classic example. The way Spicer describes her subjects’ lifestyles in loving detail completely undercuts her token attempts to show disapproval at their gross wealth and self indulgence. Passing references to the measly spending power of “ground-level ravers, electricians from Leicester and the like” only sharpen the acrid taste reading the article leaves in one’s mouth.
Since (even the most middle class) of Style’s readers couldn’t hope to afford to spend £67,000 on a private party in Ibiza, and it has no cultural relevance to broader society, I’d imagine the feature was intended to be ‘aspirational’. Maybe the function of such unrealisable aspirations is to inspire readers to purchase the cosmetics advertised on the next page. Who knows.
At least the Financial Times’ rival rag How To Spend It is upfront about what it is. Perhaps Style should relaunch as The Life You Might Want But Can Never Have…Ha Ha! Then I wouldn’t be tempted to look at it, even in desperation.