IF there’s a more unedifying sight on the planet than a man of a certain age out and about in the sunshine in his bare belly then Squinter has yet to see it. Young males routinely take their shirts off when the sun comes out, not sure why – probably something hormonal. Certainly, Squinter never missed an opportunity to divest himself of his panda-collar shirt in the 70s and 80s.
But there’s a cut-off line (age 30, say) when a man in his bare belly doesn’t look any more as if he’s enjoying the caress of the sun on his skin – he looks as if he’s up to something; he looks dodgy and if you get the chance you’ll cross the street just to avoid getting any closer to him than you absolutely have to. It’s not necessarily the way he rubs his beer belly with his hands; it’s not even the tattoos that were a bad idea when he was a boy and that are now are just laughably absurd. It’s just the overwhelming sense of… belliness. To use a contemporary adjective – the very thought of it is rahootin’.
Thankfully, things have moved on. Take taxi drivers, for instance. Back in the day they’d have stripped off at the first glint of a sunbeam on their wing mirror. Black taxi drivers mostly, but private taxi drivers did it too. There they’d sit, their skinny white legs poking out of nylon football shorts down to their sandals and socks which moved up and down as they worked the pedals. The belly would fit snugly in under the steering wheel, the man boobs resting softly and sweatily on top.
It was some time around the late-80s or early-90s that the taxi bosses got real and decided that a dress code – albeit nominal – was required. None of the tailored-trousers-and-collared-shirt nonsense required of your average office worker, more a kind of for-Christ’s-sake-lads-keep-your-vests-on
order from high. The city-centre private taxi firms have come on in leaps and bounds since then – most of them wear collars and ties. But at a local level the rule is pretty much the same as it was when the no-bare-belly edict went out 20-odd years ago – wear what you like as long as you keep your shirt on. So you’re still liable on occasion to see the skinny white legs and the sandals and socks – although to be fair they’re nowhere near as common.
Now if only they’d all do something about Cool FM…