Stone slacks, leather cardigan, pale denim – who wouldn’t want to dress like Alan Partridge? This may be dad brand clothing, but it announces you as the most confident man in the room. Driving gloves? That’s nothing. Try removing your coat and jacket then leaving the driving gloves until last. That takes guts, or failing that a complete lack of personal awareness. In other words it takes a Partridge.
Steve Coogan co-created and has played sports-journalist-turned-chat-show-host-turned-DJ Alan Partridge on and off for 22 years. Nothing his character wears is random. For costume designer Julian Day (Berberian Sound Studio, Rush), working alongside perfectionist Coogan on Alpha Papa must have been a disciplined and probably quite demanding affair. But let their hard graft guide you to new heights of sartorial enlightenment. If you can’t pull off the powder blue short sleeved safari suit and suede moccasins Coogan wore (in character) to the premiere, don’t worry. Use the film itself as your blueprint to usher in a new era of Corby sophistication.
During the early scenes of Alpha Papa, Alan wears his traditional smart casual work attire. A blue/grey vertical striped v-neck sweater with wine cotton roll-neck underneath is a nod to the chat show pleasures of Val Doonican. These days it’s only radio for Alan but that doesn’t mean you will ever see him in a t-shirt, except for playing squash (which he doesn’t play). When Alan makes his move against Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney), encouraging new bosses at the station to ‘just sack Pat’, the mood is all business. In dark blue wool coat with brown leather inserts, grey trousers and leather driving gloves, Alan whispers, not shouts, off-the-peg formal. The coat is similar to something you might buy your son for his first day at secondary school. Think Marks & Spencer, though not quite as needlessly expensive. Maybe the Littlewoods catalogue, or C&A if they were still open in the UK. Alan’s slacks are Classic Farah brand to the uninitiated, but look closer at the seat; it’s not low enough or tight enough. No, Alan has been to British Home Stores; functional, durable easy wash poly-cotton (40 degrees, low tumble dry).
With Alan there always has to be something special in his ensemble. Something that takes the serviceable yet bland and turns it into what philistines might deem bad taste. Brown argyle socks, short sleeves on a dress shirt, the aforementioned leather inserts – to quote the great man himself, it’s “evolution not revolution”. Alan can’t resist getting down with the kids for his outfit at the station’s rebranding party. A black leather cardigan with embossed Prince of Wales check, popper buttons, elasticised hem and cuffs; combined with stone flat-front chinos, black and yellow striped belt; grey striped shirt and red suede basketball shoes. We reiterate that’s a black leather cardigan. This must be a gem pulled from the back of Alan’s wardrobe, what the young folk might term ‘vintage’. His shoes, with their thick white soles are almost like Vans. Alan has fallen into the trap of trying to look young by wearing what he did when he was young.
Leather cardigan: If you can’t stretch to leather then wool with suede shoulder patches will suffice. A Jacquard print adds interest.
Dressing like a Partridge is as much poise and attitude. As Alan struts back to the party (and unwittingly into a siege), he teasingly rolls up his sleeves. But it’s overbearing so he rolls them back down. Know your audience and adjust clothing accordingly. Castrol GTX bomber jacket at a funeral? Perfectly acceptable. Why? Because it’s black. A garish cravat and tweed jacket? Yes, because you’re reading a book out loud. Know your audience and know your environment. As the siege takes hold, Alan’s party wear becomes his action attire. Appropriately leather, especially in cardigan form, quietly implies a dangerous man, but one who still pays his taxes.
After having his underpants torn off by an open window, Alan is led away from the siege by police. He returns a bystander, joining the masses gathered outside Shape (‘The Way You Want It to Be’), home of what used to be North Norfolk Digital (‘Sustaining and maintaining our core listenership in an increasingly fragmented marketplace’). Wearing a Varsity jacket in milky coffee suede, pale denim jeans and bright white basketball shoes, Alan finds himself drawn back into the limelight. We say drawn but he practically runs back with both arms aloft. Leisure, smart casual, sports casual…whatever you want to call it, this is Alan’s definitive vision. A jacket he has probably been saving for just such an occasion (hostage crisis or, opening a new branch of Greggs, whatever), jeans stiffened by over-zealous pressing, and trainers, properly laced of course, emblazoned with a blue flash of athleticism. Pale denim is essential for Partridge; indigo is for cowboys. Incidentally, Western influenced Pat Farrell wears indigo jeans with turn-ups, which to Alan means he cannot afford to get them altered.
Chinos: Stone or beige, regular fit, and only rolled up on a beach.
Alan’s final outfit is his safest. It’s that moment at the end of a film when the postscript announces everything is back to normal. He lounges in a dark blue striped and criss-cross cardigan by Gabicci with blue twill shirt. This is not the young, cool, skinny Gabicci that hipsters wear either, but the chunky, loose over-50’s version you’ll only find in somewhere still called an ‘outfitters’. Keep this idea close if you ever want to dress like a Partridge. It’s details. See that plain, stand-collar polo shirt with the word ‘fitted’ on the label? Put it back. You want white cotton pique with wide horizontal stripes and enough room to hide your tyre. And most important of all: never forget to tuck in. You’re not at a rave.
NB: Apologies to readers outside of the UK for all these brands and shops you have never heard of. Blame Nigel Havers.
Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa is currently on general release in the UK and is due in the U.S. February 2014.
© 2013 – 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.