My wardrobe has changed considerably over the last few months. I was warned by a number of people about the severity of the Prague winter but I don’t think I took adequate notice. In the same way that people do not have the physical capacity to fully remember or properly imagine painful sensations, I do not think I could have imagined in advance just how cold it feels at the moment.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s quite a nice cold – accompanied by bright blue skies and a dry crispness in the air, which is very refreshing. It is still cold though. As I walked into work last week, having forgotten my hat, I got a sort of ice-cream headache, only I hadn’t even had any ice-cream.
I am taking an active interest in winter clothing like never before. I have made a few strategic purchases, which is not an easy thing to do in Prague. The shopping here can seem pretty dire as there’s not much of a mid-market. I don’t shop H&M because I am a bit of a snob and also because I think it’s a false economy as their clothes generally only lasts about four washes. I am a Russian oligarch so I cannot shop in Gucci, Prada or anywhere else on Pariszka. In a way which is quite reflective of the socioeconomic construction of the Prague population, there is not a lot in between the extremes.
I have re-vamped some items that have not seen daylight since I was a student and couldn’d afford central heating. I have frequented shops I would never really have looked at previously: Ecco is one of them. This is a brand that exists in the UK but everything looks a bit remedial to be honest and it’s only a step (ha ha) away from Clarks. But I have managed to purchase what I think are the only pair of nice boots from Ecco, which also have the advantage of being Gore-tex, fully-lined and with an amazing grip which deals with the snow and ice. They are not so nice however, that I mind if they are trashed by the weird but very effective rubber/grit/salt combination akin to demerara sugar that the Czech authorities put on the icy streets.
I have also spent more than usual on a pair of gloves. They are oh-so-beautiful – black leather with a fleece lining and a (stylish, not chavvy) fake-fur trim. About three minutes into December it became clear that my normal wool gloves would not cut the mustard in this sub-zero climate. On the basis that I had not bought anything except the boots since arriving due to the H&M/Gucci divide, spending so much on the gloves did not seem so terrible and I have had toasty hands since.
As mentioned, I have also delved into the wardrobe of winters-past and rescued a few items including:
- a gilet – if for any reason my body is cold but my arms remain at a reasonable temperature
- Ugg boots – for inside only this year. I have finally realised that Ugg boots are not suitable for traipsing about outside as they make everyone look flat-footed and are similar to wearing two wet dogs on your feet
- and my fur
Yes, gasp. Fur.
Controversial perhaps? Is my blog going to be cyber-egged?
My (beautiful) fur is vintage and made of red squirrels. It was made and sold in the UK. To my surprise, a number of people (in England, not here. No one seems to give two hoots about squirrels in Prague…) have expressed their dismay and horror that I would wear such a thing. Invariably, these protesters were dressed head-to-toe in Primark and so I concluded that they prioritise the welfare of red squirrels over that of exploited factory children, and that they were jealous.
For the record: (i) red-squirrels are endangered in the UK only – they remain widespread in the rest of Europe. And they are not dwindling in the UK due to over-hunting, but because of the pesky grey-squirrel carrying some sort of small pox virus (ii) My wrap was made in 1912 (about thirty years before the squirrels became numerically challenged) and so is almost 100 years old. It was made and marketed in England by people skilled in their craft and likely paid a fair wage for it, and so as a result (aside from coming to Prague, by train and road, not air) it has almost no carbon footprint and did not encourage the exploitation of anyone. (iii) It is made from natural fibres and so when one day it is no longer wearable, it will break down in the earth, become an oak tree from which new red squirrels can eat and prosper, thus completing the circle of life. We’ve all seen the Lion King – we know this is how it works. The wrap is not made from synthetic fibres made from toxins and will not sit in a land-fill site for 500 years like so much mass-produced synthetic clothing will do.
I suspect this post may be controversial to some. I attach a link to the UK charity “Save our Squirrels”. I have recently made a small donation, as penance.
I also thought of completing their form requesting information on recent squirrel sightings, but I am not sure this is what they had in mind…