Bear with me, because this is difficult. Baring the soul is always difficult. But one reaches the point where the suppression itself causes more damage than the revelation. So here goes: we need to talk about Donald.
You saw Sunday’s debate when he menaced and threatened and swaggered and lied. I saw it too, but not perhaps as you saw it, for I spent much of the time looking at his suit and feeling a tad embarrassed. It was quite a nice blue suit. Until recently, I had one quite similar. Not just alike in terms of cut or colour; mine actually had his name on it. Not Tom Ford, or Paul Smith, or Hugo Boss (as if I could afford that). This was a Donald J Trump brand suit.
It was pinstriped with fairly big lapels and turn-ups on the trousers. I liked it because it reminded me to some extent of the dramatic cloth-rich baggy suits my father and his Windrush generation used to wear. And so, on a visit to New York a few years ago, I bought it from Macy’s department store. It wasn’t cheap, but it didn’t break the bank.
It was always problematic. I didn’t know much about Trump. I didn’t know he made suits, for a start, or that – much more likely – he had textile workers in Bangladesh, China, maybe Mexico to make them for him. I knew he was a bit naff and that his association with my suit was no kind of fashion statement, but I really did like it so I kept the sole mention of his name – the rectangular label sewn within the jacket, with “Donald J Trump” in gold letters – close to my chest, as it were.
People thought the suit was great. If anyone asked for details, I’d just say “I got it in New York” and the vagueness of that declaration would always deter further inquiry. But that’s the problem with deception. Even for the most skilled practitioner, the inner doubts never really go away. And so it was with me and my suit from the Trump Collection. As a garment it seemed fine, but how to wear it without thinking of his preposterous bird’s-nest hair, his ridiculous self-regard, his place in American culture while hosting The Apprentice as joke fodder for every late-night comedian?
The doubts ate steadily away at me just as moths might happily have eaten away at the suit. Finally the troubling ratio: outward elegance set against the inner degradation, tilted irretrievably. A year ago, I took the Donald suit to the charity shop. Now, when the world knows all it needs to know about his depravity and lunacy, that seems to me a lucky escape.
I understand that it may not seem that way to everyone, for in a modern world where celebrity and commerce skip hand-in-hand, we all buy products created or promoted by famous people we don’t know. Some may be admirable, some may privately be rogues. They may be liberal; they may be illiberal.
Our purchase decision may be driven by the association of the product with the celebrity or may just be a statement about the excellence of the item itself. But whatever we think of it, the link is there and from time to time that can be problematic. How many lucky enough to have anything designed by John Galliano reached for the scissors when he was convicted in 2011 for hurling racist and antisemitic abuse?
In 2012 French anti-racist groups called for a boycott of the perfume maker Jean-Paul Guerlain after he used the N-word on national television. How many poured his expensive potions down the sink? Does Gary Lineker induce you to buy more crisps or Davina McCall to change your hair dye? If George Clooney turned out to be a cad, would you stop drinking his coffee? Our status as consumers interconnecting with the famous as we shop can present dilemmas.
I dodged the bullet with Trump’s suit, but feel bad even now, because when I handed it to the charity shop, where I was praised for my benevolence, I didn’t declare it. I didn’t say, “This may look nice and it’s in good nick, but there is a darkness to it and anyone who buys it must be wary.” It was donated “as seen”, which might have been OK at the time, when Trump was just a bit ludicrous, but now feels akin to passing on a nasty virus. Someone, somewhere may now be wearing that suit, weighed down by its associations. If so, I apologise and hope they dispose of it more responsibly than I did.
But then there is another possibility that someone – a Trumpite – now wears that suit with pride, as a symbol of all that links them with the man who has brought politics lower than any of us thought it could ever spiral. Cowardly perhaps, but I prefer not to dwell on it.