September 13th, 2006


Street? We're not worthy!

"Nathan Barley is a Channel 4 sitcom about a fictional twentysomething loathsome London media type," the Wikipedia informs us, "written by Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris, and supposed by some to have been inspired by the postmodern performance artist Momus".

Blimey! Fame at last as... as... well, the world's biggest foppish cunt.

"Nathan Barley is a webmaster, guerrilla filmmaker, screenwriter, DJ and in his own words, a 'self-facilitating media node'. He is convinced he is the epitome of urban cool, and therefore secretly terrified he might not be, which is why he reads Sugar Ape magazine - his bible of cool."

There are at least four problems with the theory that Nathan Barley is based on me. First, I'm clearly a talented artist, not a gadfly schmoozer like that loser. Second, I'm shy and thoughtful, whereas Nathan's a loud arrogant prankster who swears on the bus. Third, I'm not twentysomething but fortysomething. (But I guess time waits for no man.) And fourth, my bible of cool would obviously have to be a Japanese magazine. Something like FRUiTS or Street.

Well, knock me down with a feather! There I am in the October 2006 edition of Street, hot off the presses in Japan. Look! It's me, mum, with a whole page to myself!

I wish I didn't look so dull. It's not really the kind of picture that's going to inspire anyone the way this young lad inspired me back in February. I'm having a moderate-to-bad hair day, wearing a grey Graniph shirt, a pair of cream Humana slacks rolled to just under the knee, and "professional clogs". I wish they'd shot me today instead of back in July.

But that's the thing about Street; you don't wake up and remember you're going to be photographed for it that day. It just happens by chance, unexpectedly. Your path crosses the Street photographer (in this case New Yorker Fumi Nagasaka), she thinks you're interesting, the editor likes the shot, you're in. No advertising, no product placement, no stylist.

Of course, you never quite know it happens like that until it happens to you. I remember being disappointed, at a time when I was buying Cutie magazine regularly for the street fashion, to learn from a girlfriend who'd been shot by the Cutie photographer in Harajuku that they'd given her a lacy white thing to wear under her jean jacket, just to wake her look up a bit. That was styling, that was top down; it was pimping reality.

Street may be sifted, but it's unstyled. And so, if you're chosen, you get to represent what's happening on the street of whatever city they're covering that issue (I'm in the Berlin section; October also sees London covered). You become both a "quirky individual" and an ambassador, a standard-bearer. You get to stand for the grass roots, yet the job is self-appointed. It's not quite the same thing as being a "self-facilitating media node".

There's a scene in Episode 4 of Nathan Barley where our hapless hero has got himself the world's stupidest haircut, a Geek Pie (involving asymmetry and lots of tin lids from paint pots). It's all a terrible mistake, a big misunderstanding, and trendy Hosegate is withering in its disdain. But just beyond the pale redemption is waiting in the form of a Japanese film crew. They like the Geek Pie cut, and make pariah Nathan the unlikely ambassador of cutting-edge London style.

"Watch the fuck out, Japan!" Nathan sneers into the Japanese camera with Lydon-like arrogance. We get a glimpse of the wild success of his exhortation in the form of a parade of Tokyo fashion victims sporting the same silly haircut and murmuring "Nathan Barley, Geek Pie, cool".

Well, it just wouldn't happen like that. If Nathan really were "secretly terrified he might not be the epitome of urban cool" he'd just be jolly grateful to have the tribute of a page in his favourite Japanese urban style magazine. He might well fall to his knees and, in the classic gesture from another cult comedy series I'm way too young to remember, cry out "WE'RE NOT WORTHY!"