After a year of London Fields and Broadway Market, I will be moving out of Hackney at the end of the week.
I have loved so many things about living here. Columbia Road on a Sunday makes my soul smile, Pub on the Park does the best chunky chips in London, Bridge Café in Shoreditch feels like a Parisian bar and sells sticky sweet baclavas, and Regent's Canal is the perfect place for quiet wandering in the big city.
But there are some things I won't miss.
There is only one place where checked shirts, geek glasses and sailor tattoos on men aren't just acceptable, but practically mandatory. East London is that place, and on Saturday I will be more than happy to see the skinny derriere of the East London Look and wave it a cheerful goodbye.
Yesterday I nearly had a breakdown in Tesco. If I saw another man in a string vest and pink plastic ray bans I was going to cry. In the fruit and veg aisle I counted eleven adolescent-looking adults wearing postage stamp shorts, grey school socks and brogues. By the time I reached the cereal aisle I had counted three more, plus twelve shaved heads and floppy fringes, nine dicky bow ties, five crucifix earrings, a pork pie hat, two berets, four tea cosies on heads and seven v-neck vests (revealing chains and chest hair). A middle-aged man wore dungarees, a checked shirt buttoned up to the throat, an oversized bow tie, a cap, and sock-less loafers. "That's someone's DAD," I said to myself as he pulled a family pack of biscuits from the shelf.
Where did masculinity go? Certainly not Tesco, Hackney. I could feel myself choking up in panic as my local supermarket became a mirror and I found myself faced with the harsh reality of my own reflection: "Is this really what my life looks like?" What is the cider-drinking girl from Dorset doing here? How did I get to the stage where dressing in a skirt and jacket and lacking either a shaved head, dip dye or pair of biker boots makes me stand out like someone wearing a cattle bell around their neck?
Let me not be misunderstood: I am not condemning self-expression. In a fashion election I would vote for individuality no questions asked. But the East London Look isn't about individuality. It is a strictly dictated uniform for the 'Cool Club'.
There's just one problem. I don't want to join your club.