men

  • Why the polo is the hardest working item in your wardrobe

    The classic cotton-piqué polo is one of our most adaptable staples, appropriate for dress-down-Fridays and smart/casual invitations as well as the golf course. Still, there’s only so far a sports shirt made from a breathable fabric can rise up the ranks. But a new generation of polos is doing the rounds; smart enough to wear to a summer wedding and way too sophisticated to consider playing golf in. Vertical stripes are very much on-trend and give the polo a classy retro vibe that wouldn’t be out

  • How to find the right pair of summer sandals for all types of feet

    Despite working in fashion all my life, I never felt the need to own a pair of sandals. I just bought cheap flip-flops before a holiday – until I discovered the Birkenstock Arizona. With its pretzel-buckled straps and cork-cushioned footbed, the ultra-comfortable Arizona has been a beach-to-bar classic since the 1970s, but it has also proved to be the perfect WFH shoe. It was allegedly the most searched shoe online last summer. I bought a pair myself, and they radically changed my viewpoint on s

  • Why the Breton top is the secret to an easy classic wardrobe

    Introduced as a naval uniform in 1858, with its distinctive stripes (allegedly representing Napoleon’s 21 victories) designed to identify Frenchmen overboard, the Breton shirt is having another fashion moment. La marinière (as it was known) was first adopted as a fashion staple by the 1920s Riviera set – Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso and Coco Chanel were fans. Later, as worn by James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, it came to represent a new spirit of liberation. This summer, the shops are awash wi

  • The best anti-aging face creams for men under £10

    There was a time, not so long ago, when the best the male grooming market could offer was shaving foam, deodorant and soap on a rope. Nowadays, driven by unforeseen demand, we men are offered products we never knew we needed; anyone for a beard-softening shampoo? But with greater choice comes greater confusion. The anti-ageing sector is the golden goose for beauty brands. We all eventually have to deal with wrinkles, hyperpigmentation (uneven skin-tone) or sagging caused by loss of skin elastici

  • Why the Harrington jacket is the timeless men's staple

    You are looking at a menswear classic. The Harrington is the jacket that will go with everything. The original, Baracuta’s G9, was launched as a golfing jacket in Manchester in 1939 but popularised by Ryan O’Neal’s character, Rodney Harrington, in TV soap Peyton Place. Worn in the 1960s by Paul Newman, Elvis Presley, JFK and Steve McQueen before being adopted by British sub-cultures (mods, skinheads, punks), the G9 is still going strong. I bought my first during the Britpop years. Featuring a si

  • Why the Cuban shirt is the hero piece of the summer – no matter your age

    The Cuban-collared or cabana shirt, or Guayabera (it goes by many names) is a mid-century menswear icon. With a soft double-notched one-piece collar lying flat to the body like a pyjama top, it found popularity in the 1960s following the Cuban exodus and was worn by everyone from Hemingway to Elvis. Since that heyday it has stuck around as a more sophisticated choice than its louder Hawaiian sibling. I split cabana shirts into three categories: those with an all-over print (great for holidays an

  • Why you're never too old to wear trainers, and the 12 best options for men

    Unlike my father, who wore sensible shoes as a boy (I know because he never tired of telling me), I spent my formative years shod in adidas, Puma and Nike. My generation has a soft spot for trainers and I plan to keep wearing mine long into my 70s. Millennials, however, consider some styles to be “dad trainers”. To avoid looking like a man in a midlife crisis, heritage styles are the best way forward. Take the Vans Old Skool (the first to use the signature Vans side-stripe), which first debuted in 1977, or the Nike Air Pegasus, first introduced in 1983. Boston-based Saucony, over a century old, has released an eco-friendly spin on its iconic Jazz Court model which uses cotton and jute, but no plastic. The 373 by New Balance is another worthy retro option, especially in burgundy and white. At the other end of the spectrum is relatively new brand, Athletics Footwear. Established in London, designed in Portland, Oregon, developed in Amsterdam and Hong Kong, and with creative direction from Berlin and Paris, its ONE.2 is positioned at the intersection of nostalgia and innovation. These and the Lacoste Game Advance would be my first choice for a trainer to actually go running in. For versatility, the retro plimsoll or pump takes some beating. You can even wear it with a suit. Zara has a style with a double-stripe that looks like it has teleported from the mid-70s, while M&S Collection has a canvas lace-up in a wide range of colours that, at £25 a pop, you can afford to have some fun with. Plimsoll lines

  • Like Keir Starmer, I know nothing gets between a midlife bloke and playing football

    It’s every middle-aged out of shape amateur footballer’s nightmare. Someone brings a camera to the game and captures you in all your huffing puffing tight-shirted glory, shattering a thousand delusional inner commentaries. In those photos you realise you are not the younger version of yourself that compels you to keep playing – nor do you look anything like the stylish Italian greats like Maldini or Pirlo, or the super lean heroes of your Seventies childhood. Photos emerged on the weekend of Keir Starmer looking less than match fit, doubled over and puffing, before finishing the game with a pint. Having been his teammate on a number of occasions previously on Sunday mornings in north London, I knew his game as organised, his captaincy skilful – it was fair to predict he might be heading for a higher role in politics. Contrary to those photographs Keir is very good to play with: he’s solid, not flashy and works hard, which is probably why he looked so knackered. He wasn’t much of a goalscorer, it has to be said, and his “shoot to miss” policy might need some sort of parliamentary investigation. It doesn’t surprise me he’s not stopped despite his new job: for many of us amateur football is the last true link between the dreams we had as kids and the lives we lead today. Especially in a season when we can’t even watch our professional teams live. I’ve kept going too – in spite of having similarly unflattering photos of me mid-match broadcast when I wrote Above Head Height, my book about five-a-side football. An Amazon number one bestseller, newspapers, magazines and Match of The Day: The Premier League Show sent photographers and cameramen to shoot me and my friends. I have never looked so static in all my life. I used to be a box-to-box midfielder; now the only box I’m likely to be getting into is one covered in wreaths. For men in midlife, giving up a kickabout just isn’t an option. I still play two games a week despite health issues which suggest I really shouldn’t. I can’t see, I can’t hear, I have asthma, my insteps have gone but I have no intention to stop, I still have a decent game two out of three weeks. The people I play with range in age from 15 to 73, it’s the same all over the country. Self-organised small-sided games are going on everyday in every city and town in the UK and companies like Power League offer a platform for avid five-a-side nuts, but beyond that there are any number of leisure centres and schools renting their pitches to an array of ageing men and now women in new and vintage kits of their heroes. Admittedly the demand to play in my regular Friday night game once lockdown allowed it again at Easter was naturally greater than on a rainy February night and we’ve been sailing at full capacity ever since. Amateur astroturf football is a great leveller. For those 60 or 90 minutes it doesn’t matter what you do for a living, where you’re from, who you support. There are bonds formed that transcend normal social boundaries. Last Friday I found myself stood outside our local pub having the post-match debrief where people who shoot from the halfway line are forced to explain their actions, and temporary goalkeepers who give the ball away to the opposition striker to score are mocked mercilessly. This time I was with four Manchester United fans, which as a Leeds United fan is not a date I would otherwise arrange, but we played together so we drank together.

  • The 10 best men's collarless shirts

    The grandad-collared shirt is gaining momentum, powered by the popularity of Peaky Blinders and the fact that, with fewer of us working at the office, the collar and tie have never felt more redundant. The look is divisive, though. Does eliminating the defining feature of a shirt (its collar) render it useless, like removing the handle from a teapot? I don’t think so. You just need to know how to wear them – for example, to take the stuffiness out of a formal suit. My advice, if you are new to collarless shirts, is to opt for a vertical stripe. It will take the emphasis away from the neckline and will cut the risk of looking like a dental hygienist. Luca Faloni’s Versilia in khaki stripes, cut from pure Italian linen, and Octobre Editions’ cotton/linen Benny in red, with stripes and mother-of pearl buttons, are two of my favourites. For a more formal look you can try a contrast collar stand (the binding-band around the neckline). APC’s Mark is a slick example of this, as is the linen striped shirt from designer JW Anderson’s collaboration with Uniqlo. At the casual end of the spectrum NN07, a Copenhagen-based firm which specialises in wardrobe staples, has a genius checked flannel shirt/grandad shirt hybrid. Plain grandads require a little more confidence to pull off. H&M, Zara and M&S can all be relied upon for quality – M&S has a very versatile one in a lightweight corduroy. When taking the plunge, my key advice is to always wear the top two buttons undone, with or without a white T-shirt underneath. A world without collar

  • How girdles for guys can take off the lockdown pounds

    Men in Spanx? No thanx. That has always been my reaction to flab-restricting girdles, body-sculpting T-shirts and high-waisted shapewear pants that redistribute your love handles’ fatty bits to other, less obtrusive areas. But now, after two lockdowns of overdoing it on the Pinot Grigio and the Deliveroo dinners and being a mainly horizontal, gym-phobic type looking for a quick fix, maybe it was time for a rethink. With WFH coming to an end and office and social lives starting up again, I wanted to dress up and abandon my baggy H&M sweatpants in favour of a nicely tailored Brunello Cucinelli suit. No time for cardio or a crash paleo diet: I needed an instant, blubber relocation-based solution. My thinspiration came from an unlikely source – Ned Rocknroll, Kate Winslet’s husband. Described by the actress as “one of those impossible people you look at and think, how can you really eat six meals a day and look like that?” it turns out that young Ned keeps himself Jagger skinny by eating copious amounts of chia seeds and lying around in male Spanx. So I ordered some new Spanx Mens Ultra Sculpt wear for myself. They were delivered by a courier clearly tickled by the prominent logo on the bag. ‘How’s it hanging?’ enquired the blurb on the box, with the accompanying leaflet promising ‘Top control and ultimate crotch comfort’. Ew.

  • Prime Minister, be warned: you besmirch the good name of John Lewis at your peril

    Personally, I think Boris Johnson should look on the bright side. Things could easily be worse. Take the latest political news from Scotland. According to the Daily Record, a campaigner for the new nationalist party Alba is a convicted murderer who, in 1992, stabbed his best man in the eye and battered him with a claw hammer. I’d like to see Alex Salmond try and wave that story away. “What I’m finding on the doorstep is that people want to talk about our plans for this great country, not the latest media tittle-tattle about who’s murdered whom…” In my view, that story rather puts the Prime Minister’s troubles into perspective. All the same, he does seem to be having a rough time over the revamp of his Downing Street flat – or, as the saga has been christened by tabloid sub-editors, “Cash for curtains”. The focus of attention has been on the mystery over the revamp’s funding. But even if it turns out that the funding was above board, there’s another aspect to this story that I fear could do the Prime Minister greater damage. And that’s the motivation behind the revamp. It’s been widely reported that Mr Johnson and Carrie Symonds simply couldn’t bear the way the Downing Street flat used to look – because it was, apparently, “a John Lewis furniture nightmare”. What an extraordinary suggestion. John Lewis furniture? A nightmare? I’m sorry, Prime Minister, but this cannot be allowed to stand. John Lewis is a proud British institution, beloved by millions. And woe betide the politician, or politician’s fiancée, who dares to besmirch its good name. When you look down your nose at John Lewis, you look down your nose at the British people. We like our John Lewis furniture. We paid good money for it – out of our own pockets, no less. So it would be awful to think that, behind our backs, the political elite are wincing and sniggering and calling it common. As it happens, my wife and I are in the middle of a revamp ourselves. We’re doing up our living room. And our first port of call, quite naturally, was John Lewis. At the weekend, we went to the Bluewater branch and picked out a Barbican corner-end sofa in Saga Latte polyester, and an Enville Art Deco-style armchair. At the time, we were delighted with our purchases. Yet now we find ourselves worried sick that, should we ever invite the Prime Minister and his fiancée to dine at our Gravesend home, they’ll be so aghast at our desperately déclassé furniture that they’ll hastily mumble their excuses, leap back into the limo, and any hope of an OBE will be out of the window. Still, perhaps sniffiness about John Lewis is more pervasive than we realised. On Radio 4 yesterday, the wife of Michael Gove attempted to defend the PM and his fiancée by arguing that they “can’t be expected to live in a skip” and need “decent furnishings”. Then again, the Goves do have very refined tastes. During the expenses scandal of 2009, Mr Gove agreed to repay £7,000 he’d spent on furniture. A third of it had been spent at an interior design firm founded by Viscountess Astor, David Cameron’s mother-in-law. Next to that, I suppose poor little John Lewis doesn’t quite cut it. Of course, I’m not suggesting that the PM and Ms Symonds are snobs. After all, snobs look down on anyone who buys furniture full stop – because the real upper crust inherit all theirs. The late Alan Clark – Tory minister, best-selling diarist and owner of a castle in Kent – famously pitied Michael (now Lord) Heseltine as a mere “arriviste” who “bought all his own furniture”. Exquisite as their homes may be, however, I can’t say I envy the upper class. What a pain it must be, not being able to buy a new sofa for fear of losing face. Imagine the awkward conversations you’d end up having. “I say, Aunt Araminta, I do admire that chaise longue of yours. In fact, I could rather do with one myself. Would you mind awfully popping your clogs some time soon, so that I can have it?” And while we’re on the subject, goodness knows where the upper class get their TVs. Presumably they can’t pass off a 65-inch LG OLED flatscreen as an heirloom their great-great-grandfather brought back from the Raj. But back to the matter in hand. Mr Johnson and his fiancée may not share Middle England’s taste in home decor. At the very least, though, they should remember what a painful 12 months John Lewis has had. Before the pandemic it was a hugely profitable business, but last year it made a loss of £517m. It’s gone from having 51 stores to 34. Surely the PM doesn’t want to be seen to kick a great British brand when it’s down? A man of his sharp political instincts will be eager to atone for this unfortunate PR own goal as soon as possible. By the weekend, I expect to see Ms Symonds dispatched to Bluewater John Lewis, where she will be photographed swooning over footstools and simpering at a bin. You can read Michael Deacon’s column every Wednesday. Click here to read last week's column

  • 12 best men's sunglasses to buy this spring

    Sunglasses should be something you can have fun with. Admittedly, some styles fit some faces better than others (arched eyebrows suit rounded lenses, straight brows suit square frames) but rules are there to be broken. I say hit the opticians and try as many as you like. Wire frames allow you to experiment with oversized lenses without heading down the Rocketman route. The classic aviator with traditional Top Gun green lenses looks best paired with a black or gunmetal frame. Next has a great pair with filter-3 UV lenses at only £14. Gold wire frames have a 1970s retro vibe so you can be more playful with your choice of lens. Finlay’s Parker aviator with a Californian sunset-orange graduated tint sets a good example. Acetate frames are a different way to introduce some colour — not everyone is happy to see things through rose-tinted glasses, after all. French brand Izipizi’s Glazed Ice collection features some real gems; the frosted blue in the #E shaped frame is a personal favourite. Ted Baker’s Daxtar, with contrast tortoiseshell arms, and Ace & Tate’s Tom, with honey-toned Brick Lane frames, are also worth checking out. The current trend is to mix materials. Marks & Spencer Collection’s new aviator combines a tortoiseshell acetate rim with metal brow-bar and arms, and Sun Smart UPF50+ lenses for those sensitive to bright light. Taylor Morris’ Ledbury in Tawny is another great shout; a lightweight square frame that takes its cues from the classic wayfarer. If sustainability is of concern, head to Wires. All of their shades are made with stainless steel wire and 3D printing for their lens rims, leading to a fraction of the waste. Shades descriptions

  • Are you a modern day hero? How you match up to the new 'Hero Code'

    Growing up in the early Sixties on a military base in France, a young William McRaven devoured superhero comics. His childhood days were filled with the exploits of Batman, Spiderman, The Hulk and – his absolute favourite – Superman. When the family returned to New York a few years later, his father, an officer in the US Air Force, caught him scouring the rooftops for signs of the superhero. He pointed to a passing police officer instead and said: “Son, that’s the man who protects New York City.” Over the course of McRaven’s own stellar military career, which has seen him rise to the rank of four-star admiral and commander of all US special operations, experience has further formed his idea of what it means to be a hero; and he has condensed his learnings into a new book, The Hero Code.

  • The best water-resistant spring jackets to buy this season

    Men’s shopping habits are largely driven by shifts in the weather, which makes the unpredictable British spring a bit of a dilemma. The ideal spring jacket should be lightweight, breathable but solidly dependable if caught in a sudden shower. It also needs to look the part, of course. I’ve always been open about my views on men over 40 wearing camouflage but, going against the grain for once, my jacket of the season is J.Crew’s Brunswick rain jacket in its signature military print. Constructed in a three-layer waterproof nylon fabric, and featuring zippered underarm vents, a cinched hood and flap pockets (to keep your phone dry), it rises to every challenge. Bomber jackets and Harringtons are a shrewd option. They don’t really look like a rain jacket at all (which is why they work in even semi-formal scenarios), but will offer adequate protection in an unexpected downpour. Next has a great example in a heritage check that is made from breathable cotton with a water-resistant finish. From John Lewis & Partners, I recommend the Wallace shower-resistant Harrington with a Black Watch tartan lining. Coach jackets, defined by their flap-over shirt-style collar and usually a drawstring waist, offer the advantage that they can be folded up and stashed in your bag when not needed. Lyle & Scott, Wax and Polo Ralph Lauren have you covered. With shades of the Gallagher brothers, H&M and Zara’s water-repellent windbreaker-meets-parka hybrids make a bolder style statement, but it’s a risk worth taking. It's raining men...

  • ‘My father was the ‘Black Messiah’, murdered before I was born – I’ve spent a lifetime getting to know him’

    Before Chairman Fred Hampton Jr tells me why he doesn’t romanticise being born into political activism, he momentarily stops and says to tell him if he starts speaking too fast. As the son of the Illinois Black Panther Party leader Chairman Fred Hampton, his Chicago accent carries the same reverberations as his father – and as anyone who has watched Shaka King’s new film, Judas and the Black Messiah, knows, you have to pay attention to his words to catch them all. “I feel fortunate to have fallen from the tree of two freedom fighters,” he says after catching his breath, “but the climate I grew up in was a period of defeat for organisations like the Black Panther Party.” On December 29, 1969, Hampton was born with the name Alfred Johnson, but his mother, Akua Njeri, had it legally changed when he was 10. Four weeks before he arrived into the world, police stormed the rear bedroom of his parents’ apartment on West Monroe Street, and shot and killed his father as he slept next to his heavily pregnant fiancée. The murder of Chairman Fred, at 21, was facilitated by William O’Neal, a petty car thief turned FBI informant, who leaked information to police, and spiked his drink with a sedative on the evening before the dawn attack. King’s film is an attempt to explain the impact this betrayal and murder had on the Black Panther movement. Over the years. Hampton and his mother have turned down many projects, books and films that would have “co-opted” his father’s legacy and gone “against the grain”. For this project though, he says: “We pretty much had a dream team, from the scriptwriters to the cast. But there were some contradictions and narratives that came with the perspective chosen for the film about the vicinity O’Neal had to my father. He wasn’t his bodyguard... even down to the wardrobe, there was a scene where Chairman Fred had some stars on his beret and we had to get that removed.”

  • Parlez-vous pandemic? We’re all fluent in the language of lockdown now

    Coronavirus See also: Covid-19, SARS-CoV-2, CV, The Rona, Miss Rona The big one, the reason we’re all here. At first it sounded like a tabloid headline about a mystery Mexican lager-induced illness. It turned out to be much, much worse. Quaintly, for a while we added the word “novel”, but that soon wore off. Covidiot A wonderfully flexible term for anybody acting like a moron in the pandemic. Loo roll-stockpilers? Covidiots. The celebrities involved in that cover of Imagine? Covidiots. Anyone driving from London to Snowdonia in lockdown to get some fresh air? Covidiots. Rita Ora? Queen of the Covidiots. Circuit-breaker Not a motorsport term for a missing bit of track, but a short, fortnight-long lockdown designed to halt transmission and save Christmas. That went well. Clap, The Given reports about falling birth rates and a sex drought, the original, colloquial definition of ‘the clap’ is probably experiencing a downturn. But that’s fine, because we developed a new one: the act of gathering on our doorsteps to show our appreciation for NHS workers by passive-aggressively judging our neighbours while denting our least favourite wok. Furlough As Michelle Obama famously almost said: “When they furlough, we say ‘Wait, what? What does that even mean...’” Yes, the US term for a temporary period of absence (typically from the army or prison) became a household name in the UK when Rishi Sunak put half the country on mostly-paid leave that hasn’t ended for many, yet. Lockdown In theory it meant the closing of offices, non-essential shops and hospitality venues, and restrictions on movement and meetings. In practice it meant resorting to crafts, gardening and baking for kicks; Googling “prison cell workouts”; completing Netflix and coming to despise every inch of our own homes and local areas. NERVTAG The New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, aka the group of eminent scientists advising Professor Chris Whitty and the Government about the threats from viral respiratory tract infections, and not, as you might have imagined a year ago, a terrible new VR “immersive experience” in which stag dos run around a disused warehouse pretending to shoot aliens. PPE The initial NHS shortage of personal protective equipment was awful, and the rest of us having to wear masks or face-shields or gloves or whole-body hazmat suits (that’s you, Naomi Campbell) to leave the house has not been ideal, but on the other hand, it’s been brilliant to see all those insufferable types who did politics, philosophy and economics at university have had their acronym usurped. R rate Introduced last summer – not as, in fact, a measure for the number of pirates in one room, but the reproduction rate, used to chart the growth of the coronavirus in a community. Who knew? Oh, scientists knew. Well, now we do, too. Sage A nice herb, a lovely colour, a wise old man… but now better known as the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, the brains behind our pandemic response. Whitty, Vallance, JVT, Harries, Farrar, Ferguson became the new rock stars. And pub (or Zoom) quiz answers for years to come. Self-isolate Like quarantine (being locked away to avoid risking passing the virus to others), but self-imposed, For The Greater Good, for 14 days. “I can’t, I’m self-isolating,” you’d say, to avoid The Clap. Also known as Starmering, given Sir Keir seemed to have to do it once a month or so. Social distancing 2m – no, 1m. No, 2m. All human contact – handshakes, hugs, high-fives, squeezing past people in the pub with your chest puffed and hands held high so as to prove you’re doing nothing untoward – was out, staying a sneeze-length apart was in. It helped to think of it like a physical manifestation of being emotionally distant. Easier for some than others. Substantial meal What did they decide, in the end? A chipolata? Wine with ice cubes in it? Chewing gum with your Guinness? Super-spreader Kerrygold loses another potential tagline. By March 2020 we knew all about super-spreaders, thanks to one (unfairly maligned) man in Brighton and the Cheltenham festival. It’s misleading because “super” tends to be used in a positive sense (you never hear about “super terrorists”, do you?), but a super-spreader was officially Not Good. WFH Working from home, which for a lot of us is now just “work”. It can also mean “Why the f***ing HELL?!”, as in, “WFH is my neighbour learning the In The Air Tonight drum solo at 11am, and WFH is my internet down, and WFH isn’t this over yet?” Zoom Our overlord. When the world went into lockdown, video calling was inevitable. Skype probably rubbed its little hands together with glee. FaceTime must have licked its lips. And then Zoom, whatever the hell Zoom was, just came in, took over the planet and became a verb.

  • ‘Fertility clinics laughed me off the phone’: meet the single dad by surrogacy

    For the whole of David Watkins’ life he has wanted only one thing: to be a dad. When, aged 40, his last relationship broke down, he realised his desire to have a biological child was so strong that he couldn’t wait to find another partner. So he did the only thing he felt he could , and found a surrogate to carry his baby. A year and a half later, Watkins became the proud single father by choice to Miles, now a chubby-cheeked eight-month-old, and one of the first of a new wave of families being created in the UK today. The story of Miles’s conception and birth will be shown in a documentary series called The Surrogates, which starts on BBC One on Wednesday. Surrogacy appears to be on the rise in the UK, with the number of applications to be named as the legal parents of a baby born by surrogate having grown from 121 in 2011 to 368 in 2018. Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow, 73, recently announced he and his wife Dr Precious Lunga, 46, had a baby boy via a surrogate on March 2 after suffering “numerous medical setbacks and miscarriages”. But Watkins is one of the first single men in the UK to have a child via a surrogate after the law changed in January 2019, allowing single people to become the legal parents of children born via surrogacy. He signed up to Surrogacy UK, a not-for-profit organisation, days after the law changed. His mum was thrilled to hear she might get a grandchild, but not all of his family were as keen. His dad was more reserved about the non-traditional start to life that Miles would get, and his sister worried about the practicalities. Watkins chose to make embryos with an anonymous egg donor instead of “straight surrogacy”, where the surrogate donates her own egg as well as her womb. In the back of his mind was the fear that the surrogate wouldn’t give up the baby after it was born, so he wanted to make sure there was as much distance between them as possible. In the end, he needn’t have worried. After a few months of searching, he met a woman called Faye at a surrogacy mixer event, who offered to be his surrogate. She was married, already had two children of her own, and wanted to help someone else experience the joy of parenthood. They agreed terms like medical care and what expenses Faye should receive. (Watkins doesn’t give an exact figure, but says the sum usually falls between £8,000 and £20,000 in Britain.) In July 2020, Faye gave birth to Miles with both her husband and Watkins by her side. From the moment he saw his son, Watkins was completely in love. “He’s a really happy boy,” he smiles. “It’s just me and him: it’s a complete cradle of love.” It hasn’t all been plain sailing, though. Although his family and friends have been supportive, he gets odd comments from strangers who can’t wrap their heads around a man wanting to have a child so badly that he would do it alone. When he’s out and about with Miles, strangers often ask if he is “babysitting” while his wife rests at home. “I say: ‘It’s Dad day every day’.” He even got unwanted comments at fertility clinics: “Some laughed me off the phone,” he says. When he told one receptionist he was enquiring about making embryos as a single father, Watkins says she sounded bewildered. “I heard her saying: ‘There’s a single guy on the phone who says he wants to make embryos, what should I say to him?’.” Watkins thinks this is all part of a wider pattern of imagining men are reluctant to have children. “We’re not allowed to have paternal desire,” he says. “Society shuns that and pigeonholes us into the role of the useless father.” He points to a T-shirt he saw while out shopping for baby clothes for Miles, which read ‘This way up, Dad’. “We think men can’t even dress a child.” After realising the stigma that would-be single dads by choice faced, Watkins decided to do something about it. He set up DadBe.uk, a website that explains the surrogacy process to single men. After launching it last year, more than 100 men have already joined the site’s Facebook group. While Watkins is gay, he has spoken to several straight would-be fathers through the site, who face even worse stigma than he does. (In writing this story, I put out a call to the men in the group; several gay men were keen to talk, but no straight men replied.) It’s no wonder they want to keep a low profile, says Watkins. “It’s obvious why [gay men] want to use a surrogate, because even if we were in a relationship we’d still need one, but for straight men there’s a huge stigma of ‘Why can’t they find a woman?’” he says. “I think they’re met with more suspicion and derision than a single gay man.” Watkins keeps in touch with Faye and her family, whom he considers friends. Faye has even offered to be a surrogate for Watkins again, if he ever wanted to give Miles a sibling. “I don’t think the story is over because I always said I wanted an army of kids”, he says. “I would love for [Miles] to have a sibling with the same story as him.” The Surrogates starts on BBC One at 10.45pm tonight Read more: ‘Surrogacy is addictive – I see my role as extreme babysitting’

  • How do you solve a 'problem' like Piers Morgan?

    Only Piers Morgan would storm off his own show. Yes, his departure was petulant. Perhaps even unprofessional. But it got everyone talking, polarised opinion and stimulated debate. This is what he does: a news provocateur. He divided America by loudly backing gun control, making himself part of the story. He was the loudest pro-lockdown voice over here. Whatever the issue is, Piers Morgan will take a position – something his viewers will do too. It’s all good clean fun: unless you’re regulated by Ofcom. There’s a duty for television news to observe “due impartiality” which sounds innocent enough until you start to unpack the concept. Does it mean that television show hosts can never take a view on what they report? And if so, how should opinion be interpreted – or policed? In the new woke world, where minority opinions are increasingly seen as a menace to be expunged, this all gets tougher. Especially for Piers Morgan who, in his 30-year career, has never been impartial about anything. In that regard he’s a walking, talking Ofcom violation. There were over 41,000 complaints to Ofcom about his verdict on Meghan Markle (the Duchess is reportedly among them): he’s not a great fan. He said he didn’t “believe a word” that she said. Was this real opinion or just a ruse to stimulate discussion? Or perhaps (as one of his colleagues suggested before he stormed off) sour grapes because she refused to become one of the celebrity friends he talks about? It’s anyone’s guess. Might he just as easily have been her biggest defender had he thought it mildly more entertaining to strike that pose? You’re never quite sure with him – but it doesn’t matter. What you can be sure about is that he’ll have a firm, probably outrageous view.

  • 10 of the best denim jeans for midlife men (that won't embarrass the grandkids)

    They say you can learn a lot about a man by his shoes, but I believe the cut of his jeans paints a more accurate picture. Ill-chosen denim can send the wrong messages as we head towards midlife. So if you find a style and fit that won’t embarrass the grandkids, stick with it. You can always experiment with different washes and fabrics. Steeped in dust bowl heritage, Levi’s, Lee and Wrangler are the denim trinity. From Wrangler, I’d recommend the Greensboro jean, which looks great in the For Real wash. From Lee it’s the Rider; the original slim-fit jean, invented in 1948 and a true denim icon. Levi’s 501 is obviously a classic, first created in 1873. I’d suggest the narrow-fit 511 as more flattering, however. It comes in a variety of denim treatments including a Harvest Gold cotton/elastane mix that makes a more comfortable alternative to a pair of chinos. Coloured jeans are nothing to be scared of nowadays. Uniqlo offers a great selection in a fade-resistant ultra-stretch fabric; olive and washed-out mulberry are my favourites. White jeans worn with a polo-neck and a pair of loafers can look very Alain Delon/Serge Gainsbourg. Polo Ralph Lauren has a stellar slim-leg pair called Sullivan. Newer brands worth investigation include Neuw, Asket and San Francisco’s Everlane, which has a brilliant raw denim jean cut from a rigid 13oz Japanese denim. UK online retailer Spoke’s latest offerings are a Japanese denim “travel jean” built for comfort, and a 12oz basic denim in a range of washes and colours. 10 of the best denim jeans for men

  • Why checked flannel shirts are men's best casualwear friend

    The checked flannel shirt’s heyday was the 1990s, when it was inextricably linked to the music scene coming out of Seattle. I was in my 20s then, but my love for this colourful, masculine, wholesome staple has never wavered. I divide my own flannel shirts into those that speak to my inner Springsteen, which I wear over a white T-shirt with a pair of vintage denims, and those that can work with a tie. That look can venture into Corbyn territory, so must only be attempted with subtle checks and neutral colours. In my opinion, French sustainable-basics brand Octobre Editions offers the finest, flatteringly cut designs without being too bicep-stretching. Their Charlie shirt in marine, with real mother of pearl buttons that would look great with a preppy knitted tie, is an absolute winner. There is debate over whether a button-down collar belongs on the smarter side of your closet. I would say yes. Originally designed to keep Ivy League polo players’ collars from flapping up into their face, button-downs do the same job today for city boys’ ties. Mango, Cos and Ben Sherman have some great examples. My one piece of advice on a casual flannel shirt is not to over-iron it. Flannel has a brushed and tactile texture, so the well-loved, worn-in look is already there. Keep it that way. Gap’s original soft flannel shirt is a classic and will never go out of fashion, but other high-street chains, such as Zara and H&M, are giving them a run for the money. A couple of trend pointers: yellow is the colour of 2021 and upscaled gingham checks – Peregrine’s Preston shirt springs to mind – are the new tartan. Flannel Panel

  • The five stages of Russell Crowe, Hollywood’s most unorthodox sex symbol

    Remarkably, it has been over 20 years since Russell Crowe ran his hand through that field of wheat and stabbed dozens of people in Gladiator. (I can’t fully remember the plot.) Time can play tricks on us. Arguably just as remarkable, however, is that judging by the latest evidence, Russell Ira Crowe himself – commander of a fine screen career, co-owner of the South Sydney Rabbitohs, loyal servant to a good time, father to two very much unmurdered children, ex-husband to a very much unmurdered ex-wife – has managed to age by at least half a century in that time. On Wednesday, Crowe, being a great bloke, answered a random Twitter request to send a happy birthday message to British round-the-world sailor Pip Hare. He obliged with a video, appearing, fresh from a kayak trip, in front of his Oscar statuette, and looking like Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses playing Toy Story’s Stinky Pete.

  • Ricky Tomlinson: ‘I was one of the last political prisoners in the UK’

    Ricky Tomlinson has made his family promise that the inscription on his gravestone will say: ‘One of the last political prisoners to be imprisoned in England’. “Because that’s what I was,” he says. Best known for playing Jim in The Royle Family, Tomlinson is this week appealing a conviction from 1973 for conspiracy to intimidate during the national building workers’ strike. Long before he was an actor, Tomlinson was a plasterer and trade unionist. The 81-year-old spent two years in prison for his involvement in a picket on the Brookside housing estate, Telford, on September 6 1972, after which 24 trade unionists were charged with unlawful assembly, conspiracy to intimidate and affray. Tomlinson was sentenced to two years in prison, but has always denied allegations that he committed an offence. “It was a political trial,” says Tomlinson. This week, the Shrewsbury 24, which includes Tomlinson, finally have the chance to appeal their convictions. After nearly half a century, the case is being heard at the Court of Appeal today on the grounds of new evidence that original witness statements were destroyed by police at the time of the trial. Tomlinson’s legal team, from The Public Interest Law Centre, will also argue that the screening of documentary The Red Under the Bed during the trial unfairly influenced the jury. Critical of the trade union movement, it showed footage of people marching in Shrewsbury, including Tomlinson and four other defendants. “It’s a major miscarriage of justice,” says Paul Heron, lawyer for Tomlinson and co-founder of the Public Interest Law Centre. “We hope that the Shrewsbury 24 are now fully exonerated. They are only guilty of unionising and winning.”

  • David Morrissey: ‘All of us have a duty to call out abuse’

    David Morrissey has always been interested in untold stories; clear from the roles he has chosen over his four decades on stage and screen, memorably including Gordon Brown in Peter Morgan’s Channel 4 drama The Deal about the Blair-Brown relationship behind the scenes. So too does this extend to his work with Refuge, one of the charities being supported by the Telegraph Christmas Appeal. Morrissey says he’d be “surprised” if domestic violence was much discussed among men. For while abuse “is not a ‘women’s issue’” – and men can suffer too – there remains “this clichéd idea of domestic abuse [being] specific women with specific men,” he explains. After a year when most of us have retreated to our homes for safety, it’s never been more pressing to recognise how many find themselves in danger behind their own front doors. In his announcement of a third national lockdown at the start of January, Boris Johnson highlighted that those still at home with their abusers were an exception to the rule; during one three-week period in April 2020, domestic killings of women and children more than doubled, while over 40,000 calls were made to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse helpline between March and June. Court delays are now so excessive that some charities are advising the few who do manage to take legal action against their abusers to pursue civil orders instead. Some have taken their own lives while waiting for justice that may never come. Even before this, the statistics were grim, with an average of two women killed by their partner in England and Wales each week. “As a man,” Morrissey urges, “it’s a conversation we have to be part of.” For the actor’s part, that meant getting involved with Refuge, whose work made him “really want to do something. I felt that it was something that, because it involved violence and there’s a lot happening behind closed doors, it was very difficult for people to come forward at times and to be believed.” When women are in a vulnerable position, he adds, “it’s hard for them to speak out because they’re frightened, and they’re being dictated to by that fear. Not speaking out… having an inability to express yourself, that’s what domestic abuse is all about. It’s that idea of controlling someone; controlling what they do, what they say, where they go, how they operate.” All too often, he acknowledges, “we hear about it when it’s far too late.” How this control manifests has also changed: technology means perpetrators of abuse can now manipulate their partners in new ways, either by the dissemination of compromising information or cutting off their access to help entirely. The role of social media is something Morrissey, who recently starred in ITV’s lavish series The Singapore Grip, has been mulling lately. With three children born in the digital age – he shares Albie, 25, 21 year-old Anna and Gene, 14, with Esther Freud (from whom he is separated) – he watched The Social Dilemma, a Netflix documentary about the damage such networks have inflicted, and “it frightened the pants off me,” he admits. “I do think there’s something about social media that is both liberating and wonderful, and something that is worrying and threatening.”

  • 10 of the best luxury men's watches that won't break the bank in 2021

    How much should a man’s watch cost? It’s a perennial question that flared up again recently when internet contrarians decided Joe Biden’s $7,000 (£5,000) Rolex Datejust was an inappropriately expensive timepiece to wear to his own inauguration. The world of luxury watches is one I don’t inhabit – although I wouldn’t say no to a Rolex (a dream that’s wearing thinner by the day as Rolex prices skyrocket due to Covid-based production issues). I’ve got by my entire life with wristwatches that didn’t break the bank and kept time perfectly well. I appreciate the craftsmanship in precision watchmaking, but losing only one second every millennium or being waterproof to 1,000ft never justified the investment, given I’m not Jacques Cousteau. The reality is that there are reliable and budget-friendly wristwatches out there today that look a million dollars. On the sportier side, AVI-8’s Hawker Hurricane Help For Heroes Limited Edition has all the classic pilot’s watch features. Citizen’s Promaster Aqualand and Bulova’s Archive Surfboard are handsome retro-styled diver’s watches. Spinnaker’s Dumas and Tayroc’s Hampton shouldn’t be overlooked either, the Dumas featuring a 1960s style Milanese chain-mesh bracelet. Tissot T-Sport Chrono XL is a military-inspired watch with a khaki face and brown leather. Grenson’s Pilot is similarly minimalist. For a formal, midcentury Mad Men vibe, go for Timex’s Marmont, Boss’s Skymaster and Larsson & Jennings’ Meridian, which features an on-trend midnight blue watch face. Wrist assessment

  • Best Valentine's Day gifts for him: 12 present ideas your boyfriend or husband will love

    Well, here we are again. Almost a full year has gone by since we were last panic-buying heart-shaped chocolates and forging 'love vouchers' out of the sexiest-looking card at the corner shop. It doesn't need to be that way. Notoriously difficult as Valentine's Day gifting may be. In lieu of pink tat and flammable lingerie, we're here to help you treat your husband or boyfriend to something thoughtful this year. Something he will love. We've curated a stellar selection of the best Valentine's gifts for him, below, where you're sure to find something that will make his heart beat a little bit faster: 1. Personalised Limited Edition Whisky £99.95, The Whisky Exchange

  • Rhod Gilbert: ‘Why I'm breaking the taboo around male fertility’

    Rhod Gilbert has been talking for barely five minutes when he first mentions his sperm. There’s not enough of it, and what there is is “wonky, like shelving brackets” – a big problem if you want to have a baby. Which Gilbert, 52, desperately does, with his screenwriter wife Siân Harries, 39. He is on a crusade to get men talking openly about their fertility, especially when they are struggling with it. “It’s such an embarrassing, taboo, stigmatised subject,” he says. “Men don’t want to talk about it.” The stand-up comedian is calling from the basement kitchen of the couple’s London home to discuss his latest project, a BBC documentary called Rhod Gilbert: Stand Up to Infertility. But when talking about his own downstairs, he’s friendly but clearly nervous – very different to the cocky and deadpan persona he’s built over the past 15 years on comedy panel shows like Have I Got News for You, QI and Never Mind the Buzzcocks. This latest programme is very personal to him. Gilbert and Harries got married in 2013 and started trying for a baby soon afterwards. After months of unsuccessful attempts, they sought medical help, and doctors focused their attention on Harries, assuming that her endometriosis must be the problem. She went through several rounds of IVF and ICSI – where sperm are injected into an egg – but nothing seemed to work. In all this time, no doctor seriously considered that Gilbert’s sperm might be the problem. “Siân would always be the one sat next to [the doctor or nurse], and I sat next to her. The discussion was always with her,” he says. “Men are not the focus for the fertility industry at all.” The only time that doctors addressed him was to give him some vague pointers on how to improve sperm quality by having a healthier lifestyle, so he gave up smoking. They also told him that he might have an intimate infection that could be an issue, but mentioned nothing about treatment, so Gilbert shrugged it off. The first time Gilbert saw a male fertility specialist was during the filming of the show – six years after his wife first had treatment. The results of his visit were startling: “I find out that 98 per cent of my sperm are the wrong shape,” he says. “I had no idea that maybe only two per cent of my sperm are viable.”