Once more unto the breach, dear friends: scarcely does one five-star end before the next begins, and with it, my next chance to lose friends and not influence people at all. What fun! What japes! What a great risk of losing my accreditation for next year! In any case, though, I always think it’s important to start these momentous weeks, full as they are of derring-do and extraordinary athletic achievement and emotional highs and lows, with a little bit of lighthearted ribbing. It keeps all our feet on the ground, doesn’t it? It helps us laugh as we teeter on the precipice of the things that frighten us. I am using a lot of words here to try to justify this; to quantify it as a great service to all of humanity and eventing. Have I convinced you yet? I’ve convinced myself, anyway, and that’s good enough for me. Slap a Medal of Honor on me, for I have served the Eventing Nation. And now, it’s time to give out some truly dubious prizes for my favourite looks from this year’s first horse inspection at Badminton.
The Golden Chinch for Honouring Monarchs or Burgers; Unsure
Look, I’m going to start with this one, because I know you’ll all be waiting for it. We saw a lot of nods to this week’s coronation of the Man Who Would Be Tampon — err, sorry, King — throughout the course of proceedings today, with patriotic scarves, ribbons, and much, much more besides on show from a number of riders. But none encapsulated the moment quite like Lauren Innes, who simply chucked a crown on her noggin and went sprinting down a strip of tarmac, alongside a horse, in the pissing-down rain. The whole situation, when you actually step back and think about it objectively, is faintly ridiculous, and I love that Lauren just kind of owned that. She reminds me of the good old days when you’d get six nuggets and a cardboard crown for being a Very Good Girl while your mum went shoe shopping. I hope she wears it for all three phases.
The Golden Chinch for War Efforts on the Home Front
We’ve got to talk about this silk headscarf, which is a truly land girl accessory. In it, Laura Collett screams “we’re only allowed a fistful of sugar, a spoonful of butter, and two apples per week, but I’ll make you a cake that’ll prompt you to propose to me immediately.” She bellows “oh, your leg’s hanging off? Bite down on this spoon, darling, because I learned to amputate and cauterise a wound at the age of 15 when my family’s reception room was turned into a makeshift hospital, and I’ll have you sorted in no time.” She heartily screams “let me show you my abundance of turnips: I planted them myself in a secret garden I created between two paving stones using some manure I just found somewhere and now we shall never starve again. Don’t mind the sirens! The root vegetables don’t!” If she came at me in a Land Rover with all the doors sawn off, I’d jump in immediately and assume I’d make it through whichever World War she’s singlehandedly battling. For King and Country: Laura Collett. She might be wearing hot pink, but she’ll still sort this place out.
The Golden Chinch for Gucci Collabs that Haven’t Even Happened Yet, But Should
There’s something very ‘I’m a lumberjack and I’m okay’ about this look from James, but actually, it’s more than that: it’s very ‘I’m a lumberjack and I’m about to release the hottest hip-hop album of 2023, and Kendrick Lamar can fight me if he thinks otherwise.’ I want to inspect this man’s mouth immediately because I just KNOW he’s got a stacked diamond grill on those gnashers of his. That look of deep concentration isn’t because he’s trying not to trip while jogging down the strip; it’s because he’s currently thinking up some SICK BARS for verse three of Straight Out of Badders, a song I’ll want to hate because the nickname ‘Badders’ makes me do this awful full-body cringe thing, but actually, I know I’ll secretly love it and shamelessly play it on an endless loop in my house, thus contributing to James’s inevitable skyrocketing trajectory up the charts, which will end abruptly when he’s invited onto Celebs Go Dating and admits that he wasn’t potty trained until he was like, eight, or something. Then he’ll be forced to spend the rest of his career reinventing Straight Out of Badders for adverts for, I don’t know, toothpaste, or anti-diarrhoea medication, or something, until we all agree that it might be nice to let him headline Glastonbury, just once, as a special treat, ironically. Then he’ll become a national hero, like Elton John, or Mr Motivator.
The Golden Chinch Award for Egregious Overcommitment to Y2K Trends, Part One
Right, Izzy, let’s have a chat: you’re definitely at least the same age as me, which means we lived through this horror already. You know what I mean, girl: the year 2004. The year boho inflicted itself on us all because Sienna Miller or Mischa Barton or someone willowy and blonde wore something that Seventeen magazine quite liked, and then it was inescapable. It was all crochet knits and peasant tops and, horror of horror, wide circle belts that served absolutely no purpose whatsoever. They just dangled there! On our hips! Holding up nothing! Making us look like we’d just stepped out of a casting call for extras in Gladiator! What were we thinking!!!
Fortunately, Izzy had a change of heart halfway up the strip and got rid of the belt, because in this, the year of our lord 2023, we like our accessories to actually do something for us.
The Golden Chinch Award for Egregious Overcommitment to Y2K Trends, Part Two
I’m almost willing to give Alice Casburn a bit of leeway here, because at 22, she’s a card-carrying member of Gen Z, which means she didn’t have to suffer through the indignities of early noughties fashion, because when we were all being told by tabloids that having a full set of internal organs actually makes you a shameful heifer of a human being, she was being born. Yeah, take that one in. It makes me have a funny turn, too.
Anyway, as a Gen Z-er, she won’t be immune to the cyclical nature of trends, and I might be approximately 200 years old, but I do know that those teens and their TikToking are trying to bring all this suffering back into the spotlight. While I dig (do young people still say dig? Help) the flares here, I’m horrified to realise that it’s even possible to buy low-rise jeans again, because I’ve wasted so many of my young and hot years trying to wrestle my bum crack back into submission in those monstrosities that I simply do not have the energy to fight anymore. What I will say is this: Alice, if you want to do Y2K fashion, you have to do all of it. You have to really live it. I want to see you on Monday morning at the final horse inspection with a zig-zag parting in your hair. I want to see at least three butterfly clips on either side of that parting. I want you to locate some blue eyeshadow and some frosted lip gloss. I want Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse smeared along your jawline. I want those flares to have disintegrated at the back bottom seam from being stepped on so many times so that you’re walking around with a sad, wet, muddy tail dragging along behind your ankles. I want you to borrow Izzy’s belt. Don’t let me down, Casburn.
The Golden Chinch for Making My Camera Sensor Go Funny, Again
Ahh, Harry, we meet again. You are Cordings of Piccadilly’s most loyal customer, and the only man for whom I need to change the exposure settings on my camera, not because of your sparkling grey horse (although well done to groom Jess Errington there, because Away Cruising looks great), but because your trousers are so much. At one point a neon yellow ambulance trundled past the trot-up and I thought I was getting a sneak preview of your Sunday look. You are a mad man and you cannot be tamed and I have to respect you for that, begrudgingly.
The Golden Chinch for Nailing the Dating App Brief
So often, when you’re scrolling through, say, Hinge or Bumble (this isn’t something happens on Tinder, which is an unapologetic shag-fest, frankly) you’ll come across people who are basically just there because they desperately need to find a plus-one for a wedding they’ve been invited to. I don’t blame them, actually: surely nothing is worse than being the Token Single at a wedding and thus finding yourself tactically seated next to the Other Token Single (usually a godawful third cousin with curiously alt-right leanings), who’ll spend the whole evening talking at you before eventually doing that hot-breath-exhale-and-lean-in move that a certain type of man is so adept at. This one, you know:
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Here, though, Switzerland’s Felix Vogg presents himself as the answer to all your troubles. He responds to your Hinge prompt sympathising with your plight (“weddings! The worst! Is there an open bar? Count me in!”) and although it’s highly odd that you have to summon him by saying “Hinge plus one” three times into the mirror, when he appears in his natty little three-piece suit and bow-tie with that smirk on his face, you’re like, “holy shit, I think this is actually going to be great.” And at first, it is: you turn up to the wedding with a veritable snack on your arm, and that one girl you’ve maintained some public semblance of friendship with since college even though she’s actually horrible is so vexed by it all that she walks around looking like someone’s just deposited a gentle fart on her upper lip for the next four hours. But then you lose track of your date for a while, decide to grab your coat so you can slip outside for an illicit smoke… and find him in the cloakroom, attempting to consummate anyone’s wedding, really, with the mother of the bride. You vow to start trying to meet men at normal places, like… garden centres. Or bake sales. Or soup kitchens. Then you decide to maybe just not meet men at all. That’s also fine.
The Golden Chinch for Maybe Packing a Ouija Board in her Tack Trunk; Who Knows
I’ll let you in on a little secret: I was a baby goth. From about the age of eleven, which was just after the moment when I got over my long-held idea that I might be Kurt Cobain reincarnated (a notion that was finally quashed when I ran out of compelling arguments against the fact that I was two years old when he died), I embraced the dark side wholeheartedly. I shopped in Hot Topic, recreationally pierced various bits of my own face with hot safety pins, listened to screamy punk about, like, disembowelment and heartbreak and the intersection of those two topics. (Actually, I still listen to all that, and I’m quite happy to make recommendations. Hit me up.) If you need further evidence, here’s me at 12, just before I discovered hairdye and eyeliner, but well after I figured out that if you put a medieval font on a random string of words, it won’t matter that they don’t actually form a legible sentence, because it’ll just look really really cool:
Anyway, all this is to say that I spend my life playing one long game of Is It Goth? And in truth, all I want is for everything to pass that spooky barometer. I want you all to come to the side of bats and black lipstick and New Wave vibes with me. I want us all to look a little bit like Robert Smith (not the showjumper) on his wedding day, which is what I kind of accidentally look like most days so I really do need that look to be cool again. Black horse? Arguably Kinda Goth. Black leather-look waterproof breeches? Maybe a Little Bit Goth. Holland Cooper coats and Fairfax and Favor boots? Not Goth At All. Emily King in a Wednesday Adams dolly dress with a black low-denier tight and a boxy blazer? Very, Very Goth. Welcome to the dark side, Emily. Here’s a song about disembowelment and heartbreak to make you feel like one of us.
The Golden Chinch for Understanding that Masculinity Spans the Colour Spectrum
This! Was simply! A Lot! But you know what? I applaud a man who has the courage to mix his pinks. Whatever that means.
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