Ok, when I was a child in the nineties, I really loved watching Only Fools and Horses. At weekends I would often have sleepovers at my grandparents (my Nana and I were best mates), and I would be allowed to stay up and watch the likes of Fools and Horses, Heartbeat, Tomorrows World and Jonathan Creek (also one of my favourites). They also introduced me to Norman Wisdom, Rock n’ Roll and Judy Garland – all great things but if I was to go into that now I would be journeying on a tangent.
So, Only Fools and Horses – for anyone who does’t know what it is, is a British sitcom that ran for over 20 years. Also, it was bloomin’ brilliant. Following the modest, yet humorous ups and downs of two Peckham, born and bred half brothers – the Trotters. Derek AKA Del Boy is a salesman by trade, marketing everything from fax machines, to blow-up dolls, to questionable house paint. Since their mother died prematurely, he looks out for his younger brother Rodney (sometimes known as Dave), who has a GCE in maths. In the early days they lived with their Granddad but by the time I was following the show they were living with their Uncle who likes to reminisce about the his navy years, “During the war…” – much to everyone else’s dismissal.
Watching episodes of it recently, it took me back to the good old days – lounging around on my grandparents sofa, laughing hysterically at the bits I could get, and laughing at the bits I didn’t quite get, but the grown-ups are laughing so I should laugh too. Now I am a grown-up, I actually get all the funny bits.
Obviously having a very different perspective of the show to when I was a child, I was enlightened to realise how genius the costumes are. Every character is summed up perfectly, wrapped up in quintessential British clobber.
For starters there is the array of coats. We’re talking duffle coats, trench coats and parkas, sheepskin at it’s most glorious, leather bomber jackets and camouflage army classics. All the best are there. Plus they usually come with a great hat, you know? – a trilby or a flat cap.
The irony is they drive around in a brash, yellow, three-wheeler van and yet Del Boy insists on wearing his best – to keep up appearances. This usually consists of a polo-neck sweater or a polo-shirt, crisp chinos, braces, sometimes a golfing jumper and as mentioned before a top of the range overcoat.
Rodney, being the younger of the two, sports a more youthful look (especially in the earlier series), and tends to be much more scruffy. Plaid shirts, washed denim jeans, heavy boots and sweatshirts. Although an understated look, Rodney represents how many young men would have dressed in the eighties and nineties, so there is a lot of historical context within his outfits and they speak volumes of British culture in that era -more than any other character’s clothing.
Also, it is has to be mentioned how captivatingly kitsch some of the get-up is, and for the most part this is down to Del Boy’s wardrobe. Key pieces include gold medallions, over-the-top fur and an elaborate drink in hand -cocktail umbrellas included. For summer holidays abroad, Del Boy owns a trusty tiger-print-fur suitcase and matching vanity case. And for the beach? Leopard print swimming trunks of course. Teamed with his cockney accent and a wannabe yuppie persona, this is a constant source of comedy, sometimes just his entrance into a scene has the canned laughter at it’s paramount.
What Fools and Horses stands for however, goes much further than fashion. Each character summarises an element of what it is to be British. Granddad/Uncle Albert represent the old time, the past and the nostalgia. They are a reminder of a simpler or more trying era and even when we attempt to forget the past, it will always be there.
Del Boy Its is a representation of British warmth, unity and perseverance – when Del Boy confidently declares (in every episode), “Next year we’ll be millionaires”, it glimmers hope for us big dreamers. However his character also embodies our nations ability to get it a bit wrong. As he gallops through the French language on an illiterate horse, and sips on elaborate cocktails in the local pub or flounces around the gritty streets of London in a fur jacket, it is a head in hands moment every time. He is a quintessential Brit-abroad showing the rest of us up, but a fellow comrade nonetheless.
Then Rodney, I suppose personifies British youth culture and the trials and errors that we all face growing up – such as being expelled from art college for smoking cannabis. Despite his moronic tendencies that induce Del to announce him a “Plonker”, he is in fact the educated one in the family and endeavours to better himself through studies (eventually). His idealistic approach to life, although sometimes naive, is heartwarming and represents a modern man.
So there is a lot more to Only Fools and Horses than I ever realised as a child, however watching it now will never be as comforting as watching it in my grandparents living room. I think that’s what this show really is for me – nostalgia for my English childhood and a simple reminder of my Nana, my hero.