The opener - Issue 133 - Magazine | Monocle

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Shirking from home

the look

In recent weeks, every morning when I confront my wardrobe one of Karl Lagerfeld’s oft-quoted zingers rings through my head: “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.”

They’re words to recall at the moment, when our living rooms have become our offices. Should you so desire, you can slouch around in pyjamas or tracksuit bottoms (or nothing at all). But, right now, it’s important to make an effort. These are anxious, uncertain times and looking pulled-together is a small yet important expression of resolve. Rather than admitting that we’re losing control over things by wearing sweatpants, put on a brave face and a pair of good trousers and get ready to tackle the day.

There’s a more practical aspect too: the rise of video-conference apps means that, at any moment, your face is going to pop up on your boss’s laptop. Do you really want them to think you’re firing off emails in that gravy-stained sweatshirt? No. You want a nice knitted jumper (bright would be good, to pop on screen and give your colleagues something to smile about), stretchy tailored trousers, and comfortable shoes (trainers or Birkenstocks are acceptable). Now, time to do some work. 

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Milk shakedown

Getting glass bottles of milk gently placed on your doorstep at dawn’s first light feels like a ritual from a simpler time. Yet it also feels very now: with so many folks housebound, we’re witnessing a boom in the market for home delivery of essentials, including bottles of nature’s finest calcium booster. The UK’s biggest milk-delivery company, Milk and More, has seen 25,000 new customers sign up to its service in recent weeks and is recruiting 100 milkmen and women to keep up with demand. Other consumers are moo-ving to the Find Me A Milkman website to source their delivery heroes. Just beware of the “milk thieves” reportedly roaming the streets of UK towns in search of the precious white stuff. They’re the real skim shady.


Buying in

It’s a very odd collection of businesses that are flourishing in this time of adversity. Yes, mask and loo-roll makers are very busy but so too are some real outliers. As lockdowns hoved into view, there was a rush on paint and diy kit, hair clippers – when this is all over, there will be a lot of hairdressers needing to perform emergency repairs – and hair dye (“But I thought you were really blonde?”). Also swivel chairs, jigsaw puzzles and sex toys (especially, it is said, ordered by those home alone). In decades to come, our corona-era collections will hopefully look as strange as another generation’s gas masks and air-raid shelters. Meanwhile, only 4,999 pieces to go until our alpine-vista jigsaw is complete. 

Few and car between


Cinemagoers might be accustomed to 3D glasses and other futuristic gimmicks but it’s a throwback to the 1950s – the drive-in cinema – that’s experiencing an uptick in business. With traditional cinemas temporarily shut in an effort to increase social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic, Americans are flocking to outdoor screens with sprawling car parks. Less than 10 per cent of US drive-ins are open at the moment due to the format’s seasonality but some have reported ticket sales as being double the usual level for March.

Drive-ins have been in decline since the 1970s due to factors including the rise of home video and oil crises that saw petrol prices skyrocket and cars shrink; fuel efficiency came at the expense of comfort. While more than 4,000 drive-in screens peppered the US in the 1950s, just 549 remain. While those currently open might be forced to shut in the coming weeks, for now they offer a welcome break from the sofa. 

ILLUSTRATOR: Mathieu De Muizon. IMAGES: Reuters, Shutterstock, Milk&More

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