EXPAND YOUR MIND, REFINE YOUR WARDROBE
Michael Palin “There wasn’t a formula to Monty Python, it was just mischief making, which is quite a difficult thing to pull off”
RUPERT EVERETT The actor’s second outing as Oscar Wilde, in his new film The Happy Prince
PATRICK LEIGH FERMOR The buccaneering WWII hero’s subsequent life among the artists of Greece
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GOSBEE & MINNS
Liam Jefferies is The Chap’s Sartorial Editor, in charge of exploring new brands, trends and rediscoveries of forgotten gentlemanly fashions. Liam’s expert knowledge covers the dark heart of Savile Row to the preppy eccentricities of Ivy Leaguers. You can follow him on Instagram @sartorialchap.
Darcy Sullivan writes about comic books, aesthetes and algorithms. His articles have appeared in The Comics Journal, The Wildean and Weird Fiction Review. He is a proud member of the Oscar Wilde Society and the curator of the Facebook pages ‘The Pictures of Dorian Gray’ and ‘I am Mortdecai’.
Ferris Newton is a parapsychological investigator, explorer and pigeon fancier. His interest in political systems has led him to the belief that gentlemen with anarcho-dandyist tendencies can learn from fringe political movements such as the Fabian Society, the Monster Raving Loony party and the LibDems.
Peter Gosbee is a jeweller, antiques purveyor and keen disciple of the sartorial arts, often to be found at markets, briar in hand and suitcase brimming with treasures. John Minns was brought up in what is commonly known as the rag trade. He cut his sartorial teeth working with ‘the King of Carnaby Street’ John Stephens.
When Alexander Larman is neither poncing nor pandering for a living, he amuses himself by writing books, some biographies of great men (BLAZING STAR) and some examinations of greater women (BYRON’S WOMEN). He also writes for The Times, Observer and formerly the Erotic Review, back when it was erotic.
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Olivia Bullock is an illustrator with a fascination for obscure youth tribes and musical genres. She is The Chap’s expert on snappily dressed youth movements from around the world. Each issue, she will be turning her expert eye on another group of dandies whose brief existence fully deserves to be celebrated.
Rupert Bell is The Chap’s resident butler, who also performs butling services for other gentlemen, as well as devoting considerable amounts of his time to attending vintage events. Mr. Bell is always to be seen at the Chap Olympiad, carrying cumbersome items such as cigarette lighters and winners’ cravats.
David Evans is a former lawyer and teacher who founded popular sartorial blog Grey Fox Blog five years ago. The blog has become extremely widely read by chaps all over the world, who seek advice on dressing properly and retaining an eye for style when entering the autumn of their lives.
The Dandy Doctor writes on dandyism, gender, popular culture and the gothic. Her writing has appeared in academic journals such as Gothic Studies and in popular books on cult television. Sunday is currently working on a book about fictional dandies in film and television. Twitter: @dandy_lio
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Holly Rose Swinyard is a cub reporter and fashion experimentalist. In between hosting sci-fi podcasts, Holly writes and speaks about contemporary revolutionary ideas such as gender equality and a post-gender society, along with the equally important topics of clothes and costumes.
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THE CHAP MANIFESTO 1 THOU SHALT ALWAYS WEAR TWEED. No other fabric says so defiantly: I am a man of panache, savoir-faire and devil-may-care, and I will not be served Continental lager beer under any circumstances. 2 THOU SHALT NEVER NOT SMOKE. Health and Safety “executives” and jobsworth medical practitioners keep trying to convince us that smoking is bad for the lungs/heart/skin/eyebrows, but we all know that smoking a bent apple billiard full of rich Cavendish tobacco raises one’s general sense of well-being to levels unimaginable by the aforementioned spoilsports. 3 THOU SHALT ALWAYS BE COURTEOUS TO THE LADIES. A gentleman is never truly seated on an omnibus or railway carriage: he is merely keeping the seat warm for when a lady might need it. Those who take offence at being offered a seat are not really Ladies.
4 THOU SHALT NEVER, EVER, WEAR PANTALOONS DE NIMES. When you have progressed beyond fondling girls in the back seats of cinemas, you can stop wearing jeans. 5 THOU SHALT ALWAYS DOFF ONE’S HAT. Alright, so you own a couple of trilbies. Good for you - but it’s hardly going to change the world. Once you start actually lifting them off your head when greeting passers-by, then the revolution will really begin. 6 THOU SHALT NEVER FASTEN THE LOWEST BUTTON ON THY WAISTCOAT. Look, we don’t make the rules, we simply try to keep them going. This one dates back to Edward VII, sufficient reason in itself to observe it. 7 THOU SHALT ALWAYS SPEAK PROPERLY. It’s really quite simple: instead of saying “Yo, wassup?”, say “How do you do?” 8 THOU SHALT NEVER WEAR PLIMSOLLS WHEN NOT DOING SPORT. Nor even when doing sport. Which you shouldn’t be doing anyway. Except cricket. 9 THOU SHALT ALWAYS WORSHIP AT THE TROUSER PRESS. At the end of each day, your trousers should be placed in one of Mr. Corby’s magical contraptions, and by the next morning your creases will be so sharp that they will start a riot on the high street. 10 THOU SHALT CULTIVATE INTERESTING FACIAL HAIR. By interesting we mean moustaches, or beards with a moustache attached.
CONTENTS 8 AM I CHAP?
Those who dare submit themselves to the ultimate sartorial assessment face admiration or opprobrium
14 T HE BUTLER
Mr. Bell gives specific sartorial advice to confused gentlemen
18 P EACOCKS AND MAGPIES
Our new antiques experts, Peter Gosbee and John Minns, give insider tips on acquiring objets d’art
FEATURES 22 JULIETTE GRECO
Doctor of Dandyism Sunday Swift on ‘rebel dandizette’ Juliette Gréco and how she emerged from postwar Paris
28 O CEAN LINER CHIC
Sandra Lawrence boards a vessel from the Cunard Line to reveal the sartorial comme il faut of the ocean liner
34 I NTERVIEW
Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer meets British comedy legend Michael Palin
34 SARTORIAL FEATURES
44 FASHION PHOTO SHOOT
100 T HE HEP CATS
54 ROWING BLAZERS
107 J AQUES OF LONDON
60 J OJO ELGARICE
112 P HILIP LARKIN
We took some modern-day dandies to Mr. Fogg’s Residence in Mayfair to blend in with the opulent surroundings
Liam Jefferies meets the American designer who has revitalized the British Boating Blazer An encounter with a Sheffield vintage impresario and doyen of the city’s most desirable vintage clothing store
62 K OY CLOTHING
A British company that brings the brightness of Kenyan fabric to the Britain, and in turn support the African tribes from which it originates
66 G REY FOX COLUMN
David Evans packs away his winter wardrobe and extolls the virtues of Panama, linen and corduroy for the warmer months
70 S HOOTING THE CUFFS
How this ancient gentlemen’s ritual remains steeped in masculine meaning to this day
72 T WEED ON FILM
Our American sartorial correspondent looks at tweed garments in the history of British and American cinema
80 W HAT KATIE DID
Vintage lingerie from an established and respected British brand favoured by those who like every layer to cut the mustard
83 V ESTA TILLEY
Holly Rose Swinyard on the Victorian male impersonator who unwittingly contributed to the Anarcho-Dandyist revolution
88 F ASHION PHOTO SHOOT
A selection of sensational summer outfits, from Land Girls to Sea Captains to Chap Olympians
Olivia Bullock on the 1940s street style that originated in Harlem and somehow ended up in Shoreditch – but not quite
Nancy Alsop meets the scion of a family that invented modern chess, croquet, table tennis and Ludo
Ferris Newton reassesses the poetry of the Bard of Hull
116 JASON KING
After the demise of actor Peter Wyngarde earlier this year, Steve Pittard looks at the enduring charm of his greatest creation
122 R ESTAURANT REVIEW Simpson’s in the Strand
VINTAGE EVENTS 128 V INTAGE EVENTS GUIDE
A comprehensive guide to the season’s specialist vintage festivals around Britain
REVIEWS 136 B OOK REVIEWS
Self & I, In Byron’s Wake, Fighters and Quitters, The House of Nutter and Elisabeth’s Lists
144 C HARMED LIVES IN GREECE
A new exhibition at the British Museum collects the work of Patrick Leigh Fermor, John Craxton and Nikos Ghika
150 THE DAM BUSTERS
The 75th-anniversary restoration of this classic film
152 F ILM
Darcy Sullivan on an entire season of Oscar Wilde productions
Cover photograph: John Swannell
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“I am German and I am working in IT,” is Niklas Hoppe’s tragic announcement. “Circumstances which make it quite difficult to get a competent opinion on my attempt to dress as a gentleman or, for that matter, as a Chap.” Sir, there is clearly no point in asking your IT colleagues their opinion of your superb raiment. We can only suggest that you move into a more suitable career for your dress, such as gentleman sleuth or professional raconteur.
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“I enclose an image of oneself for the purposes of considered critique,” writes S.J.Simpson. “Indeed, I await, breath abated, that your finely crafted scrutinizing, of my humble appearance. Proves not to be too unkind to an ever well-meaning, if oft bruised temperament such as ones own.” Sir, your grammar is as confusing as your clothing. You seem to have got half way towards a decent outfit, then had the sudden urge to swap the bottom half and wristwatch with the goalkeeper from a 3rd-division soccer team.
“Photograph attached of self (on left)” writes B. C. Young, “and a brother for your assessment, taken at Fox’s for an afternoon smoke.” ‘A brother’? What are you, a pair of yardies? Nevertheless, full marks to the Terry-Thomas lookalike on the left. Perhaps ‘a brother’ is some sort of Mayfair slang for ‘servant’?
“This photo shows me paying a visit to my tailor on my way back from the colonies,” writes Richard Moore. “Am I a chap?” Sir, if you are not a Chap, we are not the Chap Magazine. Incredible, also, that your tailor is Hawkes & Co of Savile Row, which merged with Gieves Ltd in 1974.
“Just got myself dressed for a bracing dip in the Bournemouth ‘Briny’,” writes Frank Annable, “and the weather turned a little inclement. Luckily I have a Balaclava.” Indeed, but unfortunate you didn’t have a shovel.
“Please find enclosed a picture of myself, writes A.L. Price, “and my uncle Robert, wearing a genuine Moss Bros 1940s three-piece, while I wear a replica World War II uniform depicting the Military Provost Staff Corps, of Colchester’s ‘Glasshouse’ fame.” Carry on Chaps, you know the drill.
“Does my father have what it takes to be a chap?” asks M. McDonald. “His long mane is needed due to the harsh winter climate, in the arctic wastelands of Scotland.” There is no need to apologise for your pater’s eccentric coiffure. It transforms what could otherwise be a rather staid and conservative outfit into something much closer to the loucheness of Jason King.
“Here is my Book of Faces friend Kamaran Saz,” writes Simon McIlwaine, “third year Digital abacus undergraduate in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan.” New data protection laws regarding social media platforms mean we are not allowed to pass comment on Mr. Saz’s matching tie and pocket square. Nevertheless, smart outfit.
“The Groom wore purple velvet Etro jacket, custom made Victorian button boots by Enzo Bonafe, Canali tuxedo trousers and custom made waistcoat by Esther Skandunas of Once Upon A Bustle, a theatrical costume designer.” (photo by Andy Griffiths) That is all very well, but in our opinion, the groom wore jeans.
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The Butle r AT YOUR SERVICE Mr. Bell is the Chap’s resident butler, to whom questions of a sartorial nature may be addressed by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
J. B. Butterfield: I’m struggling very hard to maintain a handlebar moustache. I wax it constantly but it constantly droops. I would appreciate it greatly if you could help me in this dilemma. The Butler: Mr. Butterfield, Sir, it would be a pleasure for your humble servant to assist in such a matter. Fortunately, I myself am in the authoritative position of being in possession of facial furniture. One of the things I have had to learn, over the years, is how to ensure that it stays upright and stiff at all times, for a droopy butler is not a pleasant sight for guests to look at, Sir. There are several brands of decent moustache wax on the market, and the ones I have found which ensure a gentleman’s stiffness at all times are the following: www.penhaligons.com, a well-established company in the field of gentlemen’s grooming; www.captainfawcett.com is also a reputable firm, whose ‘expedition strength’ is highly recommended. Then finally, www.waxindustries.com. In my humble opinion, Sir, the firmest of the bunch is Mr. Wax’s ‘Bounder’ Moustache Wax. This aptly
named moustache wax does, as the saying goes, Sir, exactly what it says on the tin!
try www.oliverbrown.org.uk. Both companies are based in the metropolis, so would be ideal starting points, Sir.
Iain Dall: I have a question about where to hire a good morning suit in London. I’ve used Moss Bros before – but I’m trying to find someone that would hire a morning suit with a taller black silk top hat, for a wedding, or would you think it inappropriate? The Butler: A pleasure to assist you Sir! I shall take it from the question that you are not the lucky chap who is getting married? The first and most important thing is to check the invitation as to whether the couple specified a dress code. If Morning Dress is specified, I would suggest, if your concern is a decent fit and high quality, Lipman & Sons: www.lipmanandsons.co.uk. As for hiring a silk top hat, that will certainly provide you with some difficulty, as they are hard enough to purchase these days. If Lipmans are unable to provide you with what you require, then
Edward Peterson: I’m sure you’ve been asked this many times, during the few hours of British summertime that we have in this country – but where is the best place to purchase a linen suit, of the sort worn by everyone from Fitzcarraldo to the cast of Boardwalk Empire? The Butler: Depending on your budgetary levels, Sir, I can recommend a few places. First of all, Cordings of Piccadilly have always done an excellent range of men’s linen suits, available as two or three piece in a variety of shades. Next, Samuel Windsor and Peter Christian have some excellent summer attire, which is very reasonably priced and durable. Finally Messrs Marks & Spencer have been around for some time and are more than capable of providing some excellent linen suits at good prices, Sir. I have also been informed that on page 160 of this very
Sylvia (of Tawsingham): Sadly it has been a long time since we last spoke. I do hope you are keeping well and still putting your skills to good use. Would love to get in touch as I may have a situation you may be interested in. I look forward to hearing from you. The Butler: Ah, a name from the past indeed! How could I forget my time butling for the Tawsingham household! It was a real pleasure. As you can see, I have secured a very good position with Mr. Temple of The Chap. I’m sure my new master will furnish you with my details, so that you may enquire about re-engaging my services – should I of course be permitted to by Mr. Temple! n
journal, one may be informed of a supplier of linen suits that is very close to hand, Sir! Asquith Eckhart: What is your view on summer footwear? A few chums of mine, who shall remain nameless, take the view that moccasin-style ‘deck shoes’ are suitable with a linen suit, but I heartily do not concur. Do you, sir? The Butler: Well Mr. Eckhart, firstly may I say I admire your faith in the British weather! However, if you are off to warmer climes, or if we do actually see some sun here, then I would say thus, Sir: in my opinion, the moccasin-style items you mention, at least for me personally, should not really be worn with a formal linen suit. I would instead select co-respondent shoes in a brown and white colouring, as I find this sets the plain colour of the suit off rather well. Alternatively, tan or chestnut lightweight brogues or Oxfords will also work very well. Deck shoes are also an option, but really they are suitable only if you are intending to spend time on a sea- or river-bound vessel, as that is their natural environment, Sir.
Boot sale, antiques market, house clearance: our roving magpies disguised as peacocks, Peter Gosbee and John Minns, give insider tips on spotting desirable objects. Photos by Alicja Pytlock
t cannot be over-emphasised how important (and indeed lucrative) developing strong and trusting relationships with traders is to the market treasure seeker. These individuals are your eyes and ears for possible future acquisitions. Essentially the market is a social event, where friendships and business connections are formed over the Styrofoam cups of tooth-abrasively sweet tea. Recently I was contacted by a chum involved in the house clearance industry, informing me of a substantial consignment of vintage clothes which would be available to peruse at our local market. Upon arrival at the market, in the early hours on market day to avoid the maddening crowd, this cornucopia of vintage cloth was overflowing from two packed delivery vans. I was told by my contact that the gentleman collector who had popped his clogs (or perhaps more correctly, his brogues) had formed a collection over the years of such magnitude that he was forced to take up residence at an hotel! When the removal
men entered the premises, they had been forced to adopt a crab-like stance in order to navigate a once ample staircase now festooned with clothes. From this rich sartorial seam I managed to mine several gems, particularly a bespoke two-piece suit, dated 1958, in pristine condition. A fine waistcoat would have complemented the suit, but I was content with the delightful article as it was. Several weeks later, in a vintage clothing outlet, I happened to mention to the vendor that I was looking for a grey 1950s waistcoat to complement a recently acquired suit. She led me to the back of the shop and produced a grey, woollen, 1950s waistcoat with a strangely familiar striped lining. Could the fates possibly be so kind as to gift me with my golden fleece? The following day I returned to the store, jacket in hand and, would you believe it, the waistcoat was the actual third part of the three-piece! Buttons, lining, pattern, shade, all cut from that same piece of cloth over 60 years ago, finally reunited under the most auspicious and peculiar circumstances.
TIPS FOR THE MARKETPLACE
RECENT DISCOVERIES Fantastic finds from the previous month’s rapturous rummagings include:
A stunning 19th century lavender amethyst cabochon, crowned with a 14ct gold star and natural seed pearls (brought from a scrap merchant for the price of a cup of tea.)
Be you a grizzled market veteran with a plethora of finds evidenced by the notches on your shooting stick, or a fledgling marketplace virgin looking to de-green your horns, we hope to be able to offer several small yet essential tips for your next foray into this fascinating world. 1 An absolute must when a approaching a market vendor selling his or her wares is an opening, cordial and sincere greeting. A simple ‘Hello’ or ‘How are you?’ is a reliable opening gambit, displaying the respect and decorum required in any social interaction. 2 Do not ever forget that the object you are about to fondle is currently not your property, and should be treated with such an understanding. 3 If you are a frequent market enthusiast, it will benefit you greatly if a healthy relationship can be established with the purveyor. This will make the experience far more pleasant for both parties, and you are also far more likely to ensnare your precious purchase for a few shillings less. 4 Unless you have had several previous
interactions with the seller (and even then…), please refrain from utilising a ‘spyglass’ or loupe to inspect the item under consideration. This behaviour can alert not only your interest to other potential rivals in the vicinity, but also to the seller, who by now is perhaps reconsidering the value of your selection. 5 If there is a particular treasure upon a vendor’s stall, but you have not yet made the firm decision to purchase, simply place your hand discreetly over said object. It is a unwritten market rule that nobody, apart from the seller himself, is able to remove the piece from your custody. This technique will allow you that bit of extra time to recognize the wisdom/folly of your decision while averting the risk of it being snaffled by someone else.
Part of a set of late 16th century backgammon men in ebony and ivory (each piece incised with a unique geometric design).
Anglo-Saxon/Celtic solid silver wire terminal torque bracelet (found in a box of costume jewellery and awaiting appraisal from the British Museum).
THE FLUMMOXER On our various excursions to markets, we frequently discover artefacts which leave us well and truly perplexed regarding their purpose and origin. On a recent trip to the continent to peruse the unusual relics of the foreign bazaar, the mysterious object illustrated here presented itself for our contemplation. After several draughts of the local moonshine, we had still not come to a satisfactory conclusion regarding the true nature of l’objet mystérieuse.
We hereby present this challenge to you, dear reader. Please write to email@example.com with your conclusions as to the purpose of this object.
Early 9ct gold, seed pearl, rock crystal and woven human hair ‘memento mori’. The miniscule woven hair sits behind the small rock crystal lens.
Solid silver early 20th century medical retaining clip (which will be re-purposed as a delightful finger ring).
Hor net s
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Features Dandizette: Juliette Greco (p22) •
Ocean Liner Chic (p28)
Interview with Michael Palin (p34) 21
JULIETTE GRECO Sunday Swift on the rebel dandizette, new bohemian icon and existentialist chanteuse of post-war Paris
f you were looking for one figure that exemplified the existentialist movement, in her music, her aesthetics and her rebellious persona, it would be Juliette Gréco (born 7th February 1927). A 1960 article in Life magazine declared Gréco as the “soul of post-war Paris” and she went on to perform for over 70 years. Even today, her image personifies the New Bohemians of 1940s-60s France. “I don’t take orders well and I’m not very obedient,” Gréco said in a 1999 interview for The Guardian. She belongs in a new category of dandy, setting her apart from our previous female dandies as the Rebel Dandizette. French philosopher Albert Camus, who wrote on rebellion and Dandyism in his 1951 book, The Rebel, argued that “Romanticism demonstrates, in fact, that rebellion is part and parcel of dandyism; one of its objectives is outward appearance. In its conventional forms, dandyism admits a nostalgia for ethics.” Gréco was friends with both Camus and Sartre, meeting them
in Cafe Laurent in Paris, a smoke-filled dive in the Rue Dauphine. But to understand why Gréco and the existentialists were considered rebellious within post-war France, we need to backtrack to Gréco’s earlier life. Moving to Paris with her mother and her sister in 1933 from Bordeaux, Juliette had a passion for dance and trained at the Paris Opera. This happy life was cut short with the outbreak of the Second World War. Her mother would become
“It is like a warm light that revives the embers inside all of us,” Sartre said of her voice. “It is thanks to her, and for her, that I have written songs. In her mouth, my words become precious stones” 23
a member of the Résistance in Southern France. In 1943 the Gestapo arrested Juliette (aged 15), and she remained imprisoned in occupied Paris for several months. This was when her rebellious spirit surfaced: “My sister and mother were already in Ravensbrück concentration camp,” Gréco said in a later interview. “This French Gestapo officer humiliated me, I became so upset I punched him on the nose. Well, that cost me some disagreements!” After being released aged 16, Gréco didn’t speak for a year: “I felt talking was useless and dangerous. I had to relearn talking by listening.” She was taken in by a former teacher, until her mother and sister were released from Ravensbrück after the liberation of Paris in August 1944. Life in post-war Paris was difficult and food was scarce, but the young Juliette valued the freedom they had finally obtained. This was when she became more involved with the existentialist movement. Pablo Picasso declared to Gréco that “You moonbathe while others sunbathe.” Her style came to define the existentialist aesthetic. Her shoulderlength dark hair and square fringe framed her striking face. She wore no makeup except kohl eyeliner, and mostly wore black pedal pushers and black polo necks and occasionally black dresses. All black may be a trademark of French street fashion these days, but that’s because of Gréco and her followers. As Sabine Von Dirke writes, “As existentialism broke out in Paris, the dark clothing broke the prescribed dress code and distinguished them from the nondescript majority culture”. However, like the best Dandies, Gréco is
much more than her aesthetic. It was Sartre who suggested she start singing, co-writing a song for her with Joseph Kosma, Rue des Blancs-Manteaux. “It is like a warm light that revives the embers inside all of us,” Sartre said of her voice. “It is thanks to her, and for her, that I have written songs. In her mouth, my words become precious stones.” Her singing debut at Le Boeuf sur Le Toit nightclub was a sensation, with Marlon Brando among the audience, while Eartha Kitt was performing around the corner at Carroll’s. Post-war Paris was steel reeling from the occupation, and the voices of Kitt and Gréco were helping it heal. For Juliette, singing was both a rebellion against the chaos of life and a display of freedom and hope for a new life. “It was a happy time,” Gréco said, “an explosion of freedom after the German occupation.” Gréco recorded her debut single, Je suis comme je suis (I Am What I Am), written by Jacques Prévert. The song was a hit, and she travelled to Brazil and America before returning to France on tour. By 1951, her singing career had taken off and she was no longer living off cigarette smoke and philosophy. Many of the great writers and songwriters of the time wrote songs for her, including Serge Gainsbourg (La Javanaise, 1962) and Georges Brassens (La marche nuptial, 1957). Despite finding success and a bit more food, her rebellious personality did not waver. In an interview Gréco stated, “When you have a stupid person in front of you, or someone who’s a little fascist, when you feel there are no more words, you feel like hitting them. So I did. And that’s how
Sartre once asked Miles Davis why he and Greco hadn’t married, and Davis replied that he “loved Juliette too much to make her unhappy.”
Cocteau saw me.” Jean Cocteau cast her in his 1949 film Orphée. Her beautiful face, husky voice and rebellious personality proved ideal for French cinema, and she consistently worked in film until the 1970s. She was even rebellious in the matter of love. When she was 22, Gréco met the legendary jazz musician Miles Davis. Despite the fact that Davis spoke no French and she spoke no English, theirs was a passionate on-and-off love affair that would last until Davis’s death in 1991. She said that Davis was “one of the most elegant men I have ever met.” Sartre once asked Miles Davis why they didn’t marry, and Davis replied that he “loved Juliette too much to make her unhappy.” Gréco described the abuse she and Davis received in America: “In America his colour was made blatantly obvious to me, whereas in Paris I didn’t even notice that he was black.” Concerned that Gréco’s career would be destroyed, they remained close – but not as close as they both wanted to be. 1949 America just
wasn’t ready for a black man and a white woman to be together. And so Gréco moved on. In 1953 she met and married her first husband, Phillipe Lemaire. They had a daughter a year later and divorced in 1956. In the late 1950s, she had a brief Hollywood career (and romantic relationship) with American film director Darryl F. Zanuck. She starred alongside Orson Welles in Roots of Heaven (1958) and Crack in the Mirror (1960). She was offered a seven-year contract in Hollywood, but she declined. During this time, she also met and married French actor Michel Piccoli. As it happened, neither Hollywood nor Piccoli were right for her, so she left Hollywood to return to France. Much of the 1950s had been focused on a film career, and so Juliette returned to her singing career in the 1960s. She released a new album at the age of 86, and didn’t stop performing until her farewell tour in 2016. Like so many Dandies, Gréco’s final bow off the stage lived up to the old
adage: leave them wanting more. “I am not afraid of dying,” she said, “I’m only afraid of having to stop singing. But you have to know when something is over.” Even if she’s no longer touring, it doesn’t mean Gréco has stopped being a French icon. Yves Saint Laurent asked Gréco to be their brand ambassador, for which she was photographed by creative director Hedi Slimane in 2014. After such a long and successful career, Gréco is still delighted when women in Paris stop her to tell her she has been an inspiration to them. Laughing, Juliette replies, “Phew! I have been useful after all.” More than anything, the Rebel Dandy proves indomitable. It is rare for a Dandy to live as long
as Gréco has, and even rarer not to have fallen to some scandal or ruin, forced into seclusion. Gréco’s rebellious spirit prevented this from happening. As a husky-voiced chanteuse and actress clad in black, the politically active anti-war face of the New Bohemian, who laughed and closed the door when Hollywood came calling for her, Gréco defied conformity. In The Rebel, Camus wrote that one should “Become so very free that your whole existence is an act of rebellion.” As the Rebel Dandy, Gréco defies definition. Like her famous song, Je Suis Comme Je Suis says, “I am what I am”. In an interview, Gréco said, “I think I could fly with only one wing – and that will be the left one.” Even today, Gréco continues to fly. n
OCEAN LINER CHIC Sandra Lawrence on sartorial elegance and deck etiquette from the golden age of the ocean liner
“The Duke and Duchess of Windsor never travelled with less than 90 pieces of personalised Maison Goyard kit. When Cunard suggested they were having difficulties storing so much baggage, the Windsors changed operator”
rom the late 19th century to the early 1960s, ocean liners ruled the waves. Gigantic monoliths built using the latest engineering techniques, they were also shop windows for cutting-edge design. Newer ships such as Normandie and the Île de France were early adopters of the moderne style. We call it Art Deco. The only way to experience full liner luxury was in first class, on the top decks. Second class passengers were expected to share cabins with strangers, while the poor sods in ‘steerage’ spent their days and nights in sweltering dormitories well below the tideline. Not that anyone would know about either of these lowly underclasses from the battery of magazines, movies newsreels and wireless broad-
casts. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers glittered their way across the Atlantic in the 1937 musical Shall We Dance, while Marilyn Monroe twirled every millionaire on board round her diamond-clad little finger in the 1953 classic Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She had a point. The great liners were the place to find millionaires – and celebrities. Rudolph Valentino, Noel Coward, James Stewart, Duke Ellington, Cary Grant; every crossing boasted a firmament of stars, as well as royalty. King George VI was a frequent traveller but his dazzling older brother Edward, and his equally dazzling wife Wallis Simpson trumped all. If you travelled first class, you hobnobbed with Quality. But what to wear? Modern ships were floating
cities boasting dance halls, swimming pools, tennis courts, smoking rooms, cocktail bars, libraries, cinemas, theatres and entire boulevards of boutiques. Socialites changed five times a day on land – why would they do anything less at sea? From that first, bracing turn around the deck after breakfast to the last, smouldering dance before bed, clothes had to be appropriate for the cactivity. If you committed a style faux pas at sea there was nowhere to hide. This could only mean one thing: vast amounts of baggage. Cases labelled ‘Not wanted on Voyage’ would be stored in the hold, along with the Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, the baby elephant and the leopards for onward travel into the south of France, Italian Riviera or Swiss Alps. For (largely aspirant) readers without valets to pack for them, magazines such as Vogue came to the rescue: “It is a safe rule not to wear on board ship any clothes in which you would be ashamed to be seen where you are best known. First impressions go a long way.” Even the baggage said something about its owner. New-fangled wardrobe trunks opened like conjurors’ magic boxes to reveal hanging space, shoe racks and drawers in ever-diminishing sizes to store everything from kid evening gloves to collar studs. Travellers owned sets of luggage by
designers such as Louis Vuitton, marked with their initials, numbers and coloured stripes – it was not to be assumed porters could read. No one carried as much clobber as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, never travelling with less than ninety pieces of personalised Maison Goyard kit. When Cunard gently tried to suggest they were having difficulties storing quite so much baggage, the ultimate maximalist couple changed operator. Conservative in style, liner chic was opulent in its execution, though during the day highly codified leisurewear was acceptable. Fashions gradually took on an international flavour, unsurprising given the frequency with which wealthy travellers swapped shores. American tuxedos mingled with British tweed, albeit not at the same hour of the day. Arguably the most important part of the entire voyage was boarding and disembarking. Alongside relatives arriving to wave off travellers, newsreels would often be in attendance, and for the local toughs liners were spectator sport. Vogue was on top of the problem. “You will of course, want to do credit to your town and country when you embark, so put aside your prettiest street costume and most becoming hat for wearing down to the dock,” it advised in 1903. By the 1920s, a smart, tailored suit for both sexes had become go-to gear, with the addition of a fur for the ladies and tweed travel coat for gents, in case of inclement weather. Even sitting quietly on deck, reading the specially printed daily newspaper (summarising international news but, more importantly, listing the day’s events schedule) would involve meeting
fellow guests. Since hoi polloi never made it to the sunshine, those guests would be worth meeting. To enjoy a promenade on deck, a navy, double-breasted blazer, Panama hat, light slacks and club or old school tie would suffice. Racier coves might swap the almost ubiquitous Fedora for a baker boy cap and even sport brown and white co-respondent shoes. American travellers sometimes preferred a straw boater and spotted bow tie. Nautical styling was firmly Out. While perennially chic for female passengers, anything even vaguely resembling a sailor suit or worse, a bellboy, busboy or porter’s outfit, was the ultimate in bad taste. Even this had an exception. El Bingo, the Great Crosby, managed to wear a white, peaked sailor’s cap and still look achingly hip. Perhaps it was the pipe that went with it. Anthony J. Drexel Biddle Jr (above right) was an American diplomat whose legendary style saw him appearing on ‘bestdressed men’ lists from the 1930s to 50s. During WWII he acted as ambassador to governments-inexile, travelling frequently. One of his deck outfits – a double-breasted, wool and silk suit combining striped blazer and cream trousers – forms part of the Ocean Liners: Speed and Style exhibition currently showing at the V&A museum. Every part of it, from the spotted cravat to the carefully chosen grey Fedora, whispers of elegance. Sports figured extensively on board. Quoits might be played in grey slacks and open-necked shirt, sleeves rolled to the elbows; something heavier would be needed for clay pigeon shooting. Nothing short of full tennis whites would suffice on
the courts. Swimming pools might be on deck, or sumptuous indoor affairs that sparked a worldwide industry in elegant swimwear. Early gents’ swimsuits tended to the all-in-one shorts and vest combo, often involving stripes. Later models lost the top, leaving high-waisted trunks with built-in belts. A terrycloth beach-robe and circular sunglasses completed the look. Perhaps the most famous example of men’s swimwear is Jane Russell’s eye-popping ensemble in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, where the black stripes on flesh-coloured shorts worn by a bevy of chorus boys have clearly been added to reassure myopic maiden aunts they are actually just about wearing clothes. Gaming of a different stripe, from bridge to poker, took place practically everywhere on board, including a daily tote where punters wagered the amount of miles the ship would cover that day. Men-only smoking rooms, decorated like gentlemen’s clubs, required similar dress codes, often stretched by American travellers enjoying a drink hundreds of miles from the longest arm of the Prohibition law. For lounging in one’s cabin between engagements, a fellow might look to the Orient. A souvenir Haori – men’s kimono jacket – in the V&A exhibition, made in the 1930s for the tourist market, includes images of the liner Empress of Asia, Mount Fuji, Yokohama (Japan’s main passenger port) and a random Fedora hat. However entertaining the day’s activities, everyone lived for the night. The Captain’s cocktail party usually took place on the second evening after
Vintage style menswear
leaving land and was something to dress for – unless you were Australian. Ladies would wear their very finest gowns but men leaving Oz would pointedly sport shorts, vests and ‘thongs’. Dining was a black-tie affair. First-class passengers could choose between the main dining room and an exclusive restaurant, though everyone hankered to be part of the Captain’s table where, anyone who arrived late would have to start their meal at whatever course the man himself was currently enjoying. The finest part of the truly great ships was the Grande Descente – an elegant staircase designed for guests to make a dramatic entrance. Ladies would contrive never to wear the same exquisite
gown twice, but men still had to ensure their own equipage was correct, whether black tie for dinner, tuxedo for cocktails, white tie for dancing, theatre and formal receptions. Was it all really as glamorous as the magazines claim? No seasickness? No storms? No slopped soup? No huddled masses seething down by the boiler rooms? There are – often satirical – accounts of ‘real’ life on the cruise ships but, for the pampered few in First Class, it really does seem the band played on. For a while, at least. By the 1960s jet planes were the new glamour tempting the fickle few. Some liners continued to sail but the strict rules and conservative tastes of old clashed with modern trends. A striking, zigzag patterned, Austin Powers-style suit, with lace cravat and psychedelic shirt (right), worn by Geoffrey Osmint at the captain’s table on the QEII in 1969, failed to impress. Despite its immaculate pedigree – Tom Gilbey of Savile Row – the International Man of Business realised too late that everyone else was still in black tie. “I’m afraid we stood out,” he wrote. So did the great ships. The world had moved on, leaving a lifestyle of luxury and privilege in its wake. n
CROSSING THE LINE As obscure as a Freemason’s initiation, strange, on-board rituals might happen at any time of the day or voyage, throwing sartorial curveballs to the unwary. A passenger’s first crossing of the equator occasioned much horseplay from the crew, who would dress up as King Neptune and his court and josh with said guest to the amusement of all. Neptune would be petitioned by the captain for permission to ‘cross the line’. The sea king would grant assent, in return for a human sacrifice, to be thrown overboard. After much negotiation and false starts, the sentence would be commuted to a dunking in the swimming pool, a daubing with foam, shaving with a large wooden razor and a powdering of soot. Eventually the hapless guest would stagger back to their cabin, having been presented with a certificate so as never to endure such
humiliation again. Until, that was, they crossed the International Date Line. Old lags advised good-quality flannel trousers and a casual shirt; something one’s valet wouldn’t have too much trouble sponging down afterwards.
MICHAEL PALIN Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer met comic legend Michael Palin, to discuss Ripping Yarns, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, travel attire, notebooks and Yorkshire accents
“I was able to make people laugh, and you gravitate towards other people with your sense of humour and you end up with a circle of people who are slightly subversive gigglers”
Was there a point where you ever developed a Yorkshire accent? You tend to pick up your accent from your parents, and mine were Oxford English, I suppose. But if I was with certain people I’d begin to pick up a Sheffield accent. But since then I’ve done loads of Yorkshire characters, in Ripping Yarns and so forth, and I realised I’m actually very fond of Sheffield, even though I haven’t lived there for 50 years. I think the place where you were brought up has a very strong influence on you; it’s bound to, as a lot of your first impressions all come from your first 20 years.
ou were born in Yorkshire. You’ve had lots of Yorkshire characters, but was your family steeped in Yorkshire from way back? My mother and father weren’t Yorkshire people. We ended up there because my father was an engineer. It was during the Depression in the 1930s and he couldn’t get any work down in the south, so he ended up working first in Hull, then Leeds, and then he went to Sheffield towards the end of the 30s, where he found work with a company called Newton Chambers, who made lavatories and things like that. It’s gone down in the files, from some journalist, that they made lavatory paper, but that’s not quite right
I once went on holiday with some friends from Leeds, and by the end of it, I was speaking Leeds. I find that when I’m with Yorkshire people [breaks into broad Yorkshire accent] it’s lovely, I kind of get very easily into it… It’s a very comfortable accent,
Photo © Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer
and I’m sure he wouldn’t like to have been remembered as a man who made lavatory paper!
it slows things down. I mean Cockney’s all very quick, isn’t it? [breaks into Cockney accent]: out the back door, get in the van, off you go, you’re nicked!
and their gestures. I found I could reproduce it and people would say, hey, that’s brilliant, that’s just like Mr. Quinney. So you’re not just reproducing them, you’re putting familiar people in unusual situations, which is what comedy is all about.
Were you a natural performer at school? Well yes, I was able to make up stories and characters. I remember when I was ten years old – it was 1953, the Coronation year – and I used to do a little ‘act’, “Michael’s doing one of his acts in the milk room”. And I’d just go in there and improvise a story about the coronation, things going wrong and that sort of stuff. It was a bit of improv, though I’m far too scared to do improv now. So I was able to make people laugh, and you gravitate towards other people with your sense of humour and you end up with a circle of people who are slightly subversive gigglers. I was a giggler, absolutely anything could set me off. There’d be some reading around the class and I knew the word ‘breasts’ was coming up and it would set me off. But also it was from watching other people, observing what was going on and how they moved
When you first met Terry Jones at Oxford, did you immediately notice each other? I made a very good friend on day one who wasn’t a humourist himself, but he loved Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers, but he also had an appreciation of theatre and that sort of stuff, which I didn’t have, and he pushed me towards acting. I first saw Terry in a production somewhere. He was a year ahead of me and he was quite well-known. The first thing that struck me was what a nice bloke he was. He had no airs and graces and, my God, there were plenty of people at Oxford who did, who liked to cultivate a slightly mysterious persona. So with Terry it was sort of love at first sight really. We had a similar idea of what humour could do and where it should go, mainly because we both
liked characters; we both appreciated that comedy wasn’t just jokes. Terry has a great line in pathos. We did a play about capital punishment in 1964, which Terry and I and others helped write, and Terry played the condemned man throughout it. He could convey emotion, regret, sadness very well. It made me think, he’s the real thing, he’s not a poser – like me! When you finished university, was there a period when you thought, what am I going to do now? There was a definite period of ‘What am I going to do now?’ which has extended to the present day. At that time, I thought I was going to the BBC to be a general trainee, which was how people got into the BBC from university, and you basically end up in BBC management. But my heart wasn’t in it. I found I just wasn’t interested in the whole process of being interviewed. So I failed to get the general traineeship and I had to look around. A friend of a friend at Oxford said he knew these two guys who were writing a new television pop show but with more cultural content. They were looking for a bit of humour and a bit of fashion – would I audition? So I did and that was the first job I got after leaving university.
“I mean Cockney’s all very quick, isn’t it [breaks into Cockney accent]: out the back door, get in the van, off you go, you’re nicked!” Was that called ‘Now!’? Yes that’s right – with the very important exclamation mark. Well that kept me going for about six or seven months, during which period I got married, which was a reckless thing to do at that age. But I was working with Terry and he was employed at the BBC in the script department, so I used to go and help him write stuff. We ended up writing for the Frost Report, which got our names in front of people who wrote and acted, and that’s where we met all the other Pythons, in 1966. It didn’t pay
anything, but I felt it was the way I wanted to go. The first thing that gave me some stability was Do Not Adjust Your Set, a 13-part series which I wrote with Terry and Eric Idle and appeared in alongside David Jason. That gave us enough money to feel more secure, then we’d do commercials or whatever came along, but we never really made much money until Python broke in America. That was 1973, so there was quite a long period where you were just doing what came along. But because Python was a sucess d’estime, people would see what you’d done and become quite interested. So I ended up being asked by Stephen Frears to be in Three Men in a Boat. I was watching lots of clips yesterday, because it would have been Rik Mayall’s 60th birthday. Was it really? People often ask me, who do you miss most, or who did you rate, and I always thought Rik was a stellar talent. The pitching of the Young Ones to the BBC sounds similar to you pitching Monty Python, in that they couldn’t really explain what they were going to do. You can’t really audition comedy like you can interview someone who designs bridges or wants to work in the foreign office or something. You’ve just got to hope that somebody on that panel, or somebody somewhere, will just come out and say, hey, you’re great! That didn’t actually happen to us early on; it took quite a long time before we found people who were in a position of power who liked Python. The people who really liked Python were people like us of our age. Although one strand that was always very fond of Python was the music business. Groups loved watching it, perhaps they saw similar acts of rebellion in what we were doing through comedy to what they were doing, smashing guitars on stage and everything. We’re all trying to make a sound that is different. Are you aware of the Chap Olympiad? It seems to be a combination of Upper Class Twit of the Year and the Silly Olympics. Ah well, I might have to consult my lawyers! So what happens?
sense of humour, but I never saw that at all. People have been influenced by it, in the way we were influenced by the Goons, to take risks and do weirdly conceptual things, like having the television switch off in the middle of a programme, but we were just having fun with the medium. It was just mischiefmaking, really. Mischief is quite a difficult thing to pull off and you can’t export it to somebody else. There wasn’t actually a formula to Python at all.
Everyone dresses up and takes part in things like Not Playing Tennis and Butler Baiting. One year only they had Shouting at Foreigners. They had a chap dressed up as a foreigner, wearing a fez, and contestants had to enter his shop and demand certain items… That’s very Pythonic! We had a game show called ‘Prejudice’ where you had to decide who was the worst nation on Earth. It was hosted by a manic man who would probably be Nigel Farrage now. You had to find the worst name you could for a foreigner. Miserable Fat Belgian Bastard won. The most extraordinary PS to that story was that, I think it was Terry who met a Belgian and apologised profusely straight away for the jokes about Belgians, explaining that we don’t mean it. And this Belgian said no, you’re right – we are miserable fat bastards!
It was a universal silliness which they got in America, which might not work with something like Vic and Bob, for example. I think Python worked in America even though they didn’t understand what vicars were, or cricket, but I think they quite liked the fact that they didn’t. It was a certain time when television was becoming quite bland, so there was a lot to rebel against by watching Python. No commercial TV company would ever show it, so that’s why people were enjoying it.
“So many people say that Python created a whole new sense of humour, but I never saw that at all” Where did the Gumbys come from? He was a character who had these moronic views that were expressed with extraordinary force. The first Gumby was actually played by John, standing in a stream in gumboots [does Gumby voice]: “I’ve been standing in this stream for a week.” We had to decide what he’d wear, so he had gumboots because he was in a stream, then the knotted handkerchief on his head and a striped sleeveless sweater. From then on, I wrote most of the sketches so I tended to do the Gumby character. Terry Gilliam had to play Gumby in the O2 show. It was funny seeing this director who had worked with Hollywood stars worrying about how to arrange the flowers as Gumby. In the end he did it so well we couldn’t get him off the stage!
In Escape from Stalag Luft, the whole story hangs on him being the only one who wants to escape. Yes, that was the one idea about that one. I was brought up on wartime escape stories, so I knew what the format was. One tough guy would come along, and all the others would go, yes, let’s do it! But somehow it didn’t convince me; there had to be another side to it.
A lot of stand-up comedy these days is just a bloke in a shirt on stage talking about his life. Exactly – autobiographical and quite attitudinal. Pro-women, anti-men, or pro-men, anti-women. So many people say that Python created a whole new
Photo © Tom Palin
You went on to do Ripping Yarns after that. I suppose you took that Python silliness and put it into a more enclosed space? Yes, Terry and I were very conscious that if we did something outside Python, it musn’t be like Python. So the 30-minute narrative was seen as a different format, but there were still quite a number of Python characters in there, but using them as part of a longer story. I remember thinking at certain times, I wish we’d written this for Python. We had some good actors: Denholm Elliott, Ken Collie, Roy Kinnear. But they didn’t quite understand; there was a short-cut to Python humour that all the Pythons absolutely got, so there was a certain amount of adjustment.
ten or fifteen minutes, though sometimes it gets a bit longer. I can’t stop now; I’ve kept a diary since 1969.
I also really enjoyed the passing the port to the right scene in Roger of the Raj, which ends up with everybody going outside and shooting themselves. John Le Mesurier was in that one. And a wonderful performance by Alan Cuthbertson, very British officer-like, who said, “I think women should be allowed to pass the port, and toss their hair, and flash their beautiful eyes…” It was a wonderful paean to women and their beauty, and at the end Lord Bartlesham says, ‘You know what to do’. And he goes out and shoots himself. That was a good example of how doing it absolutely straight delivers a much better laugh. Can I just take a closer look at your notebook? I have slightly larger ones, as you know, but that is quite a nice one.
I understand you’ve designed a special bag for your travels? That’s right, specially custom-made for me by Whitehouse Cox in the midlands. The bag is very important because you’re out all day filming, so you’ve got to take your notebook, your schedule, your tape recorder, a map, a guide book, a phrase book, a water bottle, and by that time it’s getting quite heavy. And you’ve got to know where everything is, in case you suddenly have to write something down or whatever. Sometimes the bag also became my pillow, if I was camping in the desert. I’ve noticed that you always wear the same outfit, the Chambray shirt and the chinos. Unless you’re making a point about changing your outfit, you might as well have something that’s more or less a uniform. Also, sometimes when it’s put together, filmed over two days, you don’t want to be wearing something completely different. It’s also much easier when you’re travelling not to have to think about what you’re going to wear in the morning. The approach is about the people I meet. But there is a reason for the blue shirts. Cameramen don’t like you to wear white because of contrast and glare, but blue is absolutely fine.
It’s a Muji; it comes in a larger format too, in fact I’ve got one right here. That is actually very nice, I like that. I imagine that on your travels you have a notebook with you all the time? Yes, it’s the number one thing. I have a little tape recorder as well, so I can dictate my thoughts and feelings. Sometimes writing in a notebook is quite difficult, especially in hot countries, though I still regard the notebook as the supreme form of record keeping. Some of the writing’s probably quite difficult to decipher. It gets a bit wild at night, when you’ve had a few and you think, there’s something I really want to say to my notebook. Like when your voice goes up when you’ve had a few, so the writing becomes a bit bigger. Those notebooks form the basis of all those travel books. I attach a lot of significance to the fact that they’re done at the time. It may not be terribly well expressed, but to me it’s quite important because you never get that moment back again. Then when you read it back much later, you sometimes get the feeling back that you had when you wrote it.
I watched The Death of Stalin and I thought it was brilliant. Was that the first time you’ve worked with Armando Ianucci? Yes, he’s very good. For someone who’s so good at creating mayhem, observing panic and shouting and swearing, he has rather a quiet presence; never raises his voice. That period was a horrible time and people say, how can you make comedy out of that? And yet comedy is one of the only responses to something as horrific as that. If you can find these people ridiculous then I think you’ve done something to defuse the power they might have had over you. These are not great statesmen you’re dealing with; they’re just people who’ve got into power, largely because they probably did deals and betrayed friends. They’re actually fairly
You’re also a prolific diary writer? Yes, I still keep the diaries. I always do the diary at the same time, usually in the morning. I just sit and do it like you clean your teeth or something. Usually
weak characters. It’s also a very well-dressed film, I thought. The costumes had just the right degree of crumpled-ness and distress. Yes, in a lot of period dramas you’ll find everybody wearing utterly pristine, tailored garments and it doesn’t look very authentic. All the outfits that the various different ministers wore were just right. Molotov had his immaculate suit, while Malankov had this strange white garb, buttoned up to the top. Finally, would you like talk about what you’re working on at the moment? It’s a book called Erebus, the Story of a Ship. I became quite interested in these two little ships that had gone down to Antarctica in 1839. It was a voyage no-one remembers, yet they were four years down in the Antarctic, just sailing through ice fields, past icebergs, having collisions. It was incredibly courageous stuff. They came back four years later with quite a lot of information, having mapped a lot of the south, having reached further south than
anyone had reached before. And then, in 1845, the two ships were enlisted to take the John Franklin expedition to find the northwest passage, which was a complete disaster and the ships disappeared, and all 129 men disappeared off the face of the Earth. And then this incredible find a few years ago, where they discovered the ship under the water in the Canadian Arctic. They’re now examining it, to see what they can tell about the mysteries of the expedition. What I’d like to do, rather than just tell the horror story or even the triumph, is just do the story of this ship; where it came from, where it was built, why it became an Antarctic ship. n
The Michael Palin Travel Bag www.themichaelpalin.com
â€œYou are either in your bed or in your shoes, so it pays to invest in both.â€? John Wildsmith
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SARTORIAL The Dandy Explorer Fashion Shoot (p44) • Rowing Blazers (p54) • JoJo Elgarice (p60) • Koy Clothing (p62) • Grey Fox Column (p66) • Shooting the Cuffs (p70) • Tweed on film (p72) • Vesta Tilley (p83) • Summer Fashion Shoot (p88) 43 Photograph: Soulstealer Photography
THE DANDY EXPLORER 2018 marks the fifth anniversary of Mr. Fogg’s Residence, a plush bar in Mayfair modelled on the home of Jules Verne’s adventurer Phileas Fogg PHOTOGRAPHS BY SOULSTEALER PHOTOGRAPHY MODELS: HOLLY ROSE SWINYARD, JONNY HAART, KEVIN ZWIERZCHACZEWSKI, STEWART LISTER VICKERS, JEZ HELLION, PETER PRINCE, PANDORA HARRISON, SUNDAY SWIFT MR. FOGG’S RESIDENCE, 15 BRUTON LANE, LONDON W1J 6JD TEL: 020 7036 0608 WWW.MR-FOGGS.COM/RESIDENCE THANKS TO MARCO AND EMMA AT MR. FOGG’S RESIDENCE
JONNY HAART WEARS: WIDE BRIMMED HAT (SOURCE UNKNOWN) SILK VELVET EMBROIDERED FROCK COAT WITH OSTRICH FEATHER TRIM, MADE IN THE 1880S FOR SATTERFIELD BYE & CO UNDERTAKERS, MANCHESTER SILK WAISTCOAT FROM THE PROP STORE, MADE FOR THE 2013 TV SERIES DRACULA
(LEFT) KEVIN ZWIERZCHACZEWSKI WEARS: COAT: MADCAP TROUSERS: TOPMAN SHOES: ROCCO'S SHOES, MELBOURNE HAND-MADE VELVET WAISTCOAT: DONATED BY WIFE OF ELDERLY INDIAN POST OFFICE ATTENDANT, HAGGERSTON SHIRT: PRETTY GREEN HANDMADE SILK CRAVAT HAT OF UNKNOWN PROVENANCE, FOUND IN HIGHGATE, LONDON (CENTRE) STEWART LISTER VICKERS WEARS: SUIT: DOLCE & GABBANA SHIRT: DARCY CLOTHING SHOES: J. FITZPATRICK RINGS: THE GREAT FROG AND SEVENTH CIRCLE ARTWORKS (RIGHT) PETER PRINCE WEARS: VINTAGE MOSS BROS BOWLER HAT MOSS BROS BLACK SILK BOW TIE: EARLY 20TH CENTURY FROCK COAT TOPMAN VELVET TROUSERS TOPMAN SHOES DRESS SHIRT BY WASHINGTON TREMLETT LTD, LONDON (SECOND FROM RIGHT) JEZ HELLION WEARS: LINEN PLEATED FRONT EARLY VICTORIAN SHIRT FROM DARCY CLOTHING BLACK YORKSHIRE WOOL ‘HIGH RISER’ TROUSERS FROM OLD TOWN ‘WIDEAWAKE’ HAT TEALIGHT SHADED GLASSES BESPOKE WAISTCOAT BESPOKE COAT CO-RESPONDENT TAP SHOES
STEWART WEARS: SUIT: DOLCE & GABBANA SHIRT: DARCY CLOTHING SHOES: J. FITZPATRICK RINGS: THE GREAT FROG AND SEVENTH CIRCLE ARTWORKS
HOLLY WEARS: 1940S DRESS TROUSERS FROM HAPPY DAIS VINTAGE VINTAGE TAILCOAT FROM EBAY WHITE SHIRT FROM MARKS AND SPENCER HAND-MADE BLACK WAISTCOAT SILK TOP HAT FROM VINTAGE TO VOGUE, BATH MOSS BROS WHITE BOW TIE H&M BLACK PATENT SHOES
PANDORA WEARS: EGYPTIAN REVIVAL THEMED 1920S ‘ONE-HOUR DRESS’ MADE FROM A VINTAGE SARI BY MS. HARRISON 1920S-STYLE SHOES BY MISS L-FIRE
(LEFT) KEVIN WEARS: COAT: MADCAP TROUSERS: TOPMAN SHOES: ROCCO'S SHOES, MELBOURNE VELVET WAISTCOAT: HANDMADE SHIRT: PRETTY GREEN HANDMADE SILK CRAVAT WAISTCOAT: DONATED BY WIFE OF ELDERLY INDIAN POST OFFICE ATTENDANT, HAGGERSTON (CENTRE) JONNY WEARS: SILK TOP HAT: REX BARBISIO, MILAN CA. 1870-1890. ANTIQUE 19TH CENTURY SKULLTOPPED CANE FROM MARK SULLIVAN ANTIQUES, LONDON WHITE SILK BOW TIE, TAILCOAT, SILK WAISTCOAT AND TROUSERS FROM THE PROP STORE, MADE FOR THE 2013 TV SERIES ‘DRACULA’ ‘MUTE COLLECTION’ SHOES FROM EBAY, ORIGINALLY FROM JAPAN (RIGHT) STEWART WEARS: SUIT: DOLCE & GABBANA SHIRT: DARCY CLOTHING SHOES: J. FITZPATRICK RINGS: THE GREAT FROG AND SEVENTH CIRCLE ARTWORKS BOWLER HAT: CHRISTY’S
ROWING BLAZERS Liam Jefferies meets the man behind a company that has set out to create the perfect boating blazer
“Like the court liveries and armorial devices of medieval Europe, rowing blazers are ceremonial vestments, worn to emphasise both community and difference: to impress, intimidate, and influence”
here are few items of clothing more in line with the ideology of Chappishness than the blazer. A three-piece tweed whistle will always serve as a winter staple, but for a single garment that denotes both a sense of old-world savoir-faire and go-to-hell exuberance, only a blazer will suffice. The origins of the blazer lie with the sport of rowing. Originally, a blazer was defined as a flannel sport coat, unlined, without vents and with easily accessible patch pockets and a striking design in line with the early sporting attire of the time. The primary concept of the blazer was practicality, from the hardy towel-like flannel material, cut for athletic pursuit and to defend from inclement weather, to the bright colours, designed to stand out in the water and aid spectators in determining which crew was which. The Oxford-Cambridge races began in 1829, with Henley Regatta following a decade later. The earliest adopted use of the moniker ‘blazer’ was
used in reference to the bright red jackets of the Lady Margaret boating club, Cambridge (Est. 1825), discovered in The Cambridge University Almanack & Register from 1852. Oarsmen, infatuated with their hard-earned apparel, began to sport them on land and before long the practice was adopted by cricket, polo and rugby players too. By the 1890s the blazer was already an integral part of a chap’s daily dress.
An intriguing tradition in Dutch rowing is that blazers are handed down the generations, and as a result are generally quite ill-fitting. Another rule states that a blazer may only be washed when a varsity race is won, and as such, a vast amount are seen stained with river water, sweat and ale. It is this sense of cavalier casualness that made the blazer the ‘hoodie’ of its day, crossing sartorial lines between formal and casual not seen since the Oxford shirt. The story of the Rowing Blazers brand begins with Dr. Jack Carlson, American archaeologist, author, three-time member of the US national rowing team and all-round chap of the highest order. Having won the Henley Royal Regatta and the Head of the Charles Regatta, Jack is also a World Championship bronze medalist and has a Ph.D. in archaeology at Oxford. During his time at Oxford, drawing on an obsession with heraldry, vexillology, menswear and academia, Jack wrote the acclaimed tome Rowing Blazers, a celebration of the history and construction details of the jacket he knows down to the last stitch. The chief source of inspiration behind the Rowing Blazers brand is a direct result of the cataloguing of traditions, rituals and myths surrounding rowing culture, alongside heraldic blazonry, sartorial irreverence, cryptic nuance and those-in-the-know homage. All Rowing Blazers’ garments are handmade in New York City, using high quality wool and cotton sourced
in Great Britain, Italy, Japan and the United States. As Jack himself puts it, “Like the court liveries and armorial devices of medieval Europe, the street gang colours of Compton, and the patches and badges of the Hell’s Angels, rowing blazers are tribal totems. They are ceremonial vestments, worn to emphasise both community and difference: to impress, intimidate, and influence.” There is a wealth of idiosyncratic and varied garments to choose from in the Rowing Blazers catalogue, each complementing
the other in a ‘house style’ that reflect a Kennedy-era vivacity and charm, from polo and rugby shirts to belts, scarves, patches and vintage prints, art and general objets d’Americana. A favourite piece for the Chap has to be the Navy Stripe Blazer (pictured below). With Baltic blue and cream striping, three patch pockets, single button cuffs and both ventless and unlined, the piece is a bona fide blazer, both athletic in cut and reminiscent of the natural-shoulder loungewear of the 1930s. Constructed from a rugged flannel from a historic Scottish mill comprised of three quarters wool and one quarter cotton, the blazer serves its provenance well, and is equally suitable for cold morning training on the river or the warm confines of the tavern. In choosing his colours, Jack incorporates the club colours with which he won the Henley Royal Regatta in 2013, and after considering the smorgasbord of vintage blazers collated for his book, chose a stripe width that reflects the authenticity of the garment. The buttoning is something known as a ‘3-roll-2’, relatively unheard-of except among tailors here in the UK, but especially favoured by clothiers on the other side of the Pond. The 3/2 jacket has a standard three-button closure, but the lapel is pressed to roll directly after the middle button, effectively giving the wearer a choice of either two or three buttons, while still conforming to the ‘sometimes, always, never’ rule of buttoning one’s coat. The design has its origin at the beginning of the 20th Century, when fashion dictated that three
was out and two was in, forcing Ivy League students in their droves to steam their lapels back. The buttonhole left on the lapel is adorned with a handmade cloisonné fob badge inspired by those worn by members of the Leander Club and Stewards’ Enclosure at Henley, designed to hang alongside the brass house buttons, also engraved with the brand’s motto: Destitutus Ventis Remos Adhibe (‘If the wind will not serve, take to the oars’). Another favourite of the Chap is the Dodo tie, handmade from 100% Japanese wool in a gorgeously slubby knit, a conservative 2 7/8" width and featuring a single embroidered satin motif of the extinct bird Raphus Cucullatus, whose last sighting was 1662. The motif serves as a frank reminder that ‘man manages to ruin absolutely everything’ and perfectly complements the ‘go-to-hell’ attitude evident in the truest of preppy garb and in spades throughout Rowing Blazers garments. If the devil truly is in the details, consider Dr. Carlson firmly in league.
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One of these colourful jackets even gave us the word â€˜blazerâ€™: it was the nickname of the blazing red jacket of Lady Margaret Boat Club at Cambridge. Dr. Jack Carlson, founder, Rowing Blazers
A CHAT WITH DR. JACK L. CARLSON, FOUNDER OF ROWING BLAZERS How did Rowing Blazers first come into being? While I was at Oxford, I wrote a coffee-table book called Rowing Blazers, about the traditions, myths and rituals related to the blazer tradition at rowing clubs around the world. During my research for the book, I re-discovered the origin of the blazer. There’s a false etymology that places the genesis of the blazer with the HMS Blazer. In reality, the blazer originates as a casual jacket worn by oarsmen at Cambridge and Oxford in the early 19th century. It was something men would wear to jog down to training in the morning, and possibly wear in the boat while they warmed up (or even keep on for racing in cold weather). Rowers quickly began wearing them around their colleges as well, in social settings, where they were something of a status symbol. These jackets were wool flannel, unvented, unlined, with patch pockets, and usually made in the colours of its respective boat club or college. One of these colourful jackets even gave us the word ‘blazer:’ it was the nickname of the blazing red jacket of Lady Margaret Boat Club at Cambridge. Second, in the course of writing my book, I accumulated a decent collection of vintage rowing blazers. I studied them. I looked at their details and the way they were constructed. I realised that no-one was really making proper blazers like them anymore; and that many of the features that make a blazer were largely ignored nowadays: the fact that it should be unlined in the back (which is more difficult today, because the interior seams have to be beautifully finished by hand), or the fact that there should be no vent (the vent is an innovation of riding). So I decided to set up Rowing Blazers. At first it was a side project for me while I was training on the national team. It was a lot of work finding the right people who could do all the handwork necessary, but the result is beautiful. We make everything by hand in the US, UK or Europe. We started by making blazers for rowing clubs and universities and, in May of last year, opened up to the world. Aside from the book, what other inspirations are behind the brand? The brand is all about classic British and American menswear; especially those aspects that originate in the world of sport. It’s about producing the classics in the most traditional, authentic way possible,
and simultaneously bringing those classics into the modern world. Aside from the world of rowing, and the blazer tradition documented in the book, I also draw on my time at Oxford generally. For the graphics and iconography, such as they are, I draw on my archaeological career, and also on my work in the field of heraldry. I don’t like it when the likes of Ralph Lauren use phony-baloney coats of arms, or, even worse, adapt the coats of arms of real Oxbridge colleges. How important is sourcing material and Made-in-USA construction to the brand? The material is very important. The flannel, for example, needs to have that slightly fuzzy, brushed hand, but also needs to be comfortable year-round. The cotton jersey needs to be high-tension, heavyweight and have a dry hand. We use British, Italian, American and Japanese fabrics. Made-in-USA is important, but what’s really important about it is being able to work with the people sewing the garments directly; to show them the vintage blazers, for example, and draw their attention to certain construction techniques and details. What does the future hold for Rowing Blazers? I’d like to position the brand as the go-to for the most authentic blazers, rugby shirts, and polo jerseys. When someone wants a beautifully made blazer, with all the right details and trappings, I want them to think of us. The beauty of the rowing blazer is its versatility. What is your favourite outfit with a blazer? I like a white shirt, flannel trousers, and a club tie; alternatively a rugby shirt and corduroys. Have you read the Chap before? Of course! I was very proud and amused when The Chap organised a protest against the opening of Abercrombie & Fitch on Savile Row. n
Jojo wears: 1970s German Workwear Shirt, S/S 2000 Stone Island Overshirt (Designed by Paul Harvey), 1960s Belstaff ‘Sammy Miller’ Trialmaster in Green, trousers from an unfamiliar dark blue cotton drill, Tricker’s ‘Bourton’ Brogues, Omega ‘Seamaster’ Chronograph Watch
JOJO ELGARICE Liam Jefferies meets Sheffield vintage impresario Jojo Elgarice
& Jones Oxfords. Bill mixes it up and that’s what I like. He once said to me “I sell style, not vintage”, very strong words that always stuck in my head. I love to see the way style develops too. A good example is when I first met one of my now best customers. He came into the shop and came across quite rude, “Where are all the big sizes, where’s all the extra large, mate?” I explained that it didn’t work like that and everything was a one-off and that he would have to dig a little harder. We rubbed each other the wrong way at first, but he later left with a pair of Rich Brown Bespoke 1930s Officer’s Jodhpur Boots. Since then his style has developed immensely, the shiny Hugo Boss leather multi-pocket has been ditched for an array of vintage Belstaff Jackets. The slim jeans have transformed into LVC 501XX. The Canada goose jacket is now a 1980s Berghaus, and he’s also become addicted to Nigel Cabourn. Over the past few years I’ve dressed him, his wife and his kids. It’s amazing in life how you can start off on really bad terms and become so close. He’s really adopted the ‘Buy less, Choose well’ mentality. His son wears a 1970s Belstaff ‘Trialmaster’ and when he grows out of it his daughter will have it. Good style is also about good quality; it lasts. It can be patched, fixed, repaired, resoled and it will just get better with age and time.
ojo, tell us about your idea of style. What is Style? Style is like beauty and it’s in the eye of the beholder. So let’s get started with my views on style. Personally speaking, when it comes to style I’m a little bit greedy. The reason being I like menswear from many different eras. My first rule is having no rules; life’s full of enough red tape and stitch counters as it is, so why limit your own style? What I’m trying to say is that I like to pick the best bits from every era and blend them together and create a contemporary new look. I wear French Workwear from the 1880s with Italian Sportswear from the 1990s, and might even team it up with some bespoke Edward Green shoes if I’m feeling fruity. Nothing is saved for ‘best’ and I like to wear whatever I feel like on that day. I’ll fasten that bottom button on the waistcoat if it looks better and my trousers might be too short or too long sometimes, but I think style has a lot to do with how you carry yourself. Two people could be wearing exactly the same outfit and one could be wearing the gear and the other, well the gear could simply be wearing them! How about those who dress exclusively in vintage garb from one era? I don’t think it’s original when someone is head to toe in 1940s clothing; sometimes it works really well but often it looks too contrived and a little ill-fitting. It’s the same when people go too heavy with the military kit; something subtle can still make a great impact. My good friend Bill Hornets of ‘Hornets of Kensington’ has told me some incredible stories of his personal opinions of style, and perhaps he would be a good person for this article next time around? I recently nicknamed Bill ‘The Godfather of Style’ because I think he screams it. When I first met Bill I was sat on the wall outside one of his shops on Kensington Church Street, and straight away he had a presence. Style to me has an instant impact, it stops you in your step; you instantly know whether the person has got it going on or not. Bill was wearing an old Knackered 40s Tootal Scarf with a stunning heavilyworn rugged Ralph Lauren Corduroy jacket. He teamed it up with some beautifully broken-in Crockett
Jojo’s General Store, Rag Parade, Ecclesall Rd, Sheffield n
KOY CLOTHING Liam Jefferies on an Anglo-African collaboration making an economic and sartorial difference
â€œKoy Clothing is a British company that strives to bring the zest and zeal of Kenyan fabric to the streets of Britain, and in turn support the African tribes from which said fabric originates.â€?
ith the imminent arrival of that oxymoron which is the British Summertime, it is considered cricket once more for colour to emerge in flagrante in a Chapâ€™s outfit. Banished to the back of the wardrobe are the dark tones of winter, allowing flashes of brightness to be found on shirts, socks and, God forbid, shoelaces of Chaps in both town and country. Koy Clothing is a British company that strives to bring the zest and zeal of Kenyan fabric to the streets of Britain, and in turn support the African tribes from which said fabric originates. The brand began with two brothers, Alistair and Jimmy Scott. Raised in Kenya, East Africa as expatriates, the two are no strangers to the bold and bright colourings of fabrics used by the Kenyan people, and their aim
is to unite authentic African cloth with the elegance of British dress. Working closely with the Maasai Intellectual Property Initiative and the African IP Trust, the brand donates 5% of all sales to support the indigenous cultures from which the inspiration for Koy Clothing
is derived. Kenya’s best-known tribe, the Maasai, provide most of the inspiration, but Koy also uses colouring and designs from other indigenous groups such as the Luo, Kamba and Gusii tribes. Made in Britain, Koy jackets are constructed from Kikoy, a traditional cloth made of 100% cotton which, as well as being hard-wearing, is available in a vast range of distinct and impressive colourways, all dyed using local fabric dyes and traditional methods. Koy also make a more subdued take on their blazer, the Nusu Jacket (‘half ’ in Swahili), made from pure wool with subtle lining on the underside of the lapel, vent lining and along the – working – cuff buttons. Alongside the idiosyncratic blazers, Koy offer a wealth of alternative garments in their beloved fabrics. Self-tie bow ties are constructed from the Kikoy fabric, as well as waistcoats, shirts, and a marvellous range of belts and dog collars, for those who just wish for a subtle suggestion of Afroinspired sartorial elegance for themselves and their faithful friend. As is expected with fine British tailoring, there are of course made-to-measure options across the jackets, waistcoats and shirting ranges. One can provide one’s own measurements (at one’s own risk,
I might add), or more sensibly, visit the Koy tailor in central London. Further to this, the brand also offers a bespoke service, and can work with team or club colours, even stretching as far as to provide a full suiting service, for the true dandy-about-town. So if you are yearning for true individuality in the Summer months, so awash in a sea of navy and beige, look beyond the grey streets of Britain to the brighter scape of the African continent, and help give something back to those who have given so much in the form of influence.
Q&A: Jimmy & Alastair Scott, Koy Clothing How did the idea of Koy Clothing first come about? What was the initial inspiration? At first we did not think we would be creating a clothing company. Alastair (older brother) wanted to buy a stripy jacket for Jimmy (younger brother) to wear on his birthday to stand out and be the centre of attention. Alastair had a look around in the shops and online, but could not find what he had in mind. Then it occurred to him that the fantastic colourful Kikoy fabric that we are so familiar with in Kenya would be the perfect material to create
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such a jacket. So, Alastair went to the markets in Kenya to buy some cloth, took it to a tailor with rough design ideas and created the first ever KOY jacket. The compliments kept coming about the jacket, and soon we saw a much bigger picture with exciting opportunities. Growing up in Kenya and going to boarding school in the UK gave us the inspiration to incorporate both worlds through luxury fashion, and also help support the country we grew to love so much. The more we researched into the cultural influences in fashion, we realised that so many brands around the world use cultural inspirations within their designs, although many of those brands fail to give recognition to the cultures which inspired them. We therefore made it our mission to try and change this and influence brands to recognise the value of cultural inspirations. We do this by giving 5% of every sale we make to projects within each community that inspire us.
100% locally sourced materials. Our belts are fully hand-crafted in Kenya by the Maasai, and currently there is a split for the other products between UK, China and Kenya. However, the long-term goal is to produce everything in Kenya, as we believe this will be the best way to support the country and its economy, by employing local workers. The first ‘Made in Kenya’ shirts will be launched this summer, which we are super excited about! How flexible are the made-to-measure/ bespoke options? Infinitely flexible; there is basic made-to-measure, which has options for the vents, lapels, pockets and cuffs, with a range of fabric options and combinations. However, if you have time and want to go bespoke, we can attempt to source/create anything you like (within reason). What plans do you have for the future of Koy Clothing? The story is only just beginning; we have a mission to support the country we grew up in and love so much, and we are determined to make a difference. We will be launching new products to increase and vary our range significantly over the coming year. n
What’s the story behind the belts, how are they made? Maasai beading is a traditional craft of the Maasai Mamas. The belts that we sell are hand beaded in the traditional way by the Mamas themselves, using
THE GREY FOX COLUMN David Evans packs away his winter wardrobe and extols the virtues of Panama, linen and corduroy for the warmer months
“Corduroy has a long but slightly dishevelled history, but after years of being written off as suitable only for geography teachers’ jackets, it’s now going through a welldeserved revival”
fter the long, hard winter, the sun seemed a long time in coming, but now it’s here the tweed has been stowed away with the heavy coats and rabbit fur fedora, and out come clothes more suited to warmer temperatures. I usually start these columns at the top, so let’s start with a hat. A straw hat, or Panama, is an essential in a spring and summer wardrobe. Lightweight and porous, it allows heat to escape and cool breezes to enter. A favourite brand of mine is Pachacuti, who make their Panama hats sustainably and ethically in Ecuador. They ensure that the women who make them are properly trained, paid and receive pension and health benefits. They are
encouraged to stay within their communities, passing on their skills to the next generation to ensure a future for their culture and the hat making industry. The hats they make are excellent too. In the intermediate weeks of early spring and autumn, corduroy is a cloth that works well when the weather is neither hot nor cold. This cotton cloth has a long but slightly dishevelled history, but after years
of being written off as suitable only for geography teachers’ jackets, it’s now going through a welldeserved revival. And so it should; its less-than-crisp appearance makes it ideal in an age when the suit is becoming less popular, as dress codes allow more casual wear at work. I’ve been a fan of corduroy for a while but only this year have had a suit made for me by tailor Alexandra Wood. My aim was to have a casual suit; one that can be worn for those more relaxed days, evenings out or even visits to town. I selected a navy blue corduroy cloth woven in Yorkshire (of course) by Huddersfield Fine Worsteds. It was tempting to ask for a double-breasted jacket, but practicality ruled and I ended up with a single-breasted, two button jacket with trou-sers with turn-ups. The suit has been everything I asked for. Being corduroy, I don’t feel constrained by a well-pressed, immaculately turned-out look. The soft, flexible nature of the cloth means that a bit of a rumple makes it look and feel comfortable. Those of you who like the vintage feel of corduroy can always go for the brown, baggy, waistcoated style of the early twentieth century farmhand, ideally with a large floppy tweed cap. Corduroy is always available from your tailor, made-to-measure or bespoke, but if you want to buy off the peg it’s harder to find as complete suits. Drake’s produced one this autumn/winter, otherwise try Cordings, Ralph Lauren, Old-Town or SEH Kelly (links below). Talking of turn-ups, or cuffs as they’re called across The Pond, I tend to favour them. There’s a general feeling among those who write about these things (but don’t necessarily truly understand them) that turn-ups are best avoided by the man or woman with shorter legs. I’m not convinced by this, as the length of one’s legs, or the appearance of length, is so much related to the fullness of cut of the trouser, the chunkiness of the shoe and whatever is being worn by way of a jacket, that I’d advise you just to try them and see how they suit you. Most of my suits have turn-ups and I like to go for a deeper turn-up; something around 2.5". They give a defined finish and look best with a chunky brogue, suiting both slim and fuller-cut trousers. Again, for those who favour a vin-age look, the turn-up is a must-have. Talking of suits and turn-ups and thinking of the warmer weather of summer, I’ve commissioned another suit (before I lose you, I promise not to mention suits again after this paragraph). This will be linen (and has turn-ups) and I’ve gone for rather a daring caramel/toffee/ginger colour. It’s being made by my favourite Savile Row tailors, Dege & Skinner
and cut by their Tristan Thorne, who made a suit for me a couple of years ago of such perfection that I swore I’d return to him when I could. I favour cloths woven in the British Isles (like the corduroy above) and this is a Harrisons W Bill fine linen, woven in Ireland. Like corduroy, linen isn’t a cloth for the very formal suit and looks best when it’s acquired a lived-in appearance. With the influence of vintage in mind, I’ve gone for a slightly fuller leg, high waist (to be worn with braces, of course) and a simple two-button coat with soft shoulders (too much structured padding makes for unwanted insulation in the heat). I hope to be wearing this suit to Florence in June, so it will be interesting to test the cool credentials of linen.
The caramel/toffee/ginger linen suit at basted stage in Dege & Skinner
While we’re on the subject of Italy (and indeed Ireland), I had the chance to drive a Maserati recently. This is a name redolent of the smell of hot oil, burning rubber and the baking tarmac of a 1950s racetrack. Maserati was founded in 1914 in Bologna, moving to Modena twenty years later, where it still makes its cars. The duels in the mid-fifties between Ferrari and Maserati (driven by the great Fangio) have gone into motor racing legend. Despite the beauty and pedigree of Maserati, their cars are rare on our roads. But this is changing as Maserati are increasing sales and taking a higher profile. I drove the Maserati Ghibli, a rather attractive car (in that sprezzatura way that Italians make things look attractive) that is a delight to drive. I was in Northern Ireland and took the road that runs north from Belfast, snaking round the coast to Derry/Londonderry. On the way it passes the Devil’s Causeway, that impossibly geometric rock formation that juts out, like a giant’s stairway, into the sea. The causeway was built by the giant, Finn MacCool, although some geologists claim that it was formed by cooling lava millions of years ago.
The coast is a World Heritage Site and is well worth a visit. I’ll certainly be going back to Northern Ireland and if I can be driving the gorgeous Maserati again, I will do so. As a grand tourer, the Ghibli has all the performance and comfort of a car for travel and none of the discomfort, noise and harsh suspension of the performance-only motor. This was driving as it used to be – maybe as it would have been in the fifties, when James Bond would waft across Europe in his Bentley in total comfort, with smooth and quiet performance always on tap to outpace his enemies. Those were the days. n Pachacuti www.panamas.co.uk Alexandra Wood Bespoke www.alexandrawoodbespoke.co.uk Drake’s www.drakes.com Cordings www.cordings.co.uk Ralph Lauren www.ralphlauren.co.uk Old-Town www.old-town.co.uk Huddersfield Fine Worsteds www.hfwltd.com Dege & Skinner www.dege-skinner.co.uk Harrisons W Bill www.harrisonsofedinburgh.com
SHOOTING THE CUFFS Aida Amoako on this ancient gentlemen’s ritual that remains steeped in masculine meaning to this day
“Doctor Carl von Eberstein finds himself surrounded by women admiring his good looks. They exercised all their fascinations upon the delighted man, who pulled up his collar, shot his cuffs, and literally bathed himself in feminine smiles”
here’s a key scene from series three of The Sopranos: Just before Christopher Moltisanti’s initiation, Paulie Walnuts pulls up to him in the parking lot of a grocery store. He looks Christopher up and down, giving him a quick once-over, and then says, “You look good. Shoot your cuffs.” Christopher obeys, jerking his arms forward in his navy blue herringbone two-piece suit so that the French cuffs of his shirt pop out from inside the jacket sleeve. He gets in the car, and goes off to become a ‘made man’. We’ve seen the action before performed by many a wiseguy and gentleman alike. James Cagney
in Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), and in – well, so many of his films, just can’t seem to stop shooting his cuffs. It is almost like a tic for Del Boy Trotter from Only Fools and Horses too. Gangsters, secret agents and detectives love to shoot the cuff. Hollywood producers too. In a 1966 profile of Frederick Brisson, Los Angeles Times film critic Cecil Smith, unable to temper his open admiration, writes: “Producer Frederick Brisson breezed into Sardi’s and shot his cuffs, a gesture he does better than anyone on earth.” Smith spends precious column inches on Brisson shooting his cuffs, because he understands the impression of Brisson it conveys: that he is a man of distinction and power. To shoot your cuff is to jerk your arms forward to get the quarter to half an inch of cuff that tailors suggest should be visible from underneath one’s jacket sleeves. It’s an act of adjustment that many might not think anything of, like straightening a tie. No doubt you’ve probably unconsciously shot your cuffs many times before. Yet the fact of its repeated appearance in books, in films and on TV shows that it is loaded with meaning beyond its practical use. One of the earliest mentions of shooting one’s cuffs – which itself is a modern version of the phrase ‘shoot your linen’ from the 1870s – is in a chapter of an 1893 story called The Sacred Beetle published in The Chambers Journal. One of the protagonists, Doctor Carl von Eberstein, suddenly finds himself surrounded by women admiring his good looks. All the attention and flattery makes him perform: “They exercised all their fascinations upon the delighted man, who pulled up his collar, shot his cuffs, and literally bathed himself in feminine smiles.” In the present day the shirt cuff has quietly become a symbol of sex and traditional masculinity. Many magazine or fashion editorial photoshoots feature models or actors and musicians with one hand
at their shirt cuff, sometimes buttoning it, sometimes threading cufflinks, and on occasion just merely touching it. Sometimes it can go too far. One fashion journalist wrote about the actor Dwayne Johnson’s penchant for fiddling with his cuffs in photoshoots. But he does it for a reason. The resulting frozen image of the man’s hands touching his cuff communicates an aura of charm and control. In Skyfall (2012), Daniel Craig’s James Bond runs with preternatural grace along the arm of a digger, before bounding on to a speeding train at the last moment. He jerks his shoulders forward, his suit falls into place, and then the finishing touch: he fixes his cuffs. Popular psychology teaches us that the body has plenty of ways to betray our emotions. But what is so fascinating about shooting your cuffs is that it goes beyond the body to involve your clothing. Every stage of the evolution of the shirt cuff provides a clue to how an ordinary act of adjustment gained symbolic significance. French cuffs are made by folding the shirt fabric on to itself, so the inside of the sleeve becomes the outside of the cuff. To shoot the cuff can be a sign of confidence, or even arrogance. It’s a form of showing off, peacocking, letting the world see your level of taste, and that you know you look good. In that classic scene from The Sopranos Christopher shooting his cuff becomes the symbol of the steeliness that he must summon up before joining The Family. Clothes conjure up certain images, like professionalism or masculinity, and force us to embody those symbolic meanings while we are wearing them. Shooting your cuffs is almost like a ritualistic preparation act. People shoot their cuffs before they enter a meeting, before attempting a difficult task, in a situation where they need confidence. To shoot the cuff is like a trigger, invoking the symbolic meaning of your suit. n
Bondâ€™s brown barleycorn tweed hacking jacket in Goldfinger has taken on something of a divine status in the community of sartorial appreciation.
TWEED ON FILM Nick Guzan looks at the role of tweed jackets in cinema, from slick British secret agents to sporty San Francisco cops
“Old school members of 007’s circle such as gadgetmaster Q had worn fine traditional examples of tweed, but it wasn’t until Goldfinger in 1964 that Sean Connery’s sophisticated spy wore tweed on screen”
uring the early decades of cinema, tweed was just as ubiquitous on the silver screen as it was in real life, often worn by honest, homespun gentlemen of taste. Think James Stewart in one of several tweed suits during George Bailey’s fateful Christmas Eve in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) or John Wayne’s Irish tweed sports jacket making a positive impression when his character returns to his ancestral home in The Quiet Man (1952). Lovely examples, to be sure, but nothing groundbreaking in terms of how it was worn. Even the more villainous tweed wearers of this era were still urbane chaps with traditional inclinations toward the art of dressing, from Clifton Webb’s scheming snob Waldo Lydecker sporting a double-breasted tweed suit in Laura (1944) to James Mason’s charismatic Philip Vandamm donning a series of odd waistcoats with his grey tweed suit in North by Northwest (1959). Then came the 1960s. Every era has looked to the future to some extent, but the swinging sixties was one of the first decades in modern history
where youth was taking the lead across the globe. The less informed may consider tweed to be professorial or old-fashioned, which is certainly not to the fabric’s detriment, but this rugged sportswear was rejuvenated in 1960s cinema, for a brief but brilliant flash as the suiting of choice for youthful rogues on both sides of the Atlantic. In Hitchcock’s The Birds, (above) released in 1963, Rod Taylor’s Mitch Brenner is a successful and swaggering Bay Area lawyer, the type who
Warren Beatty wears a brown herringbone three-piece tweed suit in Bonnie and Clyde, 1967
has a family home a few hours up the coast in the smaller coastal hamlet of Bodega Bay. Though he wears a wool suit in the city, Mitch sports tweed in this more bucolic, homey setting, donning a fine mixed grey tweed suit worn with a white shirt and silk tie for his younger sister’s birthday party. The jacket blends American tailoring with sporty English details with its “shapeless” sack jacket, structured shoulders, slanted flapped hip pockets and ticket pocket, close three-button front, and short double vents. The following year found James Bond sporting tweed on screen for the first time. It wasn’t the
debut of tweed in the James Bond series, of course; how could such a quintessentially English franchise not feature tweed in its first two films? Old school members of 007’s circle, such as the gadgetmaster Q , had worn fine traditional examples of tweed, but it wasn’t until Goldfinger in 1964 that Sean Connery’s sophisticated spy wore tweed on screen. Bond’s brown barleycorn tweed hacking jacket in Goldfinger has taken on something of a divine status in the community of sartorial appreciation. Of course, it may help its case that Connery wore it during some of the film’s most iconic scenes, from a statue-shattering encounter with Oddjob to piloting his gadget-laden Aston Martin DB5 through the mountains of Austria. Nonetheless, the jacket is one of the few of 007’s garments to appear in more than one film, as Connery would wear it the following year in Thunderball. Both films feature the jacket with a beige shirt and brown silk tie – knitted in Goldfinger, grenadine in Thunderball – with taupe trousers and high-top brown suede derby shoes. At this point in the series, Sean Connery’s
“Bond’s hacking jacket in Goldfinger is one of the few garments in more than one film, Connery also wearing it in Thunderball” 74
Warren Beatty wears a brown herringbone three-piece tweed suit in Bonnie and Clyde, 1967 Steve McQueen in a brown herringbone tweed sports jacket in 1968â€™s Bullitt
THE QUIET MAN John Ford’s cinematic love letter to his ancestral home remains a perennial St. Patrick’s Day favorite, even if it is a somewhat overly sanitized depiction of Irish life in the 1920s. Based on a 1933 short story by Maurice Walsh, The Quiet Man stars Ford’s favorite actor John Wayne as Sean Thornton, a former boxer from Pittsburgh who is returning home to reclaim his family’s land in Ireland. The setting, Inisfree, is fictional, but much of the movie was filmed on location in western Ireland around the village of Cong, County Mayo. With his tweed jacket, flat cap and flannels, Sean Thornton looks every bit the native Irishman when he arrives by train at Castletown. “He didn’t have the look of an American tourist at all about him,” Father Peter Lonergan (Ward Bond) remarks with approval in his narration. Many of the costumes were tailored by the O’Máille family, who continue to sell Irish country clothing at their shop in Galway. Their web site proudly states that John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara both visited its store for their characters’ costumes, making it highly likely that John Wayne wore authentic, locally hand-woven Irish tweed for his role in this most Irish of movies. Sean’s tweed is a herringbone twill weave of beige and light brown yarns to create an overall tan effect, with a slight cast toward taupe. The single-breasted jacket has notch lapels that are often worn with the back collar flipped up for a touch of insouciance. The notch lapels and the welted breast pocket have ‘swelled edge’ seams. The jacket also has straight-jetted hip pockets in line with the lowest button. Although Sean’s tweed jacket is pure Ireland, his button-down collar shirt, striped tie, and v-neck jumper are indicative of his Americanization. Both Ford and cinematographer Winton C. Hoch won well-deserved Academy Awards for their work on The Quiet Man.
Bond had established a uniform for himself of a two-button lounge suit – often in shades of grey – tailored by Anthony Sinclair, with a pale blue Turnbull & Asser ‘cocktail cuff’ shirt and navy grenadine tie. The hacking jacket in Goldfinger marked one of his first deviations from this uniform, though Bond remains generally true to his usual taste, wearing solid colors, side-tab adjuster trousers, and grenadine or knitted ties. Tweed thus became more commonly seen on fashionable male figures of the mid-sixties, from 007 to Michael Caine’s synonymous character in Alfie. A sophisticated secret agent and a playboy in swinging London are natural candidates as style icons, but it’s hard to imagine bestowing a similar honour on a small-time Texas desperado during the Great Depression. Yet Warren Beatty’s larger-thanlife interpretation of the criminal Clyde Barrow in Arthur Penn’s stylized drama Bonnie and Clyde (1967) featured the gang leader in a variety of natty duds that likely shared little in common with the backseat wardrobe of the real-life hoodlum. Costume designer Theodora Van Runkle dressed her protagonists in an intentionally anachronistic fashion, evoking the 1930s but adding modern touches, which would speak to audiences of the late ’60s, who embraced the look and attitude of the ‘romantic’ outlaws. A standout of Beatty’s wardrobe appears midway through the film, as the gang takes over a bank for a smooth and successful heist. The setting is a summer afternoon in a dusty small town in Texas, yet Clyde strides into the bank beautifully attired in a brown herringbone tweed three-piece suit, complete with half-belted ‘action
Though they serve the same great city of San Francisco, Harry Callahan’s manner of wearing a herringbone tweed sport jacket is a business-friendly, conservative ying to Frank Bullitt’s freewheeling yang.
back’ jacket, Panama hat, spectator shoes, and green polka-dot tie. Despite the weather, tweed appeared to be the fabric of choice for the male members of the gang that day; Clyde’s brother Buck (Gene Hackman) sports a taupe birdseye tweed three-piece suit, and juvenile lackey C.W. Moss (Michael J. Pollard) diverts from his usual denim in his plaid tweed sports jacket.
Bullitt of the San Francisco Police Department, he looks rather unremarkable – particularly for McQueen’s standards – in a dark navy lounge suit, light blue shirt and olive foulard tie. Both his attire and the film’s narrative refer to the police procedural of the previous decade’s Dragnet and M Squad. The next day, we realize this is something different. Bullitt glides down the iconic streets of San Francisco in a highland green Ford Mustang GT390 fastback, stepping out in a rich brown herringbone tweed sport jacket that remains a sartorial point of interest fifty years later, with its American sack cut, 3/2-roll button front, ticket pocket, short double vents and irregular tobacco-brown suede elbow patches. McQueen insouciantly eschews a traditional shirt and tie – even when on duty – and instead opts for a navy knit rollneck jumper, charcoal flannel trousers and snuff-brown suede crepe-soled playboy boots from Hutton. Joe Friday’s wardrobe this surely is not. After a decade of cheeky, charming cads who flouted criminal codes and conventions, American cinema in the 1970s saw a return to venerating law and order. Pragmatic police officers like Bullitt were out, and a new breed of laconic lawmen like ‘Dirty Harry’ Callahan were in, upholding the truth and
“Every Dirty Harry movie would feature Clint in a stylish new tweed jacket, though the Bullitt days of a cop in cool rollneck and boots was out” The great Van Runkle was only getting started. After the success of her costume design debut in Bonnie and Clyde, her next project would showcase an outfit considered by many to be the pinnacle of 1960s cool: the shooting jacket, rollneck and suede boots of Steve McQueen’s eponymous detective in Bullitt (1968). When we first meet Lieutenant Frank
nothing but the truth. Though they serve the same great city of San Francisco, Harry Callahan’s manner of wearing a herringbone tweed sport jacket is a business-friendly, conservative ying to Frank Bullitt’s freewheeling yang. In the first scenes of Dirty Harry (1971), Clint Eastwood set an iconic standard for this uncompromising detective by donning a contemporary grey tweed jacket over a pale blue shirt, deep red sleeveless sweater and a silk repp tie in navy and red to bring both garments together, uttering “Do you feel lucky, punk?” while aiming his .44 Magnum at a – spoiler alert – ultimately lucky bank robber. The palette is no coincidence, as Inspector Callahan is presented to us as a ‘red, white, and blue’ allAmerican lawmen at the height of the Nixon era. Every subsequent Dirty Harry film would thus feature Clint in a stylish new tweed jacket, though the days of the cool cop in a rollneck and boots was out, replaced by a dedicated detective in an officefriendly button-up shirt, tie and brogues.
They say fashion is cyclical, and tweed appears to be making a revival in the current decade on both sides of the criminal fence. The Shelby family in Peaky Blinders conduct their violent business in natty tweed three-piece suits and caps, while Benedict Cumberbatch drapes his incarnation of Conan Doyle’s greatest invention in a long Irish tweed greatcoat in Sherlock. It’s not just the Brits who are continuing this legacy of tweed as the preferred fabric for defiant characters. While dressing Ryan Reynolds’ insouciant gambler for Mississippi Grind (2015), costume designer Abby O’Sullivan informed me that she took cues from the rebellious all-Americans played by Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Steve McQueen in the 1960s and 1970s. The jacket she envisioned (pictured above) would be “an idealization of a certain type of man and visually complex enough to stare at on screen for long periods.” What did she eventually choose? A micro-checked sports jacket in hand-woven Harris Tweed. n
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VESTA TILLEY Holly Rose Swinyard on the evolution of male Impersonators since the 17th century, and how Vesta Tilley helped bring Victorian women out of their corsets
“Male impersonators represent the true ‘anarcho-dandyism’ mentality, taking the image of the upper class gent and subverting it for fun, mischief and satire”
ny involvement in the modern culture is likely to have exposed you to RuPaul’s Drag Race, a television show bringing the tradition of drag and impersonation to a modern mainstream audience. We are seeing drag queens being recognised as the artists they are, and starting to normalise the more blurred areas of gender. In the past, the closest anyone would have got to this world was in panto, with the dames’ overthe-top performances and comedic stylings, but now this door into queer culture is being inched open for the entire world to see. This is all fine and dandy except it isn’t dandy, at least not in the sartorial sense. A large part of drag has gone under the radar: the elegance, humour and overall sartorial beauty of the drag kings. After all, if panto has its dames then it should also have its leading boy.
Male Impersonators, for me, represent the Chap mentality, true ‘anarcho-dandyism’, taking the image and ideas of the upper class gent and subverting it for fun, mischief and satire in their own special way. They take society’s rules on gender and presentation and rip them up for the amusement of the paying public. So why have these eccentric,
androgynous acts fallen out of mainstream entertainment, when they are a large part of the queer history and the changing nature of women’s roles in society? Surely at this current point of flux that we find ourselves at once again, with the social rights movements, we need performers who mock and point out the backwards ways of thinking that still exist in our society. They would hopefully lighten the somewhat dark mood that surrounds these subjects. Popular since the 17th century, when women were first allowed to take to the stage, male impersonators reached massive heights of celebrity during the Victorian era and early 20th century. The ‘Breeches Role’, as it was called, first appeared in the late 1600s, as women started to reverse the traditional idea of men playing women in the theatre and take on male roles, generally comedic boy’s parts. This role on stage soon became very popular, and the parts were increased, adding gigs, songs and entertaining turns for the public to lap up. These roles though, unlike the later impersonators, were used as way for women to take control of their own sexuality, as it allowed them to show off the shape of their legs in men’s clothing and freed them from con-
fining skirts. In fact, this trend became so popular it bled off the stage and into the wardrobes of women at court. It was a statement of femininity through the rejection of classic feminine attire. Despite this having no real lasting impact on society as a whole, the breeches role did continue to be seen in plays and entertainment, if only rarely, but everything was about to change. Enter the Victorian Music Hall, the heyday of the male impersonators; they topped bills, drew huge crowds and subverted the ideals of Victorian womanhood in daring and truly entertaining ways. The most well-known of these performers was Vesta Tilley. Although she was not the first female music hall act to perform solely in male dress, Tilley became one of the first true celebrities, with her flair, vibrancy and wit as sharp as a knife. Born Matilda Alice Powles, she first appeared on stage at the age of three, encouraged by her father, but it wasn’t until she was six that she first appeared in male clothing, on the bill as ‘The Pocket Sims Reeves’ – a reference to a famous opera singer of the time. Soon she changed her billing name to ‘The Great Little Tilley,’ but the gender ambiguity
of her name was causing problems for audiences, so another name was created. Taking the Roman goddess of hearth and home that was also the name of a common brand of matches, a persona that would soon become of the most famous in Victorian England was created – Vesta Tilley. It wasn’t long before she decided that she preferred exclusively doing male roles: “I felt that I could express myself better if I were dressed as a boy.” She probably felt that she was less restricted in the male role than she did in the female role she had been handed in life. On stage she could get away with saying, doing and singing things that would have never been acceptable for a lady at the time, or for a long time after. Those who followed in Tilley’s footsteps often became so convincing that people started to believe that they were in fact men. American performer Annie Hindle shaved her face to encourage the growth of a moustache, and many truly believed that no woman could have managed such a feat. It was noted in the Adelphi Theater, Texas: “Annie Hiddle has proved a great success. As a male impersonator her sex is so concealed that one is apt to imagine that it is a man who is singing!” However it was Tilley’s range of characters – from
“These male roles allowed women to take control of their own sexuality, as it let them show off the shape of their legs in men’s clothing and freed them from confining skirts” dandies and toffs to soldiers and working men – and her cheeky sense of humour, that spoke to all of her audience, empowering the women but without being overtly threatening the men. In becoming such a celebrated part of the music hall and society as a whole, the male impersonators started to challenge the Victorian and Edwardian idea of women as “beautiful, chaste domestic creatures” (Elaine Aston’s Male Impersonation in the Music Hall), taking on the guise of ‘the dominant’ sex and undermining them with satirical lyrics and a parody of male mannerisms. To be on stage was to escape from the rigid boundaries that restricted the lives of Victorian women as much as their corsets confined their bodies.
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Those who followed in Tilleyâ€™s footsteps, both in the UK and in the United States, often became so convincing people started to believe that they were, in fact, men.
However, this perceived freedom on stage may not have been as liberating as it might seem. In order to maintain their standing as performers and keep themselves at the top of the bill, many male impersonators reversed their acts entirely in their private lives, going to extremes to be seen as feminine off stage. Tilley herself was well known for her expensive taste in clothes, always dressed in the latest fashions, in both her male and female guises, to the point that it might be said her private persona was as much a performance as her stage act. She was almost a caricature of both the masculine and feminine. It was acceptable to flirt with androgyny or play with ‘cross-dressing’ in the safe confines of popular entertainment, if it were obvious that you were still a girl and very much heterosexual in your private life. Despite the fact that these performers helped create a place for women and LGBTQ people to express themselves, they had to sacrifice much in order to survive under the scrutinising gaze of the public eye. Marlene Dietrich was a perfect example of this; her dual presentation of femme fatale and ‘tomboy’ in top hat and tails was both daring and desirable in equal measure. Dietrich, like Tilley, used her femininity to make the fact that she did not conform wholly to society’s rules for gender or sexuality more acceptable. Unlike with Dietrich, we have no concrete evidence for Tilley’s personal view on her own gender or sexuality, but if nothing else, she saw the need to express herself in a way that society denied, and by doing so allowed for those who didn’t conform to start coming through. So why is it, when these performers built such a strong foundation for queer culture and, it would seem, sacrificed much so that it could be built upon by further generations, that there are so few contemporary examples? People like Annie Lennox and Tilda Swinton, who wear androgyny as easily as their own skin, carry on the legacy of the dandy music hall performers. We are compelled by these people who refuse to fit into society’s neat little boxes just as much today
as we were in the Victorian era, but in our modern age of gender politics, people feel much more threatened by these fluid people than they are intrigued. The temptation is to sanitize these ideas and make them fit into a form that they can consume. Which brings us back to the cisgender, or male centric drag. Despite all the leaps and bounds we have made in the last 100 years, femininity is still seen as an inherently weaker trait and therefore less threatening. A cisgender man dressing as a woman and acting as an overtly stereotyped or mocking version of womanhood is much less intimidating than a woman (or AFAB person) taking on the role of a man and making fun of them. It’s a power structure that is being challenged, and since we are breaking down the rules of what is male and female, and no longer live in that confining Victorian society where women are kept in their place, this is too much for some people. The reason that Tilley and her compatriots could rise to the top was because they were seen as inferior in their real lives. They were women, so singing funny songs and throwing a few witty jibes at men was entertaining but not at all threatening, since they had no power outside of that. Today that is no longer the case. The lack of representation of drag kings or male impersonators in mainstream entertainment today is indicative of this fear of nonconforming people in society. Even the part of the leading boy in panto is more often than not going to male actors, as the changing nature of what gender means becomes more divisive and uncontrollable. But there is no need to fear it. The more we blur the boundaries within our society, of gender, race, sexuality or whatever, the more we grow and improve. If we can see ourselves as people, rather than a list of criteria made to define and divide us along set lines and ideals, then the healthier and more developed we become as a species. By blurring gender types, Vesta Tilley showed a way to free oneself from the confines that society lays out, and created a way to explore more of one’s own self and also to help others do the same. n
GLOSSARY • Transgender: a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex. • Cisgender: the opposite of transgender, someone whose personal identity and gender does correspond with their birth sex. • Nonbinary: a gender that does not conform to the binary ideas of female and male, it is an umbrella term for all genders outside of the binary. • AFAB: Assigned Female At Birth. • AMAB: Assigned Male At Birth. • Queer: a catchall term for anyone who identifies at LGBTQA, used as a slur by non-LGBTQA people but reclaimed by the community.
MODELS (left to right): Louise Taylor, Samantha Doty, Tiffany Anne Tondut LOUISE WEARS: Womenâ€™s Land Army (WLA) issue corduroy breeches, shirt and tie, woollen pullover Reproduction large woollen socks 1903 pattern leather belt Plain brown leather shoes
PHOTOGRAPHER: Tim Sutton
SAMANTHA WEARS: WLA issue dungarees, smock coat, armlet Reproduction large woollen socks Plain brown leather shoes 1940s headscarf
TIFFANY WEARS: 1930s cotton britches WLA issue shirt Reproduction woollen knitted vest (based upon 1940s original) Reproduction large woollen socks 1903 pattern leather belt Plain brown leather shoes 1940s headscarf
MODELS: Horatio Scotney-Le Cheyne (left), Neil Ridley
All clothing by Lutwyche Bespoke, 83 Berwick Street, London W1F 8TS PHOTOGRAPHER: Guy Hills
MODELS: Ruby Demure (left), Infinity Favour Both models wear Heyday clothing, accessories from Beyond Retro PHOTOGRAPHER: Russ Bell
MODEL: Bethan Korausch BETHAN WEARS: Vintage 1940s housedress Vintage 1940s Bakelite hoop earrings Remix Vintage reproduction shoes PHOTOGRAPHER: Soulstealer Photography
MODEL: Mickael Korausch MICKAEL WEARS: Bespoke mohair suit by Cad and the Dandy Bespoke waistcoat by Cad and the Dandy Linen striped shirt by Hackett Tie by Drakeâ€™s London. Vintage pocket square Shirt stays to keep the shirt tucked in PHOTOGRAPHER: Soulstealer Photography
MODELS (L-R): Andrew Fletcher, Callum Coates, Tiffany Anne Tondut ANDREW FLETCHER WEARS: Brown ‘beret Basque’ Brown/white striped cellular-mesh ‘Sandy McDonald’ sports shirt Brown/red/white spotted silk neckerchief Green cotton beach slacks with brown/beige plaited elastic belt Brown canvas deck/sports shoes with thick cream rubber soles Cream cotton socks Waterproof wristwatch Angular ‘streamlined’ pipe CALLUM COATES WEARS: Yachting cap Blue linen blazer Blue/white zigzag cellular sports shirt Blue/red patterned crepe silk cravat Natural/ecru linen trousers Blue canvas shoes with red cork-rubber soles TIFFANY WEARS: Blue stripe shorts by Tara Starlet Claret bikini top by What Katie Did PHOTOGRAPHER: Anya Holdstock
MODEL: Francois Delplancq (right) with friend Francois wears: Vintage three-piece suit from Falbalas, St Ouen Flea Market, Paris. PHOTOGRAPHER: Xavier Buendia
MODEL: Dandy Wellington LOCATION: The annual Dandies and Quaintrelles Seersucker Social, Washington D.C. CLOTHING: Mostly seersucker PHOTOGRAPHER: Rose Callahan
LONGER FEATURES Hep Cats (p100) • Jaques of London (p107) • Philip Larkin (p112) • Jason King (p116) • The Chap Dines (p122) 99
HEPCATS Olivia Bullock on the Hepcat movement of the 1940s, which evolved into the Hipster movement but has nothing to do with today’s hipsters Illustration by Olivia Bullock
“Hipsterism was a byword for liberalism, spontaneity and recklessness that embraced an existential hunger for experience. It defied any subcultural classification”
hat does it mean to be ‘hip’? It is a quality that is hard to define. It requires an effortless balance of ease and fortitude and witticism. It cannot be taught; it does not recruit. It suggests one is ‘in the know’, ‘cool’, a ‘trendsetter’. Today the term ‘Hipster’ is used to convey a social exclusivity that resides in a white middle class demographic. Modern hipster culture is steeped in pastiche and irony, a concept that bears little resemblance to its original meaning. The term ‘Hipster’ first appeared in print in Cab Calloway's Hepster’s Dictionary: Language of Jive in 1939, the bible for those seeking to make sense of the Jazz argot spoken among African American musicians. Two years previously, it was Lester Young’s first recorded solo that heralded the first musical portrait of a Hipster or ‘Hepcat’. Hipsterism was a byword for liberalism, spontaneity and recklessness that embraced an existential hunger for experience. It defied any subcultural classification.
Its intellectualism and refinement manifest in its music, literature and poetry distinguished it from mere delinquency. Its entire philosophy, open-mindedness and inclusivity were a given. Hipsterism had an effortless style and swagger. When Bebop burst through the back doors of the US Jazz scene in the mid 1940s, it created a dichotomy among its devotees. The Hepcats (‘Hep’ meaning ‘cool’ in the lexicon of black musicians) the aficionados of the traditional diatonic (melodic and harmonious) musicology of jazz and swing were disaffected by the few who were enthralled by Bebop’s complex chord progressions and lively tempo. Bebop offered a visceral derangement of the senses, deemed unacceptable to jazz traditionalists. But that was its appeal. It wasn’t an easy ride, and it was certainly not for dancing to. ‘Hep’ became ‘Hip’ and Hepcats became Hipsters. In short, Bebop was hip; Swing was square. Predominantly white middle to lower class, Hipsters embraced what they perceived as the black
Thelonious Monk and friends outside Minton’s Playhouse in New York
musicians’ liberal and carefree lifestyle, adopting their fashion, streetwise attitude and even their slang. These ‘white negros’ (as Norman Mailer called them in his book of the same title) absorbed the frenzy of live Bebop like an addiction, with performances usually confined to small bars, intimate clubs and cellars, played by a small combo of saxophone, trumpet, double bass, piano and drums. Its addictive adrenaline spread from East Coast New York to West Coast LA, led by its figureheads Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker, Thelonious Monk and Dexter Gordon. Lester Young was ‘The Hipster’s Hipster’; Dizzy Gillespie was its sartorial ambassador. Recognised for his cosmopolitan style, Trumpeter Gillespie’s signature beret became a Hepcat talisman. Worn for practicality, not only for stuffing into a pocket for safekeeping, having lost numerous hats, but also, on occasion, providing an adequate mute for his trumpet. Gillespie’s creative flair and sartorial influence was infectious. A photograph of Dizzy with his fly undone (accidentally) spawned an overnight trend for ‘flying low’. He also endorsed fashion brands
such as Fox Bros, who produced several accessories imaginatively labelled ‘Bop ties’, ‘Bop caps’, ‘Bop crushers’ and berets. They even manufactured a copy of a leopardskin jacket after Gillespie had worn one. Billy Eckstein, another fashion pioneer of the Hipster milieu, created the ‘Flex roll collar’. Dubbed The ‘Mr. B Collar’, it had an expandable high-roll collar, allowing for the swelling of his neck while playing the trumpet. The collar formed a letter B, worn over a Windsor-knotted tie, and assured the wearer he could achieve ‘The Mr. B look’. Jazz singer Babs Gonzales sported the ‘Jazz bow tie’ designed by his then girlfriend. It was the size of a king-size cigarette and was little more than a piece of cloth over a sliver of wood. Despite the few musicians setting sartorial standards, the definitive insignia of the coolheaded, confident hipster was the porkpie, fedora hat or beret, worn with dark rimmed glasses, pinstripe double-breasted suits and a neckerchief. The intention was never to create a fashion statement – that would have suggested triviality and sensationalism. These artists took themselves seriously, with an
Duke Ellington playing Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s guitar, with Cab Calloway at the piano
Harry Gibson – the first hipster. Born Harry Raab in the Bronx in 1915, Harry Gibson grew up around Harlem, where he learned jive talk and developed a frenetic jazz piano style in the speakeasies. When Fats Waller recruited him in 1939 as his intermission act, Raab took his new stage name, Gibson, straight from a gin bottle. While playing at jazz clubs along the ‘Swing Street’ stretch of 52nd Street at night, he started referring to his audience as ‘hipsters’, and then adopted the title for himself, penning a song, Handsome Harry the Hipster:
They call him Handsome Harry, the Hipster/He’s the ball with all the chicks/He plays piano like mad, his singing is sad/He digs those mellow kicks Gibson was loved for his manic stage presence and songs about sex and drug use, both of which he enjoyed tremendously, culminating in 1947’s Who Put the Benzedrine in Mrs. Murphy’s Ovaltine? His piano style mixed hardcore, gutbucket boogie rhythms with ragtime, stride and jazz. In the 1950s his career went into decline, overshadowed by the arrival of rock ‘n’ roll, and after a brief comeback in the 1980s, Harry took his own life in 1991.
Dizzy Gillespie with trademark beret, backstage with his band
intellectual and cultural poise that set them apart from the mainstream. This disassociation was further fermented in the exclusive use of ‘jive talk’, an argot established by black musicians that was to become the vernacular of jazz. So illogical it defied translation, much of it was associated with marijuana, the hipster’s drug of choice. How about ‘muggin on a reefer’, ‘diggin’ the jive at the teapad’, listening to the cries of ‘Hey man, flip the grip’ ‘Whaddya say, gate? ‘What’s the word from the herd?’ And before you leave through the ‘in and outer’ – ‘Seeya later, alligator!’ We still use the phrases ‘hung up’, ‘it’s a drag’; someone might be a ‘drip’ or they might be ‘cool’, to name but a few. “Billy Eckstein, created
Another lyrical deviation was ‘Scat’, a wordless rhythmic vocal not beyond the bounds of absurdity. It was intended to mimic an instrumental solo, and was a means by which the singer could keep up with the frenetic pace of Bebop. Jack Kerouac captured the restlessness of the Hepcats in his 1957 novel On the Road. Like many of the Beat writers, Kerouac dipped in and out of this parallel subculture. Although the Beats were typically college-educated and middle class, and sartorially rather dishevelled, there was little else that set them apart from the Hepcats. Neither was partisan to an ideology and both lived for the present, resisting reality, aided and abetted by the heavy use of intoxicants. Norman Mailer, one of the chroniclers of the Hipster movement, proclaimed that “Instinct was Hip, logic was square. Midnight was Hip, noon was square. A catlike walk from the hip was hip, a bear-like walk from the shoulder was square. Thelonious Monk was hip. Dave Brubeck was square.” This alternative philosophy soon reached the liberal coterie in Paris’s Left Bank. Emerging from Gauloises-hazed clubs and bars such as Le
the ‘Flex roll collar’. Dubbed The ‘Mr. B Collar’, it allowed for the swelling of his neck while playing the trumpet” 104
Louis Armstrong signs autographs at the Blue Note nightclub in Chicago in 1948
Tabou Cellar, or Club Saint German des Pres, it influenced emerging Nouvelle Vague directors like Truffaut, Godard and Chabrol, who were already respected among the hipster milieu. American actors such as Marlon Brando, Paul Newman and Montgomery Clift played the iconoclastic Hipster, the antidote to the American Dream, in films like A Streetcar Named Desire and A Place in the Sun. James Dean, though a fully-fledged hipster in real life, never captured it on screen. Hipsterism has never gone away, hinting at its presence in the confidence and conviction of certain individuals. Yet it has nothing to do with beards and tattoos, nor is it cultivated in the ‘creative’ industries. It cannot be found in the coffee bars of Hoxton or Brighton. It is instinctive, introverted and unique. As Louis Armstrong said when asked to define Swing: “If you gottas ask, you’ll never know.” This article is dedicated to my father, John ‘Jazz’ Bullock 1938-2017. He stoked a fire of inspiration within me. If only he’d have known it. n
JAQUES OF LONDON Nancy Alsop meets the scion of the British family that brought us snakes and ladders, croquet, ping pong, modern chess and Happy Families
“So successful was the game that the Wimbledon Croquet Club was formed, which painstakingly set up lawns to the correct dimensions for the game – until some bright spark suggested they might try playing lawn tennis on the grass as well”
egin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop. So said The King, one of Lewis Carroll’s cast of maddening chess pieces, to Alice in Wonderland. The origins of chess, along with Snakes and Ladders, Ludo, Happy Families, Tiddlywinks, Croquet and Ping Pong begin with a single journey in the late 16th century by one Thomas Jaques from the Wiltshire village of Grittleton to London in 1780. Some 240 years later, I am sitting in a cosmopolitan Knightsbridge café with Joe Jaques (pronounced ‘Jakes’), Thomas’s great grandson to the power of five – discussing his family’s wonderful and, dare I say it, chequered history. Joe’s easy manner and copious use of the word ‘mental’ belies the fact that, without the Jaques clan, the very British long-held devotion to games would never have taken shape.
“We were the owners of a church in Grittleton near Castle Combe,” explains Jaques. “Thomas left and decided to make some money in London. He became an apprentice at an ivory turners and trinket makers just behind Hatton Garden. He
worked his way up through this business, and in 1795 it became ‘Thomas Jaques: Ivory maker and worldwide exporter.’ He was hugely ambitious. Everything they did was very good quality – when you think that they hand-turned perfectly spherical billiard balls from ivory! I mean, how?!” But it wasn’t until John Jaques The First that the Jaques name would become synonymous with the manufacture of games. Howard Staunton, the chess champion of the period, came to him with a request that would transform not only Jaques’ life, but the way we play chess. “Howard Staunton was a very astute businessman as well,” says Jaques. “He came to my great, great, great, great grandfather and said: ‘All these chess sets we’re playing with get a bit ridiculous, because when I travel up to Scotland to play a Scottish player, no one can recognise which pieces are supposed to be which.’” Until then, chess was only played by those who could afford individually crafted chess pieces, or using crude figures only differentiated by height. And so the ‘Staunton’ chess set was born and remains, to this day, the world’s most sold design. Of anything. Ever. The Jaques clan had stumbled into a springboard into the games world, from which they’ve never looked back. But the Jaques narrative becomes curiouser
and curiouser. John Jaques III married Irene Dodgson, Lewis Carroll’s grandniece. “This is one of my favourite stories,” says Jaques, infectiously enthusiastic. “John Jaques III obviously got together with Lewis Carroll on quite a few occasions, being married to his niece. Lewis Carroll then wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in which there’s chess, and this weird fantasy croquet. Carroll also happened to be a founding member of the Oxford Croquet Club, making the family link all the stronger.” Meanwhile, Sir John Tenniel, of the original Alice illustrations fame, had previously been busy providing the ‘54 grotesque playing cards’ advertised on the front of Happy Families, another Jaques family creation.
“Until Jaques, Chess was only played by those who could afford individually crafted chess pieces, and so the Staunton Chess Set was born” For the origins of croquet, of which Lewis Carroll was so enamoured he wrote his own rule-
book, we must revisit the prolific days of the second generation, John Jaques I. Aside from the odd contention that the game had originated in Ireland, there is no evidence that croquet had existed before John Jaques I registered its official rules in 1864, three years after launching the game at the 10th anniversary of the Great Exhibition. In keeping with the Jaques tendency for trailblazing, croquet was the first ever game in which men and women were allowed to compete on an even basis. John Jaques I’s seemingly Midas touch meant that the game was a towering and instant success, gaining popularity across the empire, notably in India. “We made a full ivory mallet for the Viceroy, and for Maharajas,” says Jaques. “The fact that it was the first game where male and female could compete against one another is just another story interspersing our family history, which makes you realise how massively different the world was then, and how sensational some of these things must have been and why they became so successful.” In fact, so successful was the game that the Wimbledon Croquet Club was formed, which painstakingly set up lawns to the correct dimensions for the game – until some bright spark suggested they might try playing a little lawn tennis on the grass as well. Needless to say it caught on, but the precise size of
the tennis court was another feather in the cap of the increasingly influential Jaques clan. John Jaques II was spurred on by this evidently popular encroachment on his family’s invention to devise an indoor take on tennis. “So he went home and got a table, made some bats, and invented this game with a lovely feather weight ball, and thought, because it’s feather weight, like spider’s yarn, I’ll call it Gossamer. Disaster. Didn’t catch on at all.” That is, until John Jaques III came along with his shrewdly commercial mindset. “He looked at this game of Gossamer and thought: ‘This is brilliant.’ He began to question why it wasn’t popular, and decided to change its name to Ping Pong, registering the name jointly with Hamley’s (all the early sets had ‘Ping Pong or Gossamer’ on the packaging). Overnight, thousands of Gossamer sets were sold.” Today, ping pong is the most played sport in the world. The family’s extraordinary achievements throughout history have not gone unnoticed. In Queen Mary’s famous dolls’ house at Windsor Castle, a miniature Staunton Chess set and table are viewed by admiring tourists daily. The 12-foot house features 1:8 scale models of works from leading manufacturers of the day, and when it came to the chess board, Jaques was naturally the only
brand suitable. However, Queen Mary was keen for the board to be elevated on to a chess table. “We were approached, and we said, Yes, absolutely honoured to make a chess set, but we don’t do chess tables. What kind of style would you like it in?” So they sent us one of Queen Mary’s pedestal tables, and we copied the table to look like a chess table, and sent it back. We got a letter back saying: ‘Thank you so much for the chess set and table, it’s absolutely wonderful. Here, have the pedestal table
as a token of our appreciation!’ So there is a table that the queen gave us sitting in my uncle’s hall.” The Second World War saw no decline in the Jaques family’s influence. MI9 commissioned the company to create board games to send to British prisoners of war, with hidden encoded messages and tools that would aid the prisoners’ escape. ‘We were employed to make these things, like a wooden games compendium with a radio hidden in it, or a travel chess set with a map hidden underneath and a hacksaw blade inside it. They helped thousands of people to escape. POWs were allowed to have things sent to them, so the Germans would open up the package and think, Oh, a game – here you are. The POWs would open them up, find their encoded messages and a hacksaw blade and think, OK, off I go!” But operations came abruptly to halt one morning in 1941, when Jaques’ grandfather walked out of the tube station and round the corner to Hat-
“MI9 commissioned the company to create board games to send to British prisoners of war, with hidden encoded messages and tools that would aid the prisoners’ escape” 110
ton Garden, to find his factory no longer there. “We got a massively direct hit in the Blitz. I’ve got a photo that was taken that morning and it was flattened, with just the steel joints running up the height of it. And there, amid the smouldering mess, the only thing that survived was the metal safe with all the original pattern books. It tells you something doesn’t it? Something somewhere looked after us that day.” The Jaques clan continues to safeguard its extraordinary legacy. An edition of Snakes and Ladders, based on the original round board, was released a few years ago. These days Joe Jaques and his siblings are at the helm, and it was only when they took the reins that they really unearthed what it meant to be a Jaques. “We stopped and looked right the way back through the history, which we’d never really been educated properly about – we didn’t know half the things we’d invented. It’s only when we started getting quite geeky that we found all those old business cards. Otherwise things get
lost and become legend rather than fact. And now what we’re doing is taking all of that wonderful legacy and the quirkiness and bringing it to the modern world.” People, he tells me, still persist in asking what he is going to invent, to which he invariably responds: nothing. “You know what? We taught the world to play. Prior to us, male and female didn’t play together, there weren’t really indoor games, croquet was the first big outdoor game, so we’re never going to invent any of those things again. Ping Pong is the most played sport in the world, chess is the most played game in the world. What do you do, invent a new most-played game?” It is extraordinary that, since 1795, not a single Jaques has dropped the ball, and that there has been a kind of fortuitous sequence of alternating creative and commercial generations. Something tells me that Jaques of London is in a very safe pair of hands. n
DrinkinG with Philip Larkin Ferris Newton suggests a large gin or two to contemplate the staggering genius that is Philip Larkin’s poetry
“Larkin scholars have suggested that his oeuvre is small (steady on) because he had to destroy many of his love poems, in case one of his lady companions found out that she was not the only one that made the poet’s heart pitter patter beneath his tweeds”
f all the modern poets, perhaps Phil Larkin is the gent with whom one should spend an evening drinking. This might seem strange to those who celebrate literary figures with more outré images. Surely it would be preferable to spend a night jacking up some kind of street detergent with well-dressed junky Bill Burroughs; or masculine carousing with Jack ‘Ti Jean’ Kerouac in his lum-
berjack shirt, Jacky only momentarily distracted by texts from his mum telling him to come home. Admittedly, Phil’s reputation has not done well over the years. In part because of his image (he thought of himself as ‘an egg with goggles’) but also because of the baleful influence of the ‘Britain’s best loved’ title; that celebration of little island failed horizons and family pleasing shtick that no doubt contributed to the self-loathing that put Dec
(or was it Ant?) into rehab. Why not booze with Larkers? Most chaps worth their braces are far too broad minded to condemn a fellow for his bedside reading – which, in Phil’s case, was not much worse than your uncle’s collection of Brazilian Health and Efficiency Illustrated (featuring Colombian Midafternoon Gigolo) that fell out of the loft that year when Aunt Marge was looking for the Christmas lights. There is also the delicate matter of Phil’s politics: but Phil’s poetry is a long way from his small ‘c’ conservatism. As beardy sex god and fellow tweed wearer, Dave ‘Herbie’ Lawrence would say: never trust the artist, always trust the tale. Sadly, Phil is no longer around, so the best way to get to know him is to read his poems. As any chap knows, reading poetry has to take place in carefully controlled conditions, to ensure its maximum impact on the soul. If you have a fire, light it. Worst case, crank up the central heating and pull a chair up to the radiator. Now, mix yourself a gin. A big one. You may also have a bowl of nuts for sustenance, as it is going to be a long night. Take a sip or two. Are you feeling the magic? Good. You should, of course, have procured either a collected poems, or the individual slim volumes of Phil’s back catalogue. As Christopher Okigbo once observed, all there is in the world is either poetry or logistics. For the purposes of this experiment we
will leave out Larkin’s novels (which are nevertheless well worth reading). A second gin should get you ready for the encounter with the poems. You might as well finish the bottle. It will only turn into vinegar if you leave it. Just about time to have a snout outside while looking at the stars. Now, open the book anywhere and begin reading. There is no correct order in which to read poems. As our experiment continues you will find that, as well as the pieces that you might know well (and may even have studied at school) there are many others that will so surprise you as to send a bubbling ectoplasmic snort of gin and masticated nuts from your nose in pure delight. Ok, a damp sponging should sort out the stains on your cravat. Let’s continue. After a little dabbling in the poems, to get the feel of them, ask yourself: am I feeling stirred? One of the finely honed skills of the professional reader, the literary critic, is to be able to distinguish between the rarefied feeling of the presence of great literature, and the tightening of the gut that suggests that the two dozen escargots, the couple of bottles of Jouclary and three crème brulees might have been a little too heavy for breakfast. Poetry should ‘get you’. Poetry is about the body and its rhythms. If you want to know about dactyls or trochees, ask a drummer (although you can also get a cream for the former from the chem-
ist. Just don’t use it on your schmeichels). By the by, Larkin did play drums. You can tell from his poems. Impeccable timing. Indeed, if you want an insight into Larkin’s poetic style, listen to that other famous son of Hull, Woody Woodmansey, drummer in the Spiders from Mars. Five Years: Woody’s rhythms are as precise as Larkin’s. Sorry, we are getting distracted. Ah yes, poetry, drinking and the body. Andrew Motion has confessed to necking a bottle of cough medicine in order to write. The feeling of being ‘about to become ill’ allowed him to compose. Phil was wise to this too. Read The Literary World if you don’t believe me (which is also a useful poem to refer to if any feminists have a go at our Phil’s sexism). There are, of course, resistances: stuff that gets in the way of your pure literature pleasure. Reading Phil is not immune to this problem. One way of moving us forward is a variation of the legendary ‘Withnail game.’ As any aficionado of that fine film knows, the game involves taking a drink, preferably exactly the same kind as the characters indulge in, for every scene. The ‘Larkin game’ is more or less the same. Every time a poem mentions a drink, slosh one down. Has the gin gone? I think that there might be a bottle of Jouclary left with silver foil on the top in the bathroom cabinet. Leave the cough medicine. What are we doing? Oh yes, the poetry. Soon, we
will more or less have a degree in English literature. One of the problems with ‘getting’ Larkin is resisting the way in which the literary tradition has placed him in a box. As pointed out on previous pages of this journal, the correct trajectory out of which Larkin is flung goes back to the Earl of Rochester: that grubby rhymester of dildoes, cooking sherry binges with servant boys and fumbles on the back seats of stage coaches. Our alternative Larkin could be favourably compared to other literary heroes. Phil could have drunk Bukowski under the table. He was also better dressed, and a better poet than that Yankee scruff. Phil probably also had much more sex than Joe Orton. Just in more sanitary conditions and not in Islington. Larkers had a series of rumbustious relationships with women who were well his match for alcohol and good times, perhaps most notably (at least in literary terms) Monica Jones, a chain smoking Dorothy Wordsworth, whose influence on his poetry needs to be celebrated. Larkin scholars have suggested that his oeuvre is small (steady on) because he had to destroy many of his love poems, in case one of his lady companions found out that she was not the only one that made the poet’s heart pitter patter beneath his tweeds. One baleful long shadow that falls over Phil is that cast by John Betjeman. Johnny evokes the prematurely aged curmudgeon, insisting on proper leaf
tea, three-piece suits, Gothic architecture and country branch lines. Summoned by bells to afternoon tea. The tradition in which we read Larkin has a different lineage and inheritance. It links together Ray Davies, Morrissey and Darren Hayman – sensibilities that can only be described as Larkinesque. Furthermore, we could trace certain spirits in Larkin’s poems back to dandyism and Parisian modernity. In place of Betjeman, Baudelaire. The backdrop for our Larkin is not a croquet lawn on a Sunday afternoon somewhere near Newbury, but staggering down le Rue du Grand Monsieur, full of cheap brandy, accompanied by une danseuse du cabaret with a haiku in green biro on the back of her hand. What’s this got to do with Larkin? And you cannot find the Jouclary? So many questions. If you look carefully, there’s a frozen bottle of Blue Nun at the back of the fridge. We could have white wine lollies. So what does a chap get from Phil? Here is the essential playlist: Livings, Mr Bleaney, Aubade, Love Again, Symphony in White Major, Sad Steps, Show Saturday, Vers de Société, An Arundel Tomb, Talking in Bed, and Friday Night at the Station Hotel. What emerges from these texts? Drinking, for Phil, is linked to writing: the essential aloneness that allows you to create. Loneliness is a click track for Larkin. But the rhythms of writing are always interrupted. Not just by the demands of company, the comforting rituals
of work and the ‘social virtues’, but by the difficulty of being alone. Something still gets you: whether it is the moment in the night when you awake needing a piss and become shaken by the terrors, or the sudden awareness of the passage of time; winter coming. The fear of death in Phil is related to this difficulty of poetry. The white page is both the provocation to begin again, and an absence – a space ‘cleared’ of you. Face it down, brother. Write well. Look at the world clearly, as if through high windows. The challenge is ultimately that posed by love, which, like writing, requires honesty, or, more precisely, words that are neither too true nor too unkind. So, right, yeah: Larkers is really a kind of English Mallarmé, but much better than those daft mutterings about rolling dice (or was that the Stones?). Ah, the cough medicine at last: mix it with the last of the tonic; the Blue Nun lollies are not that nice. The snow that falls in Larkin’s poems is the stuff that surrounds Robert Walser’s corpse in Billy Childish’s painting – his trilby rolling towards the viewer, a final salute. So, the poem’s the thing. Like Bowie (who knew This be the Verse off by heart), Larkin took great care in the construction of his public persona. Not so much mascara and cocaine, as the insights that only living in Hull, a finely tuned melancholy, tweed and gin can bring. Good night. I’ll let myself out. n
Kingâ€™s fab finery, celebrating Carnaby Street chic, features a canary kaftan, snakeskin jacket, and black leather jumpsuitâ€Ś unzipped to the navel to show off his manly chest rug and medallion.
The Swinging Detective Steve Pittard pays tribute to Jason King, the exotic creation of Peter Wyngarde, who passed away earlier this year
ith his snazzy suits and penchant for paisley, Jason King cut quite a dash when Department S aired in 1969. The Interpol offshoot consulted King if anything baffling cropped up. Jason, by dint of being an accomplished crime author, drew on his creative bent to help fathom the mystery. Originally the character was earmarked to be a tweedy Oxford don but Peter Wyngarde, given carte blanche, transformed the role into a decadent dandy – essentially Wyngarde himself writ large. The spin-off series, Jason King, elevated the outré operative to an international heartthrob. In 1971, at the height of King mania, ‘Jason’ became the most popular boy’s birth name in England. The unabashed ‘leg man’ chaired the Miss World contest, while his Zapata moustache, thickset sideburns and bouffant coiffure adorned adverts for
Tabac, propelling the fragrance to topple Old Spice as the best-selling Christmas cologne. Peter was massive Down Under. Australians voted him the hottest man on the planet. Upon his arrival at Sydney airport, the sex god was mobbed
“Such is his fame that he leaves one contact address as simply ‘Jason King, Egypt’. Threatened with extradition, King inspects the plane ticket and drolly quips: “Thank you for your concern, but I never fly economy” 117
by thirty thousand excitable females. A typical afternoon at King’s Paris penthouse finds the lounge lizard lolling around in a lavender dressing gown. He endlessly smokes Sobranies, punctuated by nibbling strawberries dunked in champagne. While reclining on the divan, he dictates his latest Mark Caine novel to an enthralled ‘secretary’, as another of his female flotilla, notionally a cleaning lady, flounces around in hot pants while wafting a feather duster. Welcome to the rarified world of Jason King. JK (to his chums) is often to be found sojourning in an exotic locale; skiing at St Moritz or carousing in Capri. Such is his fame – or inflated ego – that he leaves one contact address as simply ‘Jason King, Egypt’. The former gun-runner and gold smuggler frequently visits tropical islands for research purposes, despite invariably being arrested in suspicious circumstances. Threatened with extradition, the insouciant King inspects the plane ticket and drolly quips: “Thank you for your concern, but I never fly economy.” On a South American jaunt he joins forces with rebel guerrillas, but declines to don military apparel as khaki isn’t really his colour.
a Venice canal. The innovation sparked a craze. At a German discotheque, Wyngarde was chuffed to find all the French-cuffed chaps on trend. For the foppish flaneur, a ‘criminal accessory’ meant a mismatched boutonnière. When a deadly doppelganger commits a fearful fashion faux pas, Jason is indignant: “I suppose anyone who’d wear that handkerchief with that suit would get away with murder”. The suave sleuth is particularly proud of his pocket square – always puffed to perfection – and in one episode even pauses to revitalise it during a bout of fisticuffs. Every episode sees Jason get a pasting. He occasionally fells a brute with an effete karate chop – terribly a-la-mode – but never gets tooled up. A pistol would spoil the lines of his jacket, while a concealed knife might fray the cuffs. Wyngarde deliberately made King a poodlefaker, after noting Roger Moore’s experience when playing tough guy Simon Templar. Moore often bemoaned that every drunken brawler wanted to take a pop at The Saint. Like all seventies TV cops, Jason cultivated a catchphrase. His regular riposte was “Fancy?” ( hip lingo for ‘interesting’). The silver-tongued seducer has ladies aquiver with his cracking chat-up lines. Upon spotting a delectable creature in a deserted bistro, he sidles up and asks, “Do you mind if I sit here, as all the other seats appear to be taken?” On another occasion he hits on a gorgeous goddess, purring “And what is Michelle drinking? Nectar?” His most memorable opening gambit is the positively suggestive “Do you like turtle in the shell?” One of King’s pulling ploys at restaurants is to sketch stunners. It’s surely only a matter of time before they’re invited back to view his etchings and grab a stiff one. Such is Jason’s fondness for whisky – “Bit early for coffee… I’ll have a Scotch” – that his only 007-type gadget is a hipflask-cum-radio receiver. When it comes to aperitifs, King is equally as fastidious as James Bond. JK’s Bacardi and lime must be served with crushed ice and a sprig of mint. Jason is also a wine buff and can identify a specific Bordeaux (and vintage) purely from bouquet and taste. King oozes sophistication. The maverick metrosexual eats quiche and plays chess – albeit with the board wrongly orientated. Jason’s a dab hand at poker (three-card stud, naturally) and happily bluffs five grand on a jack high. Fluent in eight languages, JK reads Balzac and quotes Byron and Wilde. Wyngarde’s voice, as velvety as his suits, provided the immortal tagline “And all because the
“He occasionally fells a brute with an effete karate chop – terribly a-la-mode – but never gets tooled up. A pistol would spoil the lines of his jacket, while a concealed knife might fray the cuffs” The priceless peacock adores purple. One daring ensemble blends pink pyjamas, a plum smoking jacket and a flamingo cravat. His most striking style statement is the identical shirt and kipper tie combo, worn with a knot as big as a fist. JK’s groovy gear, plucked from Peter’s personal wardrobe, propelled Wyngarde to be crowned ‘Britain’s best-dressed male personality’. King’s fab finery, celebrating Carnaby Street chic, features a canary kaftan, snakeskin jacket, and black leather jumpsuit… unzipped to the navel to show off his manly chest rug and medallion. JK’s signature sartorial triumph – shirt cuffs folded back over his jacket sleeves – owed itself to a mishap when one of his platinum cufflinks fell into
For the foppish flaneur and outré operative Jason King, a ‘criminal accessory’ meant a mismatched boutonniere
lady loves Milk Tray”. Not that you’d catch King leaping on to a speeding train, or indeed any form of public transport. JK serenely cruises the continent in a maroon Bentley Continental. Unlike some of his gauche TV contemporaries, Jason can’t be doing with clambering over the bonnet. The louche lothario needs to conserve his energy for bedding beautiful babes. When an airline captain croaks it mid flight, JK nonchalantly switches to auto pilot and saunters down the aisle to chat up crumpet.
Jason King hung up his platforms in 1972. However, it wasn’t farewell, or rather ‘ciao’, to the creation entirely. The preposterous playboy inspired the character of Austin Powers, although in many ways King’s outrageous antics defied parody. The Comic Strip crew paid homage in 1993 with Detectives on the edge of a Nervous Breakdown. When forensics find traces of cheesecloth, only Jason Bentley (Peter Richardson) is capable of solving the mystery. Taking time out from his boutique ‘Flares R us’, he effortlessly cracks the case seemingly by just by poncing about. Jason explains his Modus Operandi: “Well, it’s very simple. I usually drive the Bentley to a large country house belonging to some mad rich colonel, whereupon I drink a bottle of claret, smoke fifty cigarettes and have everyone arrested.” Wyngarde approved of the affectionate spoof but was at pains to point out that King wouldn’t have been seen dead in crushed velvet.
“The preposterous playboy inspired Austin Powers, although in many ways King’s outrageous antics defied parody”
Every assignment sees the incorrigible rake in tow with a glamour puss… sometimes twins! Staying at a health farm – prompted by exhaustion, one imagines – the camp Casanova proves utterly irresistible. The resident chicks draw up a roster. King’s clearly no slouch in the trouser department but insists on having Sundays off.
Peter Wyngarde 1927-2018 n
The Chap Dines
Simpson's in the Strand Reviewed by Alexander Larman and Gustav Temple
unch at somewhere as legendary as Simpson’s in the Strand cannot be taken at a hurried pace. At least half an hour should be spent on pre-prandial chit-chat with the knowledgeable Joshua, Senior Bartender in Simpson’s tastefully refurbished upstairs cocktail bar. Thankfully the extent of the refurbishment seems to have been no more than a lick of Farrow and Ball and some new upholstery on the plush sofas and armchairs. From a selection of imaginatively constructed concoctions that refer to the glorious past of Simpson’s and its venerable historical guests, I chose an ‘Artful Dodger’ (Dickens was a regular)
“When one enters, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed, and that’s before the plethora of pleasures offered. The room has the feel of an Oxbridge college, albeit one solely devoted to munching and quaffing” 122
purely because the word Absinthe rang out from the ingredients, while my companion took a more adventurous choice in something called ‘Don’t Make a Fuss’. The Artful Dodger delivered its expected gin-and-absinthe punch, while Don’t Make a Fuss turned out to be something of a challenge, served in a flute with a faux lipstick mark on its rim and witheringly described by my companion as “flat champagne in a dirty glass.” Sensing discord, Joshua manifested at our side to explain. “Half the guests simply enjoy their cocktail, while the other half indeed ‘make a fuss’. The lipstick stain is created with red sugar syrup and the mixture is intended to resemble flat champagne.” So, a sort of Milgram Experiment in a cocktail bar. At £16.50 a pop, one might choose a less dramatic start to one’s afternoon, but by the time Joshua had given us samples of Simpson’s two brands of gin, London Dry and Old Tom, plus a bottle of Simpson’s Pale Ale, we had not only ceased to make a fuss, but were more than ready for something solid in our stomachs. There is something rather glorious about the interior of Simpsons. It has the fin-de-siècle quality of a gentleman’s club, mixed with the luxurious abandon of a Viennese grand café; whatever The
Wolseley offers, its Strand neighbour did it before, and considerably better. When one enters, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed, and that’s before the plethora of pleasures offered. The room has the feel of an Oxbridge college, albeit one solely devoted to munching and quaffing. We enjoy the way that the ceilings, post 2017-refurbishment, have artful fauxtobacco staining, so that the old gents dining with their sons and nephews won’t feel lost. There is no menu here, instead one chooses from a ‘bill of fare’. Oh, how English. ‘Still water? Bread? Something to drink?’ Unlike Laurence Olivier in Spartacus, we’ve always opted for oysters over snails, and the two proffered here – West Mersea and Jersey rock – are succulent, served in the time-appointed ways of simplicity, with lemon and shallot vinegar. A glass of Ridgeview from one of Sussex’s finest sparkling wine regions accomplishes the pre-prandial pleasure, and then we are ready to venture into wilder and less familiar territory. I jest, of course. Simpson’s has never attempted to trouble the world of culinary sophistication – although it should be noted that it scored a Michelin star at one point – but instead to serve up the Great British Classics with aplomb. The Simpson’s bill of fare strikes an interesting balance between conser-
vatism and innovation. Most people have heard of the trolleys which come round, serving inordinate qualities of roast meat to a grateful audience, and this is certainly true here; the Aberdeen Angus beef which comes by the slice (£35 a serving) is about as good as you’ll get in London, and the Yorkshire puddings, gravy and what-have-you are exactly as you’d expect. The potatoes, perfectly roasted and terribly moreish, are the stuff of nursery fantasies. Yet the Beef Wellington, at a not-inconsiderable £42 a pop, is not quite what it was; m’colleague rhapsodises about ‘a great enormous slab of gloriousness’ on his previous visit some years ago, whereas the couple of rather carefully cut slabs that come to the table are delicious, superbly cooked and yet not quite the reckless luxury of yore. It helps, therefore, that the red we’re offered, a Stellenbosch, is a Meerlust. As every Rochester aficionado might recall, ‘there’s something generous in mere lust’. Much the same could be said of the starters. There is literally not one thing wrong with either the Simpson’s potted shrimps, in their quasi-terrine form, or the Dorset dressed crab, both of which are fresh, delicious and surprisingly light. They are much assisted by the white Mirabeau Bordeaux that they are served with, which sets them off on a splendid volley of excellence. But they’re not the trencherman’s platter that the larger gentleman – and this has always been a gentleman’s place – might be used to. Thank goodness, then, for the redress that puddings offer. A sticky toffee date pudding and remarkably
comprehensive trifle are substantial, in a sort of matronly fashion, and utterly delicious. So we leave Simpson’s in a pleasant haze, like two Victorian gentlemen who have accidentally been catapulted into a not-so-brave new world. We have had an immense amount of fun, but wonder if perhaps the corsets, which still seem so tightly laced, might be unbuttoned just the tiniest bit when it comes to the menu, so we can all share in the fun which the institution so obviously and wonderfully is able to offer. n Simpson’s in the Strand 100 Strand London WC2R 0EW 020 7420 2111 www.simpsonsinthestrand.co.uk
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Vintage Events The Vintage Nostalgia Festival (p128) The World Cycling Revival (p130) â€˘ The Chap Olympiad
The Vintage Nostalgia Festival une 1st-3rd J Stockton Park, Wiltshire
escribed as “a hidden gem in the heart of the Wylye valley”, The Vintage Nostalgia Festival celebrates all that was great from before the turn of the last century until the 1980s. The festival is run by local enthusiasts for vintage enthusiasts from all over the country, who bring their vintage vehicles and vintage fashions to parade around this rural site, which also features more salubrious canvas options in the glamping meadow, under the trees and close to the showers. The live music on offer is comprehensive, to say the least, with everything from 50s rock ‘n’ roll, burlesque performers, a 16-piece swing band led by “Bristol’s best-dressed drummer”, Western
Swing from Bamboozle, all-girl harmonies from the London Belles, American roots music from the Hot House Four, Boogie-woogie and blues from the Harlem Rhythm Cats, plus countless other live acts, culminating in the FSB big band on Sunday afternoon in The London Bus Bar marquee. Previous visitors have described this festival as very good for families and particularly those with canine members, not always welcome at other music festivals. Tickets £10-£40 www.vintagenostalgiafestival.co.uk
The World Cycling Revival June 14th-16th Herne Hill Velodrome, London
mong a plethora of vintage cycling events, including the Tweed Run, this event is being billed as the greatest celebration of the bicycle the world has ever seen. The World Cycling Revival will be a heritage sporting, music and lifestyle festival celebrating 200 years of the bicycle. Taking place in the iconic Herne Hill Velodrome, where the London 1948 Olympics cycling events took place, The World Cycling Revival looks set to become the Goodwood Revival of cycling, right in the heart of South London. The centrepiece of the thrilling race programme is The Japanese Keirin Trophy, a fast-paced, breathtaking and unpredictable daily five-race competition. Condor Cycles are building authentic steel-framed replica bikes similar to those used by British cycling legends Tom Simpson, Dave Bonner and Hugh Porter at Herne Hill Velodrome in the 1950s and 60s.
Former world cycling champion David Millar will be among riders competing in the Brompton ’48 Invitational, a winner-takes-all event with the victor claiming a £10,048 prize fund. Two of cycling’s most frantic and thrilling races, the Elimination and Madison, will feature throughout the extensive programme. From the USA, the Marymoor Crawl combines the impressive technical challenge of trackstanding and the physical requirements of a winner-takes-all sprint. Readers of The Chap can enter the code CHAMPAGNECHAP to receive a complimentary bottle of Pommery Champagne at the event, courtesy of the event’s champagne partners.
Tickets from £39 per day www.cyclingrevival.com
The Chap Olympiad ly y 14th Ju Saturda12 -9pm Bedford Square Gardens, London WC1
records already exist). New world records we are attempting to set for the first time include Most Ties Knotted in One Minute, Most People Smoking One Pipe and Fastest Sprint Holding a Cup of Tea. We will of course still be offering the same magical, eccentric, fun-filled, cocktail-shaking day of sporting tomfoolery and well-ressed debauchery, specifically aimed at those who are too concerned with correct attire to make much of a physical effort. The most likely skills to succeed at the Chap Olympiad are a flair for skullduggery, a winsome smile and a stout walking cane (to trip up one’s rivals).
his year sees the nation’s most eccentric sporting event undergo a few improvements to its format. Six Olympic events will now take place simultaneously around the splendidly verdant grounds of Bedford Square Gardens. As well as our usual roster of Umbrella Jousting, Pyongyang Ping Pong, Riding Crop Rumpus, plus new events, this year we shall be setting some new world records. We have enrolled the services of a new Master of Ceremonies, Ben Shires, who happens to be the presenter of BBC TV’s Officially Amazing programme, and is therefore an expert on setting and breaking world records. Existing world records we shall be attempting to break at the Chap Olympiad include The Most Hats Worn While Riding a Bicycle and Tossing a Hat on to a Hat stand (yes, incredibly, these world
Tickets £25 www.chapolympiad.com
Photographs by Soulstealer Photography
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REVIEWS Author interview: Self & I (p136) • House of Nutter (p140) • Fighters & Quitters (p141) • In Byron’s Wake (p141) • Elisabeth's Lists (p143) • Charmed Lives in Greece (p144) • Film: The Dam Busters (p150) • The Oscar Season (p153)
BOOK REVIEWS Alexander Larman meets the man who spent a year holed up in a cottage in Suffolk as the amanuensis to author Will Self
DE ABAITUA AND I
t the beginning of interviews it is customary to declare any interest occasioned by pre-existing relationships with one’s subject, so here goes: Matthew de Abaitua, author, academic and former Idler, fired me. We worked together for about six months a decade or so ago on a launch for a TV company’s website. De Abaitua presented an air of calm and sage competence in the face of our bosses’ wholly unreasonable and bizarre demands, while I merely panicked and drank a lot. Occasionally, he deigned to join me in some of my forays into the bottle, one of which took place before a Prince gig at the 02. (He is a noted aficionado.) Yet my incompetence meant that, regretfully – or otherwise – I was given the heave-ho and left to begin the second act of my career. Since my ignominious rejection by the world of work, both of us have published books;
Harvey’s and Deborah Levy’s Things I Don’t Want To Know, taking temporary respite from his day job as a creative writing lecturer at Essex University on account of a strike. There is then some badinage and drinking, before the mood shifts, the pulse quickens and the interview proper begins.
mine have tended to be biographies of dandies, libertines and rakes, whereas de Abaitua has mainly concentrated on visionary and speculative sciencefiction, along with a book about his great passion, camping. Yet the one that we meet to discuss, Self & I, represents new territory. At first glance, from the Withnail-alluding title onwards, it seems to be a comic memoir of the time that the young de Abaitua spent working as Will Self ’s amanuensis in 1994, when the two – the famous man of letters and his callow acolyte – set up house together in a small cottage in Suffolk. There are many droll and well-evoked comic set pieces, and the relationship between the two is beautifully written. However, de Abaitua is less interested in a piece of cosy nostalgia than in an interrogation of what it means to be both a writer and an honest human being. Born Matthew Humphreys, he changed his surname at his father’s request to acknowledge the family’s Basque ancestry. It is this division between the external and the internal – the self and the I, if you will – that preoccupies de Abaitua, not literary gossip or drinking stories. Although you’ll find plenty of those as well. When we meet at a pub in Lewes, de Abaitua is happily ensconced in a corner with a pint of
“At first glance, from the Withnail-alluding title onwards, it seems to be a comic memoir of the time that the young de Abaitua spent working as Will Self’s amanuensis in 1994, when the two – the famous man of letters and his callow acolyte – set up house together in a small cottage in Suffolk” CHAP: I first encountered your writing about Will Self in a hilarious Five Dials essay, which formed the
basis of Self & I. But this isn’t just a funny book. How do you reconcile, as it were, the heart and the humour? MDA: I wanted to write something funny, because a lot of my fiction isn’t funny; I’ve deliberately excluded humour from that because it interrupts people’s suspension of disbelief. Will was, at that point, the funniest man I’d ever met, and you couldn’t write about this time without capturing his humour, which was unexpected and brilliant. His creative work was as much in the experiential as it was in his writing. So I deliberately modelled the narrative on Withnail and I – with both of us exchanging roles – to accentuate the experience. There’s an undertone of melancholy in my book, but I think that’s what comes of any book in which one looks back from middle age on, ahem, ‘the glorious days of youth.’ I also wanted to explore literary ambition and the quiet tragedy of what occurs if you never achieved this ambition.
becomes who you are’. You’ve written hard sci-fi, a social memoir of camping and now a memoir. And here, the title doesn’t refer to Will Self so much as it’s about you. I was quite pleased when I realised what you’d done…as it reflects the book’s themes of duality. Do you feel that you, yourself, lead a series of dual lives? MDA: The title does a number of different jobs. As for the memoir, it covers a period of selfcreation, but then writers create themselves with each book that they write. Certainly, it was both disconcerting and impressive to see how Will changed what he wrote constantly, and also how he was changing himself. As a writer, I feel that I’ve had to become a better person in order to get anything written at all. It’s important to be a morally better person in your day-to-day life in order to be a good writer, I think. And having changed my name, there’s always the sense within my work of me having rewritten who I am – and that’s directly under Will Self ’s influence.
CHAP: And yet it’s a truism – even a cliché – that ‘you don’t become a writer, the writing life
CHAP: So if Matthew Humphreys were to meet you now, what would he say?
MDA: There are alternate pathways, and I think we’re all aware that whatever choice you make in life precludes other pathways. That’s part of maturity; we no longer have what Will called ‘the adolescent will to omnipotentiality’, or the belief that you can do anything. When you’re younger, you’re reluctant to give up your options, but when you’re older, you have to commit. It’s very easy to be a wanker as a young man; the best self emerges through time and experience. And this is equally true of writing; you’ve got to commit fully to it, as otherwise it’s not a proper transformation. It’s about attentiveness, both to yourself and to others. This process of paying intense attention is not equivalent to a narcotic, it’s what writers have used narcotics for in order to replicate. The world becomes charged with meaning, and when you finish writing a book, the meaning drains from the world, so you feel bereft. Time to write another…
from an upper-working-class background, and I simply didn’t meet other writers when I was young. That all came later. CHAP: What is Will Self ’s reaction to the book? MDA: It’s explicitly not a biography of him, and says ‘if you want to know more about him, read his novels, and the well-sourced gossips in the Sunday supplements.’ He appears in it as a figure who I knew then, and I don’t have access to his thoughts today; he exists in a closed section of memory. We’ve stayed in touch since the Suffolk days, and he’s written about me himself. His attitude towards Self & I has been neither to support nor to castigate it, which I think is completely understandable. The chat continues in off-the-record vein for some time. We decamp to another hostelry, drink strong beer until the witching hour and become all but hysterical. And then it is time for de Abaitua to retire from the field of literary discussion and head back to Hackney, his life and the many fascinating ideas percolating about his consciousness. I, meanwhile, am just grateful that he can’t fire me again.n
CHAP: How old were you when your first book was published? And how has the process changed? Are you still excited when you set eyes on the new one in physical form? MDA: When The Red Men came out I was 36, and it was very exciting. But by now, I’ve lost interest in the appearance of the physical book itself. The excitement is in the composition, and in the process of the writing. When you aspire to be a writer, it’s all about The Book, but when you are writing, then it’s all about the eight hours of composition. And other people will have their own responses to it. Certainly, I don’t just rattle around in my own head; using other people to bring parts of yourself to life is a much more interesting way around it. I don’t come from a background of writers, I come
Self & I by Matthew de Abaitua is published by Eye Books
“Will was, at that point, the funniest man I’d ever met, and you couldn’t write about this time without capturing his humour, which was unexpected and brilliant. His creative work was as much in the experiential as it was in his writing” 139
John and Yoko in New York for album covers, before being snapped up by Elton John as his official photographer for world tours. Lance Richardson masterfully weaves the two brothers’ lives together into one compelling tale, jumping from Tommy to David with ease and painstaking research (he racked up 100 hours of taped interviews with David. Tommy died of Aids in 1990). It isn’t as if Tommy’s life was not fascinating enough to merit a biography on its own (it was), but to neglect the equally picaresque voyages of his brother would have been a missed opportunity. Despite spending much of their lives on opposite sides of the Atlantic, the brothers, who were both gay, were very close, the stream of letters between them forming a good part of this book. I thought I could never read another book about the swinging sixties, but Richardson, by delving into a bespoke tailoring corner of this over-chronicled era, gives good reason to take another step into the world of Carnaby Street peacocks and dissolute peers taking cocaine with rock stars. The same goes for the strikes of the 1970s and the Aids epidemic. The thought of rubbish piling up on Savile Row brings home the true horror of the crisis. Aids affected everyone in David’s New York queer circles, though he was lucky not to have been stricken. His brother was not so lucky. Tommy Nutter was the first new tailor to open a shop on Savile Row in 100 years, and probably the youngest ever. Nowadays, Savile Row tailors are begrudgingly familiar with radical ‘new’ versions of their trade springing up on their sacred street, as well as non-bespoke enterprises. When Nutter came along, his obvious talent, combined with the force of his charming personality, led to his swift acceptance by the old cutters, especially when they saw that his dynamic presence was re-energizing the trade and bringing wealthy new clients to the Row. When House of Nutter ousted Tommy in a kind of cutting shears business coup, he was offered a job at Kilgour, French and Stanbury. The post required him essentially to stand in their shop window, looking incredible and drawing in new customers. Despite appalling business acumen, Tommy somehow survived various closures, bouts of penury and recessions, right through the 1960s, 70s and 80s. His suits became so collectable that today many of them, even the ready-to-wear ones, are housed in a
HOUSE OF NUTTER: THE REBEL TAILOR OF SAVILE ROW By Lance Richardson (Vintage, £25) Reviewed by Gustav Temple
here are not many biographies about tailors, though many about fashion designers, eccentrics, bon vivants, era-defining types and centres of cultural movements. Tommy Nutter fell into all these categories. But this is still no ordinary biography of a man at the centre of British menswear for three decades. Tommy had a brother, David, whose similarly unusual life is interwoven with the gripping tale of the rise and fall (and then rise again) of the House of Nutter. The book charts the unlikely voyage of both brothers from a flat above a café in Kilburn to the heights of glamour and celebrity in London and New York. Tommy Nutter did a cursory cutting apprenticeship on Savile Row and quickly made his mark as a very stylish dandy with a brilliant eye for bold, innovative cuts, swaggering lines, eyewateringly wide lapels, all of which led to a new male silhouette that even the Old Guard on Savile Row had to admit the time was ripe for. Tommy founded House of Nutter in 1969 with master cutter Edward Sexton, backed by Cilla Black and former Beatles manager Peter Brown. Three of the Beatles (except George) are wearing Tommy Nutter creations on the cover of Abbey Road, and soon Mick Jagger came a-knocking, to commission matching suits for he and his new bride Bianca. Yet it wasn’t only rock stars that Nutter catered to; he kept an equally healthy ledger book of old-school Savile Row clients, and was just as comfortable making estate tweeds as his signature style, described by Punch Magazine as “an eccentric mix of Lord Emsworth, the Great Gatsby and Bozo the Clown.” Meanwhile, brother David was forging a career in very similar circles to his brother, photographing
vault at the V&A. When Hardy Amies first set eyes on an early Nutter creation, worn by a man named Tony King at a cocktail party, the Savile Row legend demanded to know where he’d got it. “Tommy Nutter, opposite you.” (Hardy Amies Ltd was at 14, Savile Row.) “The new boy?” said Amies, getting out a tape measure and measuring the Nutter lapel, muttering only, “Extraordinary!” The same could easily be said of this book.
esting lives into snappy, entertaining chapters, concentrating on the protagonists’ wrongdoings. It is never not going to be entertaining to read about the misadventures of the hapless Ron Davies, a man compelled to resign from office after a plethora of bizarre incidents, involving members of the public who came into closer contact with Davies’ not-sohonourable member than most would have wished, despite his protestation that he was out ‘looking for badgers’ (the early 21st century equivalent of Wilde’s ‘feasting with panthers’).
FIGHTERS AND QUITTERS By Theo Barclay (Biteback, £20) Reviewed by Alexander Larman
“It’s hard not to thrill at Barclay’s account of Peter Mandelson’s ‘I Will Survive’ moment: ‘My career was in tatters... they underestimated the people of Hartlepool. I am a fighter and not a quitter’”
o misquote Dostoyevsky, the worth of a society can be measured by its politicians, and on the evidence of Theo Barclay’s thoroughly entertaining first book we are in something of a pickle. It’s a remarkably simple idea, and one not without cynicism; politicians are generally venal and dishonest, and so when their especially nefarious needs are exposed, they generally feel forced to resign, even if in some cases a fairly large amount of pressure needs to be exerted upon them by their superiors. However, the circumstances vary enormously. There are three minor things wrong with Barclay’s book. It is hard not to groan at the (possibly unintentional) pomposity in the author’s biography when he, a practicing barrister, writes ‘he can often be found around the Royal Courts of Justice in his wig and gown’. For some strange reason, he has omitted David Blunkett’s resignation – and the spectacularly lascivious circumstances surrounding it, when it seemed that just about every employee of The Spectator was at it with persons that they were not married to – but has chosen to include the departures of such non-entities as Stephen Byers and Clare Short. And, perhaps inevitably, the opening salvo of chapters, which include the likes of John Profumo, Jeremy Thorpe, John Stonehouse and Michael Heseltine, are so rich in drama and interest that what comes later is something of an anti-climax. Reservations aside, this book is tremendous fun, for what Barclay has done, with some wit and literary ability, is to synthesise longer and less inter-
The Thorpe and Profumo chapters are a jolly run through well-known material, although the poignancy of Stephen Ward’s lonely and pathetic death, sacrificed on the altar of common decency, is given due attention. And it’s hard not to thrill to Barclay’s account of perhaps the greatest political operator in the past three decades, Peter Mandelson, and his very own ‘I Will Survive’ moment when re-elected in 2001: ‘my career was in tatters… they underestimated the people of Hartlepool, and they underestimated me… I am a fighter and not a quitter!’ If Barclay has a serious point, it is that, more often than not, politicians are brought down by silliness and oversights rather than being actively wicked, and it’s hard to argue with his inclusion of Damian Green at the end as an example of the first two flaws. A briskly entertaining and often very funny read, I look forward to Barclay’s next book – or even an updated version of this one.
IN BYRON’S WAKE
By Miranda Seymour (Simon & Schuster, £25) Reviewed by Alexander Larman
arly on in her examination of the lives of Byron’s wife and daughter, Miranda Seymour writes of his patroness and pander Lady Melbourne that she was ‘a woman whose wit was sharper than her sense of humour.’
Such a description, based on In Byron’s Wake, would appear to apply perfectly to Seymour herself. This undeniably intelligent and exhaustive (if at times exhausting) book makes a decent case for the rehabilitation of Annabella Milbanke, Byron’s wife, as neither hapless victim nor vindictive harpy. What it does not do is to exhibit the Byronic flair and vim that its subjects deserve. Although Ada Lovelace’s life and work is pivotal to her narrative, Seymour’s true protagonist is Annabella, who was cruelly but understandably mocked as ‘the Princess of Parallelograms’ by her faithless husband. She was an unusually advanced child, being able to identify twenty flowers and weeds by name by the age of two. Born to relatively elderly parents with a keen social conscience, which she inherited, she was a curious mixture of the retiring and the dynamic. She struggled with communication and although she boasted a ‘natural simplicity’ and ‘a charming manner’, she occasionally launched into violent fits of temper, one of which ended in a two-day headache.
London who had not boldly propositioned him, or vice versa. Perhaps he saw the chance of redemption in her, although Seymour also suggests that Byron’s primary attraction to Annabella lay in the fortune that she was expected to inherit from her uncle. Eventually, he proposed to her, and was rejected. Although he made light of it, her unavailability and the novelty thereof excited Byron, who continued his courtship by correspondence, before being accepted, to his chagrin. When they eventually married on 2nd January, 1815, Byron regretted his decision immediately; his fellow bon vivant and best man Hobhouse described the mournful atmosphere being as if ‘I had buried a friend’. The marriage quickly became toxic, not least because Byron had been pursuing a torridly incestuous love affair with his half-sister Augusta Leigh. Amidst accusations of cruelty, incest, sodomy and more, he eventually left England, his wife and their young daughter Ada in April 1816, never to return. It was largely due to Annabella that Byron’s reputation suffered so spectacularly in his lifetime and thereafter, although Seymour attempts to defend him on the grounds that he was ‘not consciously malevolent’ but suffered from alcohol-induced insanity: mad rather than bad. Others might disagree. Certainly, he retained a loathing for his estranged wife throughout his short life, describing her, with a touch of hyperbole, in 1819 as ‘that infamous fiend who drove me from the country & conspired against my life.’ As for Annabella, she set about raising Ada in the least controversial way imaginable. Yet ‘Ada had inherited two of her father’s most dangerous qualities: changeability and the ability to manufacture a persona’. She married William King, a slightly pathetic man so obsessed by Byron that he renamed all the fields of the Surrey estate after his hero’s poems. Ada wrote that ‘for the first time in my life – I may say that I feel without a care on earth’, and, taking after her father, enjoyed a vigorous sex life; a letter to her husband stated ‘I want my Cock at night
“It was largely due to Annabella that Byron’s reputation suffered so spectacularly, although Seymour defends him on the grounds that he was mad rather than bad” When she was launched upon the matrimonial meat market in 1810, her London ‘seasons’ had all the intrigue and financial buccaneering of a Jane Austen novel. She coolly noted the peccadilloes of those around her in her notebook (‘naughty old Lady Cook is to be shunned by all those who do not honour iniquity’) and was half-heartedly proposed to, but her real aim was to tame a bad boy; as Seymour notes, ‘her heart had been obstinately set upon the reformation of a rake.’ Enter the rake’s rake himself, Lord Byron, tumescent with the first flush of fame. Annabella saw Byron as one who ‘sought to be of service to the world’ and became obsessed by him. He initially demurred, saying ‘she is too good for a fallen spirit to know, and I should like her more if she were less perfect’. Yet he was intrigued by the only woman in
to keep me warm’ and asked, coquettishly, that he not ‘eat her up’ when they next met. Yet it was her brilliance as a scientific and mathematical pioneer that defined Ada, and, as Seymour says, ‘the birth of the computer did not depend solely upon Lady Lovelace, but she unquestionably belongs to the history of that genesis.’ Struggling against both her mother’s domineering influence and the entrenched sexism of 19th century England (one lengthy review of her work damned her by saying ‘only a woman could have written in such a giddy, skipping, illogical style about a subject of such importance’), she also found herself in competition for Annabella’s attention with Medora, Augusta’s daughter and rumoured Byronic bastard. Ada’s was an eventful life, made hard by ill health and cut short by cancer at the age of 36: the same age that her father had died. Seymour writes, with heroic understatement, that ‘if we look for one quality shared by Lord Byron, his wife and his daughter, it is the ability to take us by surprise.’ In Byron’s Wake is filled with interesting anecdotes, using new material to take us far beyond the deaths of Ada and Annabella, and Seymour skilfully re-evaluates the latter’s traduced reputation; the number of enemies she had made in her life meant that all too many people were willing to believe the worst of her posthumously. Yet this is a book that, in temperament, is closer to the cautious, punctilious character of Annabella than the visionary brilliance of either Byron or Ada. There are oddities of emphasis; Seymour is notably harsh towards Medora, whom most have regarded as an unfortunate victim of circumstance rather than the conniving manipulator she appears in here. As Byron wrote, ‘truth is always strange; stranger than fiction.’ A dash more of that quixotic spirit would have lent this diligent account the panache to complement its undoubted authority.
travels from England to Beijing, Madrid, Beirut, Rio and Paris. During her journey, she becomes a wartime mother, battling postnatal depression and sheltering her children from bombs dropped near the family home. Then, just as the author becomes fully immersed in piecing together her grandmother’s story, her mother – Elisabeth’s daughter – is diagnosed with an incurable illness and another story begins. Ellender researches her grandparents’ lives with a close attention to detail, but the most engaging sequences are those where an imagined narrative fills in the gaps, reading more like fiction. The account of her grandparents’ meeting, during which Elisabeth’s future husband successfully dislodges a bullet from her head (received while riding) is powerfully understated. Later passages come to life like scenes adapted for a screenplay; a journey by ship to Beirut, and an excursion to the ancient city of Petra in Jordan in a dilapidated car and then on horseback, taking place in wildly romantic settings. The description of Rio is vivid and atmospheric, as is an account of Elisabeth escaping down a mountain from the secret police. The lists, facsimiles of which are reproduced throughout, record wedding presents, clothes, travel requirements and food required for diplomatic parties, and often reveal an obsessive eccentricity. The ‘egg register’ records a running total of 897 eggs, sometimes logged next to the name of the hen. Ellender herself becomes increasingly ‘bound up in someone else’s story’, the urgency of her fascination with the lists of ephemera lifting them from the mundane. As the journey continues, the author begins to question her own motives in bringing her grandmother’s story to life, relating the challenges Elisabeth faced to her own, and a shared belief that lists hold the hope of creating order from chaos. Towards the end, a poem listing the author’s own memories – beginning with ‘I remember scraping my frozen dead guinea pig off the barn floor’ – is particularly poignant. She considers the list’s ‘inconsequential mundanity’ but these are just the kind of observations that, following the death of a family member, tend to assume a hitherto unrecognised poignancy and importance. n
Lulah Ellender (Granta, £16.99) Reviewed by Martin Gayford
ulah Ellender traces the turbulent life of Elisabeth, her maternal grandmother, through a series of atmospheric vignettes drawn from Elisabeth’s diary, the start of an unfinished novel and a curious book of handwritten lists. The lists form the starting point for an often absorbing memoir that is as much a meditation on loss as a personal history, drawn against the backdrop of World War II and it’s aftermath. As an ambassador’s daughter and later, the wife of a diplomat, Elisabeth
L-R: Nikos and Barbara Ghika, John Craxton, Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor, Hydra 1958. Photo: Roloff Beny © Library and Archives Canada
CHARMED LIVES IN GREECE Ghika, Craxton, Leigh Fermor
Gustav Temple on an exhibition at the British Museum that brings to life a neglected 20th century flowering of art and literature on the Greek islands
SOE officer on Crete, preparing for a mission documented in Ill Met by Moonlight by one of his comrades, William Stanley Moss. Operation Moonstruck was beset by difficulties, resulting in Leigh Fermor being marooned on the island for two months in the company of a rag-tag band of local soldiers, sheep thieves and buccaneers, waiting for his comrades to be shipped in. When they finally landed, on 5th April, 1944: “Moss turned to see his friend striding down the beach with the dashing style of a pirate. Unlike Rendel, Paddy looked rugged but faultlessly groomed. His skin was tanned by the sun and he appeared fitter than Moss had ever seen him. ‘He wore a smart moustache,’
he tour-date list for this exhibition gives a sense of the artistic journeys taken by its subjects: Nicosia, Athens, London. Opening at the British Museum earlier this year, Charmed Lives in Greece brings together the work of a Greek painter, a British painter and a British literary and military legend. Patrick ‘Paddy’ Leigh Fermor (1915–2011) is probably already a familiar name to readers of this journal. His unusual career began with a two-year walk across Europe at the age of 19, which led to a lifelong love of Greece and a string of travel books. He spent a year during the Second World War as an
John Craxton, Still Life with Three Sailors, 1980-85. Tempera on canvas. Private Collection, UK. © 2018 Craxton Estate/DACS
Moss noticed, ‘and sported a fine Cretan waistcoat, a long wine-coloured cummerbund into which was thrust an ivory handled revolver and a large dagger; a pair of riding breeches and tall black boots … Leigh Fermor’s first concern was whisky, followed by cigarettes.” (From The Ariadne Objective, Wes Davis.) Operation Moonstruck was the second attempt
to land enough SOE agents on Crete to carry out Patrick Leigh Fermor’s plan to capture General Kreipe, the German Commander on the island, and ferry him to Cairo, thus weakening the already crumbling Nazi morale enough to make an allied invasion plausible. The Italians, also based on Crete, had already surrendered but the Germans were not giving up without a fight, Commander Kreipe declaring, even after being captured, that they would fight “to the very last cartridge.” Patrick Leigh Fermor, along with Moss, Xan Fielding, Sandy Rendel and John Pendlebury, had been chosen for this mission for their intimate knowledge of the Greek islands and the language spoken by the shepherds and warriors who inhabited them. They spent most of their time there disguised as locals, living in caves and scouting about the mountains on reconnaissance missions.
“Patrick Leigh Fermor and his comrades spent most of their time disguised as locals, living in caves and scouting about the mountains on reconnaissance missions” 145
The exhibition at the British Museum concerns the years that Paddy spent in the Mani, a remote corner of the Peloponnese, where he returned after the War and remained until the end of his life. In between VE Day and those long years in Greece, he had not been idle. His restless soul found him trekking around Central America and the Caribbean, then Andalucia and Tuscany, with occasional sojourns in Benedictine monasteries in Normandy to write his books, until he was sent on a mission of a very different nature to Operation Moonstruck: the writing of the screenplay for The Roots of Heaven (1958), starring Errol Flynn and produced by Darryl Zanuck. During a tense shoot in French Equatorial Africa, during which he drank heavily with Flynn and Trevor Howard, he caused disruption by falling in love with the French singer Juliette Gréco, the costar and mistress of Darryl Zanuck, and the subject of a biography in this very journal. On his return to Greece, Paddy befriended Greek painter Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika (1906–
Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika in Hydra, 1960. Benaki Museum – Ghika Gallery, Athens. Photo: Suschitzky. © The Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky
“Craxton’s wartime pictures, painted in Wales, Dorset and Soho, already showed a yearning for escape to some imagined colourful idyll, which turned out to be the Greek islands”
1994), an Athens-born intellectual and artist. He was the first person to translate James Joyce’s Ulysses into Greek, in his avant-garde art magazine Third Eye, in 1934. After studying art in Paris, where he exhibited alongside famous cubist painters, Ghika returned to his homeland and discovered the links between Cubism and Byzantine Greek painting, particularly the emotional, rather than descriptive, use of colour. What had been dismissed in the 19th century as primitive was now seen as sowing the seeds for Modernism. His friendship with Paddy was cemented in the tavernas of Athens with celebrated man of letters George Katsimbalis, who was later immortalized in Henry Miller’s The Colossus of Maroussi. Each character in this tale makes a dramatic entrance, and the painter John Craxton (1922-2009) is no exception. In 1946 he sent a postcard home from Zurich, where he had staged an exhibition of his paintings, informing his family that he was bound for Italy. But by the time the postcard arrived, he was circling over Athens in a borrowed bomber, to bring supplies to the wife of the British Ambassador in Athens. He later returned with his friend Lucian Freud to paint on the island of Poros, and eventually settled on Crete. Craxton’s passion for painting began aged 14 when he saw Picasso’s Guernica for the first time. Injured out of active service during the War due to pleurisy, he naturally drifted into Soho, where he became friends with Lucian Freud and Joan Rayner, who went on to marry Patrick Leigh Fermor. Joan herself is the subject of a new biography, showing her influence on this Greek island cultural melting pot. Craxton’s paintings follow Ghika’s trajectory of inspiration in reverse. His wartime pictures, painted in Wales, Dorset and Soho, already showed a yearning for escape to some imagined colourful idyll, which turned out to be the Greek islands. He shared a studio and a flat in London with Lucian Freud, which his flatmate filled with animal carcasses to use as models; on one occasion a monkey corpse was hidden in the oven when Sir Kenneth Clark came to tea. Craxton’s style, like Ghika’s, evoked Cubism, but it wasn’t until he saw the dazzling light, white
Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, Hydra Port at Sunset, 1957-60, Oil on canvas ©Benaki Museum 2018
John Craxton, Three dancers, Poros, 1953-1954. Oil on canvas © 2018 Craxton Estate/DACS
rocks, fig and olive trees of Greece that he found his subject. The style he developed on the island of Hania, in the company of Leigh Fermor and Ghika, led to a commission for a production of Daphnis and Chloe at the Festival of Britain. The expatriate was sending his vision back home, while remaining in his adopted land. He was then commissioned to design the covers of Paddy’s first travel books, including the first, A Time of Gifts, and these covers, their originals in the British Museum, provide the solid, permanent evidence of the literary and artistic connections displayed in this exhibition. In the late 1950s, the house Leigh Fermor built with Joan in Kardamyli in the Mani peninsula became a haven for writers and artists, drawn to its owner’s extraordinary charisma and the wild, arid beauty of the surrounding landscape. Visitors to this and Ghika’s ‘fine family ziggurat’ on Hydra, as Paddy described it, included Lawrence Durrell, Nancy Mitford and Cyril Connolly. The photographs, journals, letters, paintings and personal effects, including Paddy’s camera and typewriter, gathered together in this dimly-lit room in the British Museum evoke an artistic community
Patrick Leigh Fermor in Hydra, 1955. Photographic Archive, Athens © Benaki Museum 2018
that was really just a few friends who shared similar passions and liked to drink lots of Raki in the sun. It is a much more enjoyable experience if one has read anything about the Crete SOE mission (in particular Wes Davis’ wonderful The Ariadne Objective), as it takes away any sense of envy for other people’s idyllic lives. Paddy in particular had earned as much Raki and time in the sun as he wanted, yet still found immense energy to write, not just travel books, but voluminous journals and letters (collected in a volume by John Murray). The exhibition gives the sense that, even without the dramatic events that led to these three forming a long friendship, their gathering would still have made its mark. The influence Craxton and Ghika had on each other is evident, and Paddy would have been a further source of inspiration. He was a legendarily garrulous and generous host to all who came to him. British visitors always came away dazzled by this glimpse of life lived to the full. One 1958 diary entry
from Frances Partridge said: “This evening over dinner the conversation turned to present-day pessimism, or cafard. Where can one look to find enthusiasm for living? I could only think of Paddy Leigh Fermor.” n Charmed Lives in Greece is at the British Museum until 15h July, free entry. Further Reading: The Ariadne Objective: Patrick Leigh Fermor and the Underground War to Rescue Crete from the Nazis Wes Davis (2015, Corgi) A Time of Gifts Patrick Leigh Fermor (2004, John Murray) Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure Artemis Cooper (2013, John Murray) Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese Patrick Leigh Fermor (2004, John Murray) Joan: Beauty, Rebel, Muse: The Remarkable Life of Joan Leigh Fermor Simon Fenwick (2018, Pan)
S E S A E L E R
THE DAM BUSTERS
STUDIOCANAL VINTAGE CLASSICS
TUDIOCANAL is releasing a fully restored version of Second World War classic The Dam Busters. On 17th May, TV historian Dan Snow hosted the commemorations at the Royal Albert Hall, paying tribute to Wing Commander Guy Gibson and his comrades of the legendary 617 Squadron. Featuring very special guests, an on-stage ‘bouncing bomb’ experiment plus music from the Glenn Miller Orchestra, this gala evening supported the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, the RAF’s leading welfare charity. The whole event, plus a screening of The Dam Busters in stunning 4K definition, was broadcast simultaneously into 300 cinemas nationwide. The high-definition restored film can be bought on DVD and Blu-Ray from 4th June.
Regarded as a British classic, The Dam Busters (1955) was directed by Michael Anderson (Logan’s Run, Around the World in 80 Days), who died on 25th April, aged 98, this year. Based on the legendary true story of Commander Guy Gibson and his squadron, The Dam Busters captures all the thrilling action and suspense of the magnificent exploits of a group of young pilots and their crews, charged with taking out the supposedly impenetrable Ruhr river dams of Germany with an ingeniously designed bouncing bomb. Starring Richard Todd as Gibson and Michael Redgrave as scientist and engineer Dr Barnes Wallis, the film also immortalised composer’s Eric Coates’s masterpiece, The Dam Busters March. The impact of The Dam Busters on modern filmmakers spans the decades: director George Lucas hired the film’s special effects photographer Gilbert Taylor to work his magic on the original Star Wars; and The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson has long been attached to a remake, based around a screenplay by Stephen Fry. The new restoration of The Dam Busters also premiered as one of the official
opening events for Lincoln’s International Bomber Command Centre on April 14th this year. n A brand new Collector’s Edition is released on DVD/Blu-ray from STUDIOCANAL’S Vintage Classics label on 4th June. Extras include an exclusive Making of The Dam Busters documentary
‘THE BRITISH EQUIVALENT OF THE FRENCH NEW WAVE, AND – IN ITS OWN WAY – JUST AS INFLUENTIAL’ Sam Mendes
A NEW 9-DISC BLU-RAY SET* CELEBRATING THE 60TH ANNIVERSARY OF WOODFALL FILMS, FEATURING NEW RESTORATIONS OF: Look Back in Anger
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning A Taste Of Honey The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner Tom Jones Girl with Green Eyes The Knack...and How to Get It
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Image: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
THE OSCAR SEASON Darcy Sullivan reviews a wealth of new productions of works by and about Oscar Wilde in film and theatre, and explains why the great wit is still so popular a subject
uick, quick! Place that green carnation in your buttonhole and lace up your corset – we simply must dash if we’re to catch the exhibition of illustrated versions of The Ballad of Reading Gaol. Then we need to hasten back for the evening performance of An Ideal Husband at the Vaudeville Theatre. Friday night we’re going to an invitation-only staging of Oscar’s People at the Club for Acts and Actors. And don’t forget that this weekend we’re seeing The Importance of Being Earnest in the provinces. In London, it is Oscar season all year long – and not just at the Classic Spring Theatre Company’s 2017-2018 Oscar Wilde Season, or even in the UK. Consider: • A lavish Oscar Wilde bar opened last year in New York City. • Paris staged France’s first grand Oscar Wilde
exhibition at the Petit Palais in Fall 2016, and last year staged a sumptuous version of The Picture of Dorian Gray. • A musical version of Dorian Gray recently
“You get high priests of the prissy who think they know what drama is and what drama is supposed to be. It’s total cock. Drama can be whatever the writer and the actors want it to be in any given moment” Dominic Dromgoole
Dominic Rowan in Classic Spring Theatre’s production of A Woman of No Importance
Husband in the West End, said, “It’s easy to get lost in the perfume of the language and forget that underneath all the beauty he was a provocateur, a champion for the underdog and was untimely cast out from society like a tramp for being gay. His story is as dark and sordid as it is light and pretty.” Meet the new Oscar Wilde.
played in Korea, with K-Pop stars and a female Dorian. • Art-rock’s St. Vincent is developing a gender-swapped film version of Dorian Gray. • Christmas last year brought two new books, Oscar Wilde: The Unrepentant Years and Oscar’s Ghost. • Rupert Everett’s new film The Happy Prince is rolling out to film markets worldwide following a heralded run at festivals. Is it, like, Oscar’s birthday or something? The centennial of his death? Nope. The centennial of his death was in 2000 – the bicentennial of his birth won’t be until 2054. What we’re witnessing isn’t a special celebration but the latest phalanx of events in a Wilde Parade that just keeps getting bigger. At the centre of this parade, the man himself – or rather, the fantastic persona he created in collaboration with his friends, enemies and future generations – is changing. Freddie Fox, currently starring in An Ideal
The #metoo Oscar
The Importance of Being Earnest is constantly being produced, but Wilde’s other plays are considerably harder to see, and there’s a reason. The first two of his society plays are a bit preachy. While that’s a turn-off to many, it suits Dominic Dromgoole, artistic director of Classic Spring Theatre, just fine. “We’re living again in a very ideological age,” says Dromgoole, midway through Classic Spring Theatre’s Oscar Wilde Season at London’s Vaudeville Theatre. “A lot of people are very doctrinaire, very dogmatic; we see among progressives such a streak of authoritarianism that I find it rather scary. Oscar Wilde blends a sense of social justice with a
Rupert Everett playing Wilde in The Judas Kiss, with Freddie Fox and Cal Macaninch as Lord Alfred Douglas and Robbie Ross
Eve Best in Classic Spring Theatreâ€™s production of A Woman of No Importance
that against Lady Windermere’s Fan, which is light and fresh and full of joy.” The current production of An Ideal Husband features real-life father and son Edward and Freddie Fox as Lord Caversham and his son Lord Goring, and it also has its barbs. “It’s a play about gender politics written by an outsider who championed women, both as protagonists in the veiled satire of his plays, and as the editor of Woman’s World magazine,” Freddie Fox tells Chap. “This play also takes a hard look at the insidious corruption that has been prevalent in boardroom and political life, no matter what we do to try to curtail it.”
complete pathological resistance to authority. That blend is very important in this moment.” When Dromgoole directed the first play in the current season, A Woman of No Importance, he did something unusual: Rather than tamp down the preachiness, he amped it up. “I looked at other texts and manuscripts of the play that are less rarely shown, and it became clear that there was another play that hadn’t been published, a different play. This other version has really actable writing, much more naturalistic, more jagged, more human, and also a social critique that was really ferocious. I thought it would be useful to let that rip. A lot of people found that very resistible. But when people find things resistible, you’re often making people feel uncomfortable in interesting ways.” In Woman, Mrs. Arbuthnot (Eve Best in the Classic Spring production) lives on the margins of society because of her fling with the caddish Lord Illingworth (Dominic Rowan), which left her a single mother. Now, Illingworth wants to hire his estranged son and to seal the deal, he’s willing to marry Mrs. Arbuthnot. How far will she go to get back into society? A simple “yes” would do it… Spoiler alert: She doesn’t say yes. Instead, she denounces him in terms that would make Uma Thurman proud. Watching it in 2018, the echoes with our own society are all too clear – this is a post-Weinstein Wilde. Did Dromgoole deliberately flout the modern thinking that plays shouldn’t wear their messages on their sleeves? “Yes, because it’s bullshit,” he says. “You get high priests of the prissy who think they know what drama is and what drama is supposed to be. It’s total cock. No one knows what drama is supposed to be – it can be whatever the writer and the actors want it to be in any given moment.” The Oscar Wilde Season has brought other surprises too, such as Simon Callow in De Profundis. That’s not a play, not even a story – it’s the letter Wilde wrote while imprisoned for ‘gross indecency,’ after foolishly taking the Marquess of Queensberry to court for libel. Wilde’s lover was Queensberry’s son, Lord Alfred Douglas, whose feud with his father was fatal for Wilde. De Profundis is basically the bitterest post-breakup Facebook vent of all time. Callow brought it to life on a cell-stark stage, veering from purple-faced fury to heartbroken mercy. “It was beautiful, wasn’t it?” Dromgoole says. “Simon and the director, Mark Rosenblatt, said let’s treat this like a Sam Beckett play and do it very spare and pure and Spartan. It’s so lovely to see
“In The Happy Prince, the Oscar Wilde we’re watching is about to scrounge some absinthe and cocaine for himself and two street urchins, then paint the town green” Fox is no stranger to Wilde – he played ‘Bosie’ Douglas in a celebrated 2012 run of David Hare’s The Judas Kiss. (Wilde was played by Rupert Everett, who also played Lord Goring in the film version of An Ideal Husband.) “With Judas Kiss I delved into the brutal reality behind the work, and did a lot of research into his life, particularly the more overtly tragic parts,” Fox says. “With Ideal Husband I have been able to take a greater look at the brilliance of his writing and his crafted use of language. So in a way I have done the reverse of the ‘traditional’ route of discovering Oscar.”
The Happy Prince
At the start of Rupert Everett’s new film The Happy Prince, we see the Oscar Wilde we know – decked out in evening clothes, telling the titular fairy tale to his two sons. The 1997 film Wilde with Stephen Fry has several scenes like this, which show Wilde as a loving father. And then Everett as Wilde breaks the fourth wall and says to camera, “It’s a dream.” It’s also a bracing statement of intent: We’re not going to see that Oscar Wilde. The Wilde we’re watching is about to scrounge some absinthe and cocaine for himself and two street urchins, then paint the town green.
“The story takes place in the last few weeks of Wilde’s life,” Everett told L’Uomo Vogue. “He is in delirium and starts examining his past. It doesn’t deal with any of the areas that the three other very good films have been made about him dealt with. They all end almost at the same point, which is when he goes to prison. I was always more interested in what happened afterwards: the derelict time. So my story really is about the last great 19th century vagabond living on the boulevard, cadging drinks, penniless, toothless… The idea of his exile is fascinating to me.” Everett spent 15 years trying to get the film made, and told Germany’s Die Welt, “I practically stopped doing anything else. I kept thinking, ‘Now the project finally comes together,’ and turned down other roles, and then it once again led to nothing. I was in the grip of a fever, and the Wilde film dominated my entire life.”
Festival have lauded the film and writer/director/ star Everett. Now it’s time for the public to decide: Can they love this Wilde the way they love the epigram-slinging aesthete?
Will the Parade End?
If it strikes a chord with filmgoers, The Happy Prince could make the Wilde Parade even bigger. “Events such as the Stephen Fry film and the various exhibitions in 2000 piqued interest, and a lot of book dealers produced Wilde-themed catalogues,” says Wilde expert and collector extraordinaire Michael Seeney. “There has also been an exponential growth in Wilde rubbish (dolls, T-shirts, fridge magnets, etc.), which you never saw much before the 1990s.” But given how much Oscar Wilde we’ve had in the past couple of years, it’s hard to believe the parade can keep going at full strength. Isn’t it time for, say, Trollope to have a turn? Who’s ready for Shawmania? Robert Whelan, who edits the Oscar Wilde Society’s peer-reviewed journal The Wildean, doesn’t find it likely. “I don’t think this is a cyclical trend so much as a deepening understanding of Oscar Wilde’s status as a great artist and thinker,” says Whelan. “For a long time he was thought of as the man who came up with lots of witty oneliners, but now we can see that, even in the wittiest of his works, there is a lot more going on under the surface.” “I was a man who stood in symbolic relations to the art and culture of my age,” Wilde boasted in De Profundis. As an icon of gay rights, a social critic, a proto-feminist, and a self-promoter whose witticisms read like a fin de siècle Twitter feed, he also stands in symbolic relation to ours. And even as we explore new dimensions of Wilde, a whole new generation will be discovering his dramatic life. “Oscar’s life assumed the form of a classical tragedy, complete with hubris and catharsis,” Whelan says. “Very few people in history have managed to turn their own lives into works of art. Life is a particularly unmalleable material to work in.” The Oscar Wilde Season continues at London’s Vaudeville Theatre with An Ideal Husband until 14th July, and is followed by The Importance of Being Earnest. Productions are also screening in selected cinemas. www.classicspring.co.uk n
“Everett gives us not only the saddest Wilde but also the funniest, the foulest, the gayest, the angriest” Given this obsession, you might expect his movie to lionise Wilde, whom Everett has said “is kind of a Christ figure for a gay person.” But audiences used to Wilde the icon are in for a shock. Everett gives us not only the saddest Wilde but also the funniest, the foulest, the gayest, the angriest. In scene after scene, Everett tests our empathy, our respect and our love for Wilde. Even those closest to Wilde – wife Constance (Emily Mortimer) and friends Robbie Ross (Edwin Thomas) and Reggie Turner (Colin Firth) – regard him as a danger to himself, and ultimately to them. “He’s killed me,” Constance tells Robbie. “He was a superstar, the most famous man in London, but he was also vain, snobbish and ignorant,” Everett said in his L’Uomo Vogue interview. “Wilde pulled ruin down around him like a tablecloth.” Wilde scholars will flinch at some of the film’s dramatic liberties, the too-modern swearing and the fact that Firth (whose presence in the film helped get it made) is nearly twice as old as Turner was when Wilde died. But critics who saw the film at the Sundance Film Festival or the Berlin Film
Rupert Everett’s film The Happy Prince opens on 16th June in the UK
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Solutions to crossword Issue 95 Spring 18 For help with the current one: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Down Across 2. O ne run brought about win at last and put The Ashes 1. Wilde, 1997, for instance, one work getting pen name (6) 1997, for instance, one work getting to rest.2(5) One run brought about win at last and put 1about. Wilde, 3. Swing camera to Aladdin, 5. Traveller’s bag needed, The round Ashes to restperhaps. (5) (5) pen name aboutoriginal (6) pack sank. (8) 4. Bread, captain regularly ignored, is beneath us. (7) 9. Seabird story tells the audience to fly! (4,4) 3 Swing camera to Aladdin, perhaps (5) Traveller's needed, original (6) pack sank 5. So hilarious it’s causing death.round (7) 10. 5Nudge nudge... at bag last good man, understand? (8)of a group or something completely different? (3,2,1,4) 6. Made4sense of deadcaptain peculiar Irish party. (5,2) 11. Part Bread, regularly ignored, is beneath sweet character. (9) 12. 9Tremble or be great. (4) us (7) Seabird story tells the audience to fly! (4,4)7. Tchaikovsky’s 8. Spooner’s strike force supplying tobacco and coffee? (4,5) 13. Rascal editor is, before gin cocktail, frustrating. (8) 10Something Sofabricated hilarious it's causing Nudgebitterly nudge... at last good man, 14. Male5agent intelligence. (6,3) death (7) 16. accepted by Wilde initially, 15. Internet deals in England begin to make new riches it’sunderstand? slept on. (6) (6) 6 Made sense of dead peculiar Irish party (5,2) at first. (1-8) 17. Leg – you wouldn’t get it – pull. (2-4) 11 Part of a group or something completely 7 Tchaikovsky's sweet character 18. Something that thrills leave proponent? Leader of (9) 19. Shirks! I’m prepared for battle. (8) different? (3,2,1,4) Conservatives on board. (7) 21. Musical mice keeping quiet. (4) 8 Spooner's strike force supplying tobacco and 19. Earnest, seeing that, gets conclusions of sheer importance. (7) 22. of gourd actual(4) Python episode 12Variety Tremble orused be on great coffee? (4,5) 20. Envisioning something Dorian Gray could never say. (7) originally. (10) 13 Rascal editor is, before gin cocktail, 23. What seed of fabricated Mr Brynner, sointelligence to speak. (5) 14becomes 25. Norwegian Blue? Standard nonsense. (6) Maleaagent (6,3) frustrating (8)anaesthetic. (8) 24. Having left a little earlier, Palin can be modest. (5) 26. Riled up a doctor for 15 Internet deals in England begin to make new 27. Practise play here, captivate listeners. (8) 16 Something bitterly accepted by Wilde riches at first (1-8) 28. Lucas and Bartley, perhaps concur, not a bridge initially, it's slept on (6) partnership. (6) 18 Something that thrills leave proponent? 17 Leg - you wouldn't get it - pull (2-4) Leader of Conservatives on board (7) 19 Shirks! I'm prepared for battle (8) 19 Earnest, seeing that, gets conclusions of 21 Musical mice keeping quiet (4) sheer importance (7)