Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Various Gins

I just came across this great site on various gins: http://www.gintime.com/

I doubt whether the link will work direct but 'gintime.com' isn't difficult to remember is it - or is it? I suppose that after a few Plymouth gins in the 114' overproof Naval Strength (at a stonking 57% abv), it just might be...

Monday, 30 May 2011


I wonder whether there are not various forms and also degrees of charismata? For example, Marilyn Monroe's type was quite different from Winston Churchill's or Nelson's widely reported form: indeed one reporter noted the reaction of the men onboard Collingwood's HMS Royal Sovereign when the news of Nelson's death reached them, after the battle: "Chaps that fought like the Devil sit down and cry like a wench". Hitler's form of charisma was undeniable but different again and I knew a small, calm, intellectual, demure English woman who had found herself at a rally in the 1930s and, to her amazement, was swept along by him until she too was saluting.

I am sure that, when Lucifer takes human form, he too has this quality as well as being just short of perfectly dressed.

I am sure that charisma is much more evident in real life than from film but, even so, I think that MM's films bring it across and Walter Matthau once related how he had been having a drink with Robert Donat in a London pub when a little old lady came up to them and said to Donat: "You're such a comfort." Maybe that is another type again: a quality that gives us comfort or assurance.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

The Picture of Dorian Gray 1945

Here is a still from the 1945 film The Picture of Dorian Gray, starring inter alios, Hurd Hatfield (as Gray); George Sanders and Angela Lansbury. Above is Hatfield as Gray; note the stiff fold-down collar with the white tie and dress coat. It seems to work.

Style Icon XLI: Harry Gordon Selfridge

Harry Gordon Selfridge (1864-1947) was the American born founder of
Selfridge's department store, at what was then considered 'the wrong end of Oxford Street'. In fact, his store revolutionized the British shopping experience and made him a considerable fortune which, despite his business acumen he squandered on fast women, including a pair of mistresses called the 'Dolly Sisters', and regrettably slow horses. It has been estimated that he got through £3m - about the equivalent of £65m today; then came expansion and the Depression and The Chief was ousted, eventually dying, aged 83 years, and having declined, from Lansdowne House and large yachts, to a small flat in Putney. Still, at his peak, Selfridge was a great influence over 'style' with a small 's' and a very dapper fellow, as can be seen from the Spy cartoon. His store survived two World Wars and stands as his monument.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Style Icon XL: Ray Milland

We' ve mentioned him before but he deseerves his place in our Pantheon. Here he is with Grace Kelly: no one seems to know for certain whether they did or did not have an affair.

A Couple of Things

First, the 'search' function does now appear to be working.

Secondly, St Tully, I fear that the snuff handkerchiefs that you inquired about are no longer available from my source.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Future of Covering The Naked Ape

Someone who is very knowledgeable about men's dress and has a website (no names, no pack-drill), has recently turned a volte face; a flip-flop; a U turn, on everything that I had thought that he held true for several years, and, all guns blasting, has boldly stated three preposterous propositions, with which I profoundly disagree (and I have told him so, in no uncertain terms).

The first proposition is that the lounge suit (which has been with us for coming on for one hundred and fifty years) is falling into desuetude and going the way of the frock coat. The second is that, in the light of this, bespoke tailoring needs to take a leaf out of the book of insane examples of the 'fast-forward fashionistos', doing their 'silly walks' on the Ready-To-Wear catwalks. The third is that lauding air-headed 'celebrities', such as the Beckhams, is the way to teach the younger generation about style.

If you have been following this blog for any reasonable time, you will know my thoughts on these subjects - and my dislike of the Beckhams is not based on an unthinking snobbery: Cheryl Cole is hardly out of the 'top drawer' but she is an attractive, pleasant and friendly girl, who smiles (even, sometimes, through the tears), and the fact that she is seen as a style icon for youngsters does not bother me at all; whereas Mrs Beckham looks as though if she smiled she'd disturb all the implants and add-ons and run the serious risk of implosion (which might just make a nasty noise) but, if it went the other way, and she actually exploded, there might be a serious risk of injury to celeb-spotters. Mind you, who would really care?

Wednesday, 25 May 2011


As Ovid said:

"nescio qua natale solum dulcedine cunctos
ducit et immemores non sinit esse sui."

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Fleet Street Softies

What has happened to the Fleet Street Editors - have they gone soft? Why haven't they en masse taken the issue of these 'super-injunctions' to appeal - and all the way, if necessary. I am not so concerned about footballers' antics; after all, what does the world expect? However, I am surprised that they are so touchy about being 'exposed'. Chaps like Andrew Marr are in a different category though: he is an investigative journalist, at the top of the tree, whose life is spent in publicly shedding light on the personal lives and traits of others in public life. So what do we say when he skulks behind a super-injunction, to 'protect his family'? Well, we shout HYPOCRITE! and RESIGN! and suggest that he should have thought about the consequences before banging his colleague.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Style Icon XXXIX: Mark Birley

Mark Birley (1930-2007) will not, despite some fears, just be remembered as the first person to wrap muslin around lemon halves in his restaurants to keep the pips in when they are squeezed over the fish. He will mainly be remembered as the founder of clubs such as Annabel's and Mark's and for his neat turnout and habitual Cohiba cigar. Another former Davies & Son customer, his demise was a great loss to the true breed of sophisticated British Men About Town.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Withnail's Coat

I have just seen Richard E Grant's wonderful film Wah-Wah (2005)which he wrote and directed - and been reminded of him in Withnail and I (1987) and the long coat that he wore. I recall seeing it hanging in the fitting room of Davies & Son (when they were based in Old Burlington Street), at a fitting for my morning togs, as posted up earlier on. I remember remarking on its appearance but the cutter seemed just to take it in his stride. I expect that he had been called upon to make stranger things...

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Style Icon XXXVIII: Archie Leach

Well, we have to include him, even though he appeared on the scene after (and in self-confessed imitation of): Jack Buchanan, Rex Harrison and Noel Coward. Here he is, as John Robie, outside the bedroom door of Francie Stevens (played by Grace Kelly) in the film To Catch a Thief and about to receive that kiss. As he said of himself: he played Cary Grant 'to perfection'

Style Icon XXXVII: Rex Harrison

Here he is, as Professor Higgins, with Audrey Hepburn, as Liza Doolittle, in the ball scene of the film My Fair Lady 1964. I once saw him strolling through The Ritz arcade on Piccadilly and, apart from Robert Morley (whose taxi-cab once crawled abreast with mine along the Euston Road), he is the only film star that I have ever seen in the flesh who did not seem smaller in real life than on the scrreen.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Style Icon XXXVI: Ol' Blue Eyes and Ava

Above is their wedding picture. Below is an intriguing engraving on the back of a watch. Fortunately, it is in a museum and it's one of those arresting things that stir our feelings:

Style Icon XXXIV: Jack Buchanan (Again)

I just found this good picture of Jack Buchanan.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Style Icon XXXIII: Leslie Howard

As The Scarlet Pimpernel, Sir Percy Blakeney, in the 1934 film, opposite Merle Oberon, with Raymond Massey, menacing as the evil Chauvelin:

And of, course, as Ashley Wilkes in Gone With The Wind (1939), with Clark Gable and the mesmerizing Vivien Leigh (one of England's finest exports):

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Style Icon XXXII - Noel Coward (Again)

We've had him here before and we'll have him back too. Here he is, with Elizabeth Taylor, in a 'still' from the film Boom (1968), in his brown dinner jacket-Tuxedo outfit (by Douglas Hayward), complete with brown suede shoes (probably by R E Tricker), and is seriously persuasive that this can work. It is a pity that they put the film in the wrong way round to extract the 'still' but it often happens:

And here he is on board RMS Queen Mary in a popular travelling coat: the polo:

As usual, left-click the images to enlarge.

The Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke QC MP

'Ken' Clarke is Secretary of State for Justice (the Ministry of Justice was a joke 'department of State' in the popular TV series "Yes, Minister"), and Lord Chancellor. Between 1998-2007 he was deputy chairman and a director of British American Tobacco, which notably lobbied against stronger health warnings on tobacco products. Some weeks ago, I e-mailed Ken at his constituency office and asked his views on the proposals to ban the display of tobacco products. Maybe (from a man who wears brown suede shoes in the House of Commons) unsurprisingly, I have received no reply to date and, frankly, I do not expect one because his position, in being a member of a government that is to promote this intended legislation, would seem to be a difficult one to explain.

Maybe, I should just add that Ken is not in our pantheon of style icons.

Style Icon XXXI: Peter O'Toole

Catapulted to stardom by his performance in Lawrence of Arabia (directed by David Lean in 1962), Peter O'Toole is one of the few of the world's remaining true film stars.

Monday, 16 May 2011


I asked Richard Edgecliffe-Johnson, Chairman of shoemakers W S Foster & Son and Henry Maxwell, about how the last maker adjusts the size and shape of each last, from the customer's measurements; because there always needs to be extra length and height, over the actual dimensions of the foot, in the toe box. Here is what he told me:

"This is much more art than science. In making the last, the last maker
takes into account the extra layers of leather so that, in the hands of an
expert maker, the resulting toe shape will be what he wants to achieve.
The bespoke last maker and bespoke shoemaker work together often over many years and know one another's work, so the shoemaker has a good idea of the effect the last maker is looking for and the last maker knows who to give the work to for a particular kind of result.

When Customers say "I'm a size 9" they usually don't know that they are
referring to the shoe, and their foot is actually 1-2 sizes shorter than
the shoe. Different makers have different rules of thumb, but we make
about 2 sizes over the actual foot length to get an elegant look. We have
refused to make shoes that are too long because the toes will eventually
turn up and look ridiculous!

We prefer to make the initial last for a lace-up shoe because that holds
the foot firmly and gives us the most accurate last. We believe that it is
important to make a separate last for a casual shoe, which requires a
different fitting to hold the foot over the instep. We also make a new
last for a different toe shape, for a long boot and often also for a
slipper. So a customer can quite easily have 4 lasts with us.

It takes time to make a decent last and as you might imagine all that is
very expensive to do, but we think it is part of the integrity of our
service compared with the not uncommon alternative of sticking on a bit
of leather or adapting a different customer's last for that pair of shoes."

Above is a bespoke evening pump, from the W S Foster & Son and Henry Maxwell collection.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Letter Writing And Snail Mail

I was just thinking this morning that, not only is a hand written letter more personal and polite but, in these days when everyone seems to feel completely free to ignore inconvenient e-mails, a real letter is almost guaranteed to receive a reply.

Today's first picture is a letter pre-paid with a 'PENNY BLACK' stamp, addressed to Rowland Hill, who introduced the notion of pre-paid post to England in 1840. Brazil was the very next nation to follow suit with national stamps (the Olho-de-boi 'Bull's eye', resembling that animal's eye), in 1843:

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Another Couple of Frock Coat Images; Just For The Fun Of It

Here are a couple more images of excellent frock coats:

First (thanks to John Wilkes of the company which appears on the face of the print), here is a cartoon, from the original Vanity Fair magazine , of Victor, Prince Napoleon, of the House of Bonaparte (1862-1926):

And here is Joseph Chamberlain (1836-1914), tycoon, politician and father of Nobel Peace Prize winning Sir Austin Chamberlain KG and Neville Chamberlain:

The Frock Coat And: Rough-Necks Don't Bovver Me

The frock coat has recently stirred some strong feelings over on a site which is in the course of re-aiming its appeal to those who appreciate style icons such as Mr and Mrs David Beckham E.B.O. I see no need to point out one's dislike of anyone unless they push themselves (and are also pushed by others), in our faces as much as is this duo and, given the number of times that images of this pair are just there for me to see, I think that I might protest: so far as I recall (and I do recall the bitter televised moments), Beckham has let the English side down so often by falling over his own feet and muffing important moments out of shaking, shivering terror, that he does not deserve to be 'in our faces' so much; Mrs Beckham, formerly the artiste known as 'Posh Spice' (maybe, because she was the only member of the Spice Girls who could read 'n' write), cannot sing; maybe she can design clothes but, if they are like the ones that she wore to the recent 'royal wedding', then I fear for the yoof of the nation.

Anyway, enough of that airy persiflage and back to our sheep: the thought occurs to me that there is one occasion for which I might be tempted to wear a frock coat (but with a fold-down stiff collar) and that is: to give my daughter away at her wedding. Knowing her, she would lightly protest but, secretly, be rather pleased and, in any event, I shall do it only if she wears emeralds that match her eyes, and carries gardenias and orange blossom, and her bridegroom shall bring her to a house where, in Yeats' fine words:

"all's accustomed, ceremonious".

In today's picture, from the left - damned fine examples of frock coats on: WSC, WSC and, far right, Randolph Churchill at the Christening of one of his children (and I suppose that I might be tempted to wear a frock coat for the Christening of at least a first grandchild).

Friday, 13 May 2011

Deletion of Posts

Some posts have been deleted or removed without notification to me. What is going on Bloggers?

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Sixty Seventh Anniversary of the Death of Q

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (about whom I have written before) died in Fowey, on this day in 1944. Here he is shown as 'Commodore' of The Royal Fowey Yacht Club.

One Trenchant Point on Tobacco Bans

Of the main leaders in the Second World War: Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin were all dedicated smokers; whereas Hitler and Mussolini were vehemently opposed to smoking. It is strange, even perverse, that the modern world (which is very little better informed as to the health risks of smoking than the Allied Warriors), should go with the mindsets of Hitler and Mussolini; isn't it?

Well, isn't it?

Alcoholism and The Modern Age

The post about WSC set me thinking about alcoholism in the modern age and how it is defined and judged. I imagine that most moderns who addressed the subject (with their charts for restricted, safe alcohol consumption levels and their tobacco bans), would say that a man who had a whisky and soda with his breakfast was an alcoholic; especially, if the alcohol level was kept at a certain level all day, peaking in the later evening, and then slept off-back down to daytime level, before the kick-start given to the next cycle by the breakfast beverage.

There are, and always have been,
functioning 'alcoholics' and deadbeat 'alcoholics'.

People in the first category generally either drink like crazy when they drink or they just don't drink at all and there are quite a few of these: one is too many and too many are not enough (binge drinkers) but they keep themselves together by periods of painless abstinence. Others just have to drink all day everyday and comprise the deadbeat category and those are the ones found staggering and rolling in the streets.

However, there plainly is a sub-category of the first category and people, such as WSC, who drink steadily (but lightly) from dawn to dusk and then have a late night session which puts them out for the night. Alcoholics in this category are the only lucky alcoholics.

I do not think that I fall into any category of alcoholism but I could not bear to think of life without alcohol (and tobacco), even though I largely confine enjoyment of both until after sundown and simply could not stand the taste of either in the early morning (although, occasionally, with lunch). However, WSC's menu has reminded me of the merits of poached eggs and toast.

King Ibn Sa'ud of Saudi Arabia neither smoked nor drank but, when WSC had luncheon with him, Churchill explained that "my rule of life prescribes as an absolutely sacred rite; smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol" and he was allowed to proceed.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Another of Winston Churchill's Meals

A Suitable Wardrobe (link in the right-hand column) today describes Churchill's two tray breakfast on a flight to the USA. It seems a little on the 'lite' side to me: I'd have expected a full fry-up, with nothing specified as 'small' and then the whisky and the cigar. He was famed for quaffing Champagne (Pol Roger), with nearly every meal, but I do recall another story about him eating a steak and kidney pudding with a spoon, accompanied by a glass of brandy; mouthfulls punctuated with puffs on a cigar. Anyway, whether the breakfast was slightly 'lite' or not, his were not the sort of meals that modern health freaks would approve and I raise three cheers:
Hip, hip!
Hip, hip, hip!
A Suitable Wardrobe mentions a fascinating book, from which the menu description derives.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Style Icon XXX: King Edward VIII-The Duke of Windsor

After King George V, I suppose that we should include his eldest son, here shown in a casual moment, captured in a rare colour picture:

And here is another colour shot of him in a naval reefer/polo style jacket, as with Ernest Simpson's similar garment, in a heavier cloth than might be used today:

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Style Icon XXIX; King George V

Often overlooked (maybe, and maybe wrongly, as a stuffy dresser, in comparison with his eldest son), King George V was quite a snappy dresser and famed for noticing 'wrong clothes' Here he is, in an unusual colour shot, wearing an Ordinary Seaman's cap: "If it's good enough for them, then it's good enough for me", steering his beloved yacht HMY Britannia, at Cowes, circa 1930:

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Osama bin Laden II

This one just will not go away. I have just decided to ignore an obscene, anonymous post about Osama bin Laden and the 'funeral march' in London today. I don't think that it is just in London, though is it; it's all over the place. What did the USA expect to be the militant Muslim reaction to what they have just done?

I suppose that these gatherings give them an opportunity to machine-gun these guys 'n' gals, on the basis that they are 'status targets' for the use of lethal force; regardless of what they are doing and where they are.

I do not support terrorists or terrorism - on either side.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Ernest Simpson's Reefer/Polo Jacket

Here is Ernest Simpson (as in The Mrs Simpson) in a reefer/polo jacket, displaying coupled buttons of the Coldstream Guards, as a result of his captaincy in the regiment during WWI. Tony Ventresca, of FNB, brought it to my attention. Note the heavy cloth, possibly a barathea; much heavier than the cloth (maybe a serge), that would be used today:

Morning Togs

At last I have a full length shot of me (on the right hand side) in morning togs; however it was taken twenty four years ago when I was best man at a friend's wedding. These days, I'd substitute galosh-topped shoes for the spats but the rest would remain the same. Unfortunately, the cutter (Bill Matthews) of Davies & Son who made the coat, trousers and vest is long retired but there are still others who could just about match him. The hat ('Extra Quality') was renovated by Herbert Johnson (when that was still a separate business) and when they relined it they found the date: 1903. Looking at the picture also reminds me that, in the second edition of Book I (along with a few other additions and amendments), I should mention that formal morning and evening trousers ought to have, as Bill Matthews put it to me: "a whisper of a break, sir". Left click to enlarge slightly.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Sir Henry Cooper, dies aged 76

Henry Cooper who decked Cassius Clay (as he then was) in 1963 on the bell might, otherwise, have won that fight and Clay (later Muhammad Ali) said of the blow that it had been so hard that "my ancestors in Africa felt it." British, Commonwealth and European boxing champion, Cooper did not ever capture a world title. Nevertheless, for his other achievements, his work with the young and his years of commentating, he was the first boxer ever knighted and will be remembered as a great sportsman.

Osama bin Laden

President Obama has declared, on the killing of Osama bin Laden, that "Justice has been done". But I thought that Justice followed a trial and that, before a man were arrested, tried and maybe executed, that he should first be identified. There is an allegation that Osama used a woman as a human shield (part of me is inclined, without more, to think "They would say that, wouldn't they?") - but who actually shot her?!

Even the worst of the Nazis were given trials.

What about territorial jurisdiction; international law and the law of extradition? Moreover, I have it from a research chemists that, in siege situations, it should normally be possibly to use chemicals to disable the targets for long enough to capture them.

Where is the 'civilized' world heading with this new attitude and God alone knows what the consequnces of this will be, in terms of reprisals: and, for every Osama, there will, probably, now be ten. It is also ironic that spokesmen for the USA administration said that Osama's body was being treated in accordance with Islamic tradition as this was "important" to his killers. What the dickens is this supposed to mean, please?

Don't get me wrong, I do not support extremism or terrorism but if terrorists tempt the civilized world to decline from civilized standards, the terrorists win an important victory. This kind of exercise and consequential 'celebrations' in the streets suggest to me that the terrorists are, actually, scoring points.

Beware Mr President.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Frank Milne

Looking through Youtube for Diana Krall and Julie London, I came across this piano roll recording, made by Frank Milne in the 1930s, of the Nat D Ayer/Clifford Grey song "If You Were The Only Girl In The World" (1916). OK - it's old and crackling but could that boy play popular tunes! It's linked in the Youtube bar at the bottom of the page.