Is there a link between slobbish behaviour and casual dress?

Following on from the recent strange decision by the Speaker of the House of Commons to allow MPs to discard ties in Parliament, you can probably imagine my joy when I read the headline ‘golfer wears a tie in the Open’. Perhaps, I thought, all is not lost in the declining sartorial state of the world. My joy was however short lived when I eventually found an image of the said golfer and his tie.

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I suppose it comes down to definitions. My definition of ‘wearing a tie’ is that the top button of the shirt is fastened and the tie is knotted appropriately – not slung at half mast around one’s neck. Why even put on a tie if you are going to disregard its relevance in such a way? Add to that not having shaved, and the hideously large logos and the ball cap – well.

This leads me to a growing hypothesis in my mind over the increasing ‘casualness’ in our society and its implications. Walking my dogs in the local park is increasingly disturbing as I have to witness endless trails and deposits of rubbish left behind by people picnicking or just sitting on the grass. Often this discarded pile of food wrappers, empty bottles and cans, are left on the grass less than 20 yards away from rubbish bins. Why do people today believe it is acceptable behaviour to just dump their waste and walk away – assuming someone will clean it up for them? Such rubbish attracts vermin, poisons and damages wildlife, and is a risk for small children and people’s pets. It says much about the slobbish manners of those who deposit it.

Is slobbish too strong a word?  The dictionary defines ‘slob’ as ‘a person who is lazy and has low standards of cleanliness’, so I would suggest it is the appropriate word to describe these people. But it is not just parks, rubbish is everywhere, anti-social behaviour is increasingly acceptable, rudeness is widespread. Why?

I suggest it can be increasingly linked to the decline in standards of dress.

G. Bruce Boyer recently addressed the matter in an article article about the “casual revolution” of society and the loss of sartorial occasions. He argues the term “casual” is considered obsolete as it can only be opposed to “formal”. Since “casual” has become dominant it is no longer “casual” but simply “normal”, or “ordinary”. When casual was unusual in public, suits were the norm. Now that suits are the exception, they are considered formal.

What is perhaps also concerning here in evolution terms is what will come to be the norm once ‘casual’ is seen as ‘formal’. There are already open disagreements over exactly what the boundaries of ‘casual’ are – recently whilst flying to the USA on BA in Club Class I could not help but notice the man across the aisle from me was dressed in a strangely logo’d t-shirt, cargo shorts and flip flops. He proceeded to walk about the aircraft in bare feet, displaying feet which had clearly never been near a pedicure – his feet were frankly disgusting to look at. I felt sorry for the flight attendants, smartly dressed in their uniforms, having to administer service to someone who I perceived as disrespectful to the surroundings he was in. But, I suspect, he would argue he was simply dressed in a ‘casual’ manner – casual used to mean clean trousers, a collared shirt and shoes and socks, not cargo shorts, bare feet and flip flops.

If we adopt such a casual disinterested approach to how we look surely that ultimately influences our attitudes and behaviour. Perhaps it is a stretch to label overly casual styles to slobbishness, but I am increasingly convinced our society is heading to a state of complete disrespect for traditions, culture, history which can only lead to an eventual breakdown in basic acceptable norms of civilised behaviour.

It is therefore time to take a stand, to refuse to be shamed or bullied into lowering our standards to the new ‘norm’ of slobbish behaviour. I for one will wear my suit and tie to work with pride, to dress in a casual style (when appropriate) respectful to those around me, to create a pleasing aesthetic (and never wear cargo shorts and flip flops). Heaven help my local MP if I ever spot him in the House of Commons without a tie – he has been warned!

How I became one of the best dressed men at Newmarket Races

In the space of just a few minutes yesterday I went from casual ‘punter’ at the Races to being faced by a media scrum (for the first time in my life!). They all wanted to take my photograph. But why?

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The third Friday of July is one of my favourite days of the year. My wife and I travel the short 55 minute train journey from home in Ipswich to Newmarket to attend the July festival of horse racing. We enjoy a leisurely two hour lunch in the excellent Mozart’s in the Premier Enclosure and then head the finish line on the course and watch the 6 races thunder by. A modest wager on each race is necessary, and we traditionally win one or two of those – certainly enough to cover all the wagers of the day!

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Yesterday, upon entering the race course, a young lady asked if I would like to be photographed for the ‘Most Stylish Man of the Day’ award. Amused, and naturally a little flattered, I agreed. This was just before 12 pm. I then forgot all about it. Four hours later I received a text message informing me I had been selected in the top 10 (out of over 300 entrants) and should report to the main marquee!

Here I am, along with mainly very young men, a preponderance of exposed ankles and no socks, beards, unshaved faces, sunglasses (worn indoors), skinny trousers, and poorly fitting jackets. There was even a young man, as bemused as me, who was wearing his Father’s old Savile Row tweed suit which he had tailored to fit him, (and he was wearing socks!

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Interestingly the gentleman on my left in the above photograph (now in his 60s) had also arrived at the races not knowing about this competition and had dressed as individualistically as he always does! After a degree of standing around being assessed and interviewed the final three were announced – I came third. It was hilarious to me to win a range of prizes for being dressed the way I normally do!! My prizes included a bespoke shirt (worth £125), two tickets to Aintree Races, some products, two tickets to a Football Match and a few other items. And then the media scrum – cameras, journalists, questions. It was rather fun!

The 2nd and 1st young men were charming, but at least 30 years younger than me!

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When I met one of the judges later she told me the key piece of my wardrobe which caught the judges’ attention were my trousers – they loved the drape, the cut, the classic look. I felt validated in my love of the classic 1920/30 look – that golden era will never be out of style (my blog article on these trousers is here). Is it too much to hope we are perhaps finally seeing the end of the skinny trouser?

 

 

My first pair of tassel loafers

There are time in our lives when we have take the leap, the plunge into the unknown, to be bold (or as Sir Humphrey Appleby would say in ‘Yes Minister’ to be courageous). This week for me, at the age of 56, I purchased (and wore in public) a pair of shoes with tassels on them. I accept this is perhaps not such a big issue for many readers with a General Election only a few weeks away, but for a middle aged man known for his love of the 1920s and 1930s its as big as it can get!
I cannot even explain, in any rational sense, why tassels have been such a problem for me. I’m sure at some point in my orderly, conservative and structured past (most likely at RAF College Cranwell during officer training – that haven of early adult life sartorial correctness) I had been informed such shoes ‘too casual’, ‘American’ or even flippant for a gentleman.
And why now? Why at this point in middle life have I decided to become ‘courageous’?
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There is in fact no science to it at all! It happened by chance as I began planning for a forthcoming trip to Lisbon. I am due to speak at the end of May at the Horasis Global Leaders’ Summit in Cascais Portugal and then spend a few days relaxing and exploring Lisbon. As my packing list (using one of my favourite apps TripList) grew I began to look at my shoe collection and realised as I had not spent anytime in Mediterranean countries in the summer months since the mid 1990s I had no suitable ‘smart’ casual shoes. G. Bruce Boyer once wrote a loafer has “the comfort of the moccasin while adding the fashion and elegance of a dressy shoe” – I therefore began to look for loafers to fill this sartorial gap. It was during my initial search I spotted, on the various online forums I regularly follow, a consistent level of support of tasseled loafers, especially in a mid-tan tone.
Not knowing whether I would ultimate develop a long term fondness for them I decided to make a purchase in what I would describe as the mid-price point (not the Office version for £45 nor the Loake version for £240). I eventually found a pair at Charles Tyrwhitt. They have a Blake welt, where the upper is wrapped around the insole and attached between it and the outsole. A single stitch attaches everything together.
Because it is a simpler construction than a goodyear welt, it is also less expensive. It is a process that allows for resoling once the outsole is worn. Apparently Blake welting is also superior when seeking a close-cut sole and, because there are no exterior stitches, the body of the outsole can be cut very close to the upper. Lastly, because it has fewer layers than a Goodyear welt, a Blake-welted sole is more flexible – ideal for a loafer.

I ordered them online and they were delivered within 5 days. I can honestly state that when I opened the box the sight of them (and the beautiful leather aroma) took my breath away (and that does not often happen!). They are wide enough to be a comfortable fit, yet retain a slim and elongated look. I am delighted with them. They even came with individual soft shoe bags.

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I treated them with my Mink Oil Renovator (from Justin at the Shoe Snob Blog) and have recently worn them for the first time for a somewhat casual working Friday in London. Rarely is it possible for me to wear new shoes for a day without some form of discomfort, but not with these – they have been superb.
And what about the tassels? They certainly add a sense of rakishness to the shoes and to my overall look – added to the glorious tan colour they are a much welcome addition to my wardrobe, both in my capacity as a CEO and more casually. There is, even in my CEO role, an opportunity here for these shoes to be both smart (perhaps with my blue blazer) and casual (with chinos and a lightweight linen jacket). They certainly will see more UK time and not just be saved for trips to the Mediterranean! I would recommend them to anyone looking for multi-functional smart yet casual shoe.

Stylish Cable Ties – Holdall Co

I have sometimes been accused of living too much in the past, with my love of the style of the 1920s/1930s. I prefer to think, rather as William Manchester and Paul Reid state in ‘The Last Lion’ that ‘He did not live in the past; the past lived on in him‘! One of my pleasures therefore comes from visiting museums (and often antique stores) looking for inspiration – and marvelling in how in the past much care had been given to crafting beautiful yet functional products to compliment life’s needs. I think for example of cigarette or cigar cases, writing cases, or small travelling cases for all one’s toilet requirements.
I occasionally consider the many craftsmen (and women) who designed and made these artefacts, who would be most likely delighted such items have been passed down through generations and still used today. Unfortunately the cost of such craftsmanship today all to often makes the resultant product a ‘luxury’ item, and therefore beyond the reach of many people. The result is our hideous disposable society, where we unfortunately all to easily accept plastic-style inferior mass produced ‘junk’.
I was therefore delighted to find a relatively new English company aspiring to fill this void by creating relatively affordable hand-crafted leather products with the ability to stand the test of time and become, in time, vintage pieces themselves – the company is Holdall and Co. 
They came to my attention as I grappled with finding a vintage/traditional solution to a modern problem – how to create order in my bag/briefcase with my laptop cables and especially my IPhone headphones. Holdall and Co have cleverly crafted two items (using the same full-grain bridle leather they use for their principle products) for headphone wraps and cable ties. These leather items are cut and burnished by hand.
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The headphone wrap has two notches to secure any cables and the dog-bone shape for easy winding. The cable ties have a solid stud fastening which allows cables of many diameters to be secured.
In addition, and at no extra cost, both these products can be monogrammed for the ultimate bespoke finish. The result is an individual and unique personal item, one that will age and mature (as only the finest leathers can).
My order arrived this week (just 4 days after I placed the order online). Here are some photographs for the finished product in use (complete with my monogram!).
I am delighted with them, and will be monitoring them over the coming months as they slowly gain their own character and patina. Finally, perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of this find is the price – just £15 for three of each item. I consider this an excellent investment in a solution to a modern problem with a traditional vintage approach – and further proof I can still have the ‘past live on in me’!

Rake Magazine Review

I must start this post by publicly stating my love of magazines – not the online versions, but the heavy, glossy paper ones.
I enjoy wading through the endless adverts, reading the editorials and then the quick page flick through to obtain a high level overview of the excitement to come. Amongst others I consume Vanity Fair, Tatler, The Chap, Country Life, Cigar Aficionado, GQ, and occasionally Esquire.
I used to really enjoy GQ (I even remember purchasing the first ever UK edition in the 1980s), with the monthly musing of Tony Parsons in particular a personal favourite, but had increasingly felt somewhat disconnected from the main articles and general tone. What to replace GQ with though became quite the search!
By chance I came across The Rake. I quickly became an admirer – and then a subscriber.
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It has a balance of the classically English approach to style and the more relaxed and adventurous Italian edge. The writing is first class, and the articles wide ranging and engaging. The Rake considers itself to be ‘The modern voice of classic elegance’. This perfectly captures the demographic I find myself increasingly occupying.
One editorial captures for me a certain philosophy we could aspire to be guided by. Here are some quotes from it:
‘I read something by a French author that I found very poignant. He wrote ‘ What the son wants to forget, the grandson wants to remember…….’
‘Each fashion week increasingly fills me with ennui, as I see paraded down runways one ensemble after another that I know are completely irrelevant to me and to the demographic this magazine represents…….’
‘…..about how this relates to the renaissance of sartorial style, and how the new generation has eschewed brand-oriented dressing in favour of individual, tailor-made style, it has also come to mean the widespread return of substance and manners…..is a humility, elegance, warmth and authenticity that is the language of luxury’s future….’
Just three reasons why, if you are reading this blog, I suggest you should also follow The Rake!