Showing posts with label book. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book. Show all posts

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

I am Dandy: The Return of the Elegant Gentleman - Take Savile Row

Photograph by the delightful Kira of Scarlet Fever Footwear. L-R: Guy Hills, Winston Chesterfield, Robin Dutt, Dickon Edwards, Ray Frensham, Rose Callahan, Michael "Atters" Attree, Zack MacLeod Pinsent, Natty Adams, Tony Sylvester, your author, Gustav Temple and James Sherwood. In absentia: Nick Foulkes and Amechi Ihenacho
   For every human alive or dead who has considered the maxim "Be yourself" a trite speed ramp on the fast track to a lifetime of misunderstanding and bullying, there are those who have fashioned idiosyncrasy and self-editing into an armour against the world, a means to traverse that of others, or a charismatic gateway to bring different people into theirs. Combined with a particular grasp of tailored masculine presentation and a dash of absinthe (to start with), it is those latter three categories that comprise the myriad subjects of Rose Callahan (photographer; The Dandy Portraits and Rarebit Productions) and Nathaniel Adams (writer; Lives of The Dandies and The Chap)'s photographic text I am Dandy: The Return of the Elegant Gentleman, released this autumn by Berlin's Gestalten. Apparently, there was room for the additional category of "Dashing Dork," because thanks to a recommendation from my dear pal Winston Chesterfield, Rose and Natty readily incorporated your author into the book, with a generous page allowance, several captures highlighting Rose's shutterbug talent and a molecular surgery-level editing of my ramblings that may have taken Natty 72 hours, not including naps

   Last night, the UK-based subjects took the stage alongside the creators at Gieves & Hawkes, No. 1 Savile Row, to see in the first of the book's series of international launches, before impelling a minor frenzy of mutual tie straightening and fabric comparisons. I kid. If anything, as a launchpad for the blatantly spreading fame of Callahan and Adams, and an opportunity for me to double fist with a champagne flute in one hand and a tumbler of delightfully caramel-accented The Balvenie scotch in the other, the night's success was a prepotent portent of the action that will follow in Paris and New York over the next 4 weeks. And through that process, two special copies of the book will have been signed by practically every man in it. More will be made (out) of that in time, I know

   In-between sampling from the abundant generosity of our hosts, our publisher and our sponsors - The Balvenie; Reyka Vodka, which I'm tempted to use in my next Gimlet cocktail batches for unexpected guests - I took the opportunity to acquaint and re-acquaint myself with a number of folk that I've connected with via The Mode Parade over the years - Davide Taub (G&H's masterful head cutter); rising tailoring star Michael Browne; Shoe Snob Justin Fitzpatrick; tiemaker Shaun Gordon; my drinking buddy, Giant Beard - and those I would have eventually encountered the more I shed my self-professed avoidance of scenes: the other British-based subjects of the book, around half of whom I've already befriended or met - nonpareil party host Guy Hills of Dashing Tweeds; diarist and master of arcane recall Dickon Edwards (clad, as expected in his "Double Dandy" look: one of the late Sebastian Horsley's velvet suits); "gentlethug" punker Tony Sylvester of Turbonegro; The Chap founder Gustav Temple, whom I've even written for (to say nothing of the real world friends who lent their support in person). I particularly enjoyed reuniting with Rose's black watch-clad beau and husband, Kelly Desmond Bray, and meeting Victoriana Boy Wonder, Zack MacLeod Pinsent, with whom I shared the most effete fist bump in history, what with us both wearing chamois dress gloves as we did so

   Also in attendance was the quietly sagacious Stewart Gibson, correspondent for - experiences with which loom large in I am Dandy's profiles - who has already written up his bemused impressions of last night's function. Intriguingly, his choicest descriptor - "representatives of a more considered contemporary dandyism" - was reserved for Winston and me, a generous stand to take on the appearance of a man wearing a bold Holliday & Brown archive print shirt and a Spider-Man pin in his buttonhole

Your author posing for the main event photographer, Khalil Musa, via Stylesight's coverage of the book party
   My actual thoughts on I am Dandy, having lived with my complimentary copy over the past week, and indeed on dandyism itself are topics for a later day. For now, I have to bask. Not in the prestige of being part of the project. Not even in the faintly ridiculous filmed interview I gave Gestalten five minutes after the bar was finally drained. And certainly not in having the spotlight shone on me and these other interesting individuals for one soggy London evening, knowing all the while who really merited the attention and feeling happiest that way. It's in the fact that this book is allowed to exist in this very world at this very time and people will care for it

   And also because in spite of ending the night in a tiny dive bar that was once a brothel (was it bigger on the inside in those days?) and being shot serrated daggers by a jittery man whose girlfriend gave me a friendly peck on the cheek, my head has remained pain free all day. Though that may be the only part I've gotten wrong

Thursday, 28 July 2011


   I suppose it is time for me to explain why there is a reference to Tootal-and-tweed enthusiast Gustav Temple's recently released tome, Am I A Chap?, in my tiny ego-stroking sidebar of print media appearances. This won't take long, I assure you; I'm only offering a slight distraction from what you and your right hand are really visiting the interweb for
Am I A Chap? by Gustav Temple is published by Beautiful Books. This comprehensive tome seeks to classify every species and sub-species of the English gentleman that one may observe throughout the seasons, from the flamboyant young fop to the crusty old duffer. Looking at the origins of the "Chap" genus, in figures such as Edward VII and Ian Carmichael, and their caddish counterparts such as Terry-Thomas and Bunny Roger, the book takes us up to the present day with comtemporary types such as the Bohemian Chap and the Hip Chap.
The book looks at established chaps such as Beau Brummell, Max Beerbohm, Edward VIII, and Cary Grant; deceased dandies such as the Comte de Montesquiou and Fred Astaire; contemporary chaps, such as the Gentleman Explorer, the Libertine, the Old Codger, the Country Squire, the Bohemian Chap, the City Gent. It takes a look at the finer details of clothing, from the Cravat to the Brogue, via the Hacking jacket, the Umbrella, the Walking cane, the Fair Isle sweater, Pyjamas, the Blazer, Spats and, of course, the Panama. There are tips on where to find them, where they tend to gather, and the emporia worldwide whither Chaps progress in order to equip themselves. Laced with delicate humour and a wry wit, this is an indispensable handbook for the coat pocket of every enthusiastic chap-spotter all over the world.
   Sensing the beginnings of a possible kinship, Guy Hills of Dashing Tweeds arranged for Gustav Temple and I to meet in Soho during the autumn of 2009, which, as some semi-regular readers may be aware, lead to a two page spread in The Chap magazine's anniversary issue that, in authentic Mode Parade fashion, passed utterly by the issue's purchasers with the sort of soft impression that is the normal preserve of a dull night for two in the bedroom. Somehow, this still more or less left me spent

   Funnily enough, Gustav was not yet finished with me

   Which is as good a moment as any to disclose that some days, I do wonder why. Perhaps it is because I have something in common with him that is beyond even some of his most faithful myrmidons - I'm not afraid to use a smartphone

   Despite the fact that our personal modes are literally decades apart in affections and affectations, I think Gustav particularly liked my teenage sartorial step-up manifesto - as published two years ago in Men's Flair - and all round ostentation - the late Sebastian Horsley being a frequent contributor - so he kept me in mind for the book, which is an engaging expansion of The Chap's ethos and the occasionally impeccable, oft emetic efforts that appear in the magazine's 'Am I Chap?' section, the title of which, incidentally, precedes that diverting French Connection advertising campaign. I quite enjoyed it, particularly for the continued excoriations of the pseudonymous luvvies and satirists that send in their photographs, as well as the coverage of heroes such as David Niven, whose second memoir, Bring on the Empty Horses, is a current read of mine, and Tommy Nutter. And I have purchased my own copy, so these compliments have nothing in the way of endorsements. It's an especially adorable buy, being of a similar size to my myriad Ladybird-published children's story books; the little ones always tie a personal library together. The magazine also has one particularly sterling asset to offer at present: the writing of Robert Chilcott, whose adroit stylistics and depth of knowledge make the film reviews section an interesting and edifying experience

   As I was "globetrotting" accidentally last year, Gustav chose to place my feature in the book's 'Foreign Dandies' section. I hope the PC Police do not take offence on my behalf, as I assure you, I have never lived for as much fun as I do for the moments in my day where I get to proudly defeat members of the BNP using only my UK passport as a melee weapon

   Though next time, I can always use my copy of the book instead

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Richard Lester - Boutique London


   Recently, I had the pleasure of finally reading this well researched tome and would recommend it to all Paraders with an ounce of interest in the period and the book's unique yet obvious premise of grounding the 1960s and '70s clothing experience where it truly took flight - in its shops

  Without scans, it's difficult to review this meaningfully - hence the quoted copy below - but it is a very worthy compendium of photographs and Malcolm English artwork that is only intermittently available from other immediate sources (like something called "The interweb," apparently) and, without directly stating it, places much of the emphasis on the now undervalued concept of shopkeepers designing their own desirable products; to do this in a time when practically anything was permissible, desirable and born from one of the boldest cultural intersections in living memory would always ensure these luminaries' places in stylish and entrepreneurial history

   For the record, my favourite portraits naturally feature, or relate to, Hung on You's Michael Rainey and Christopher Gibbs, The Beatles' Apple Boutique, Michael Fish, Blades of Savile Row and Tommy Nutter, as well as the beauties that modelled for BIBA and Annacat. I'll be forever glad, also, that there was ample room for Vivienne Westwood and the late Malcolm McLaren's concern, Sex 

   It is affordable, unfussy to the point of sparseness in its writing and is fundamentally a well presented snapshot of a diversely presentable time. More helpfully, it compiles all the names of all those faces that made this scene one that hasn't lost its large footing in the cultural consciousness into one neatly packaged book. Groovy, Lester
To any style conscious Londoner in the sixties just two places mattered: the King's Road and Carnaby Street. By the end of the decade the whole world came to see and be seen, to take part in the theatre that played out of the new boutiques and onto the street. From the sleek modernist tailoring of 'Top Gear' and 'His Clothes' to the nostalgic dressing up box style of the World's End boutiques, at the heart of it all were the young designers whose conviction to make and sell clothes on their own terms generated an explosion of talent which lasted and evolved over twenty years, leaving an indelible mark in fashion history. 'Boutique London' follows the journey of the first risk-takers like Mary Quant and John Stephen, to the celebrity salons of Ossie Clark, 'Mr Fish' and 'Granny Takes a Trip', stopping along the way to include the weird and the wonderful, the glamorous and the bizarre. With in-depth profiles of over thirty retailers and lavish illustrations, the clothes, interiors and characters of 'Boutique London' are as diverse as they are colourful, vividly bringing to life a vanished London, which changed the way we shop forever.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Ribaldry: Boutonnière Tales

   On rare occasion, when I'm not deleting spam, "private videos" and entreaties to promote pricey trainers (Mode Parade is not that kind of "fashion blog"), I unearth the odd kind word and genuine gem in the column's e-mail. This comes from a first time caller and long time reader (hopefully?), who has already developed a notable camaraderie with the rest of the online menswear fellowship through Boxing The Compass, a witty and comprehensive take on the vicissitudes and vices of dressing well

   This is his unedited e-mail sent in response to my most recent ensemble post. If you are sensitive to the amorous adventures of real life Uncle Oswalds, please avert your eyes:
My comment is a bit too long for the comment section of your post, and perhaps unsuitable.  Here it is:
My great-uncle ALWAYS wore a boutonnière. He visited us at our place on Cape Cod for a month every summer to sail, golf, etc.  One time he appeared home in the same handsome clothing from the evening before... I was having breakfast(!).  The flower was gone from his seersucker lapel, and I asked about it.  He told me that "a man should never wilt before his flower does", meaning that one should stay out until the boutonniere wilts. 
Grandmother was in the dining room as well (great-uncle Maxwell was her brother).  I asked Uncle Max (in his seventies at the time) if he had thrown away his wilted flower, and he said to a nine-year-old me: "I left it on her pillow."
Grandmother spun around, inadvertently sloshing the coffee from her cup "MAX!!"
I think I was in college when I first emulated the flower/pillow gesture, and ONLY then did I realize what Uncle Max had meant.  Brilliant old fellow!

I love your blog.

-Yankee Whisky Papa

   For the record, I was seven when I "met" Uncle Oswald, my parents being unaware of Roald Dahl's more indelicate side. Because of him, I will never contract leprosy

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Plum Ken

Image by SAO! via I Lost I Found
   Prior to recent time spent with The Diaries of Kenneth Tynan (edited by John Lahr), I knew precisely four things about this inspiration: that he was a slightly louche but defiantly stylish dandy; that he was an outspoken critic of some legendary standing; that he'd a fine line in sadomasochism - hardly unusual in an Oxford man, I know - and that he was the first person to "F-Bomb" the BBC, albeit by way of a stammer. It probably - in an aural manner of speaking - resembled this modern internet icon of desolate, frustrated displeasure:

   Oh, and the title Oh! Calcutta! seemed to resonate a great deal, for some reason. School plays, maybe

   I cannot easily resist the outspoken, so it's an utter pleasure to read of the lacerating effect Tynan's words could inflict on all and sundry. I suspect that those who called for him to be hanged after his 1965 expletive spree on the BBC were probably comprised of fellow masochists seeking a thrill they could experience in public (so naturally, these complainants included Members of Parliament) and their better known counterparts, Daily Mail readers. And with unknowing and perfect irony, Mary Whitehouse informed the Queen in a letter that she felt Tynan deserved nothing less than a punitive spanking; he must have rung her number for days

   Outspokenness and daring were two of his most immediate characteristics - these facets certainly spurred a number of things in his life, from his positioning as a high priest of filmic and theatrical criticism to his battles against censorship, his taste in plum coloured suiting, a yen for spanking and caning his sexual partners, and his staging of a nude revue. Ironically, despite his long pursuit and achievement of public note, he felt that he had created a less diverse body of work than one with his passion for the worlds created on the stage and in the studio ought to; his notoriety was achieved by his opting to be more of an onlooker than a participant. I  realise that he is not as well remembered as he could be - for a myriad of factors, I'm sure - but I nevertheless think he denigrated himself a little too finely on this point - the critical world of his day gained much from his way of thinking, his almost overly keen awareness of cultural movements and his archly beautiful prose, all of which saturated his writing

   Because this is Mode Parade, I will point out that these behaviours seemed to inform his dressing. One would be maybe a little surprised to learn that not all men named Peacock live up to the sobriquet, but even if they did, I doubt many could strut with Tynan's determined pleasure in his own individuality. The Tynan of the 1940s and '50s shows something of the studied languor of the Bright Young Things he shared an alma mater with and his tastes were rooted in simple, clean tailoring, give or take an extravagant waistcoat or a gold coloured shirt. But come the Peacock Revolution and the 1970s, his wardrobe juxtaposed a classicist's awareness of his age - the sober cardigans in which he relaxed and the stately fur coat I'd like for myself - with his natural flamboyance, boasting a resplendent collection of op art-like print shirts that he was able to blend with wide neckties and suits of off white and dove grey cloth in a way only gifted individuals and master stylists are wired to do. There's a reason that such looks - when done well - are described as fun; it's a game of achieving harmony and balance, and should be approached as such. And I've always believed that such success takes a particular physical and mental refinement, which is possibly why Corin Redgrave's Tynan look has the edge on that of Rob Brydon when they played the critic in separate productions over the past decade

   I think my favourite impulse of his is the daring, but mainly for puerile reasons, I admit. Such a ribald, filthy-minded adventurer, really; not just the smacking of girls' bottoms, but the very public reading of the Spanking Times on train journeys and the bloody comedy of errors that was his experience of consuming vodka rectally, having read a recommendation of it in Alan Watts's autobiography. I suspect that Tynan's biggest mistake was going out for an Indian right before having the enema tube inserted

   For all of that he was a dysfunctional scamp, he was also a magnetic personality with a laudable mastery of the language and what I admire about him the most is rather simple - he was the consummate individual and nothing if not self-aware. And so, I end this in my customary manner: a round of photographs and a final word from the subject himself. That's one to grow on

All of the preceding: Tynan and his second wife Kathleen during the 1970s, seen in the last with Roman Polanski

Rob Brydon and Catherine McCormack as Kenneth and Kathleen Tynan in the BBC production, Kenneth Tynan: In Praise of Hardcore

Corin Redgrave in the Royal Shakespeare Company's one man show Tynan, adapted for the stage from Lahr's book of the diaries by Richard Nelson with Colin Chambers, in 2004

Without self-approval, there is no self-confidence, without self-confidence one has no secure identity; and without a secure identity one has no style

Friday, 12 November 2010

Le Temps de Cartier (1989)

  It takes a particular type of connoisseur, hobbyist or aesthete to procure a horological tome. So, I'm fortunate that my mother owns a copy; I'm not refined enough, nor in possession of a classic Cartier such as the Tortue or the Tank - both featuring from their Edwardian-era guises onward - to have obtained this alone

   In the terms I couch the word "luxury" in, rarity, creativity, fineness, exquisiteness  and beauty perennially loom large, which is why it's so edifying to delve into some of the delights that the house of Louis-François Cartier built. In the age of mass luxury, it is gratifying that maisons like Cartier and Hermès maintain not only their pedigree but their quality controls (as long as the recent stake in the latter taken by Bernard Arnault, chairman to LVMH, does not become too ineluctable, I suppose). Throughout the book, one sees the exhibition-worthy works produced for, or inspired by, gilded clients with influence and/or royal warrants such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (who was presented with the highly aureate Cartier Imperial Egg that now resides in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art), Alberto Santos-Dumont - whose need for aviation comfort, of course, influenced the creation of Santos, the first men's wristwatch - and King Farouk of Egypt, whose commissions tended to be sexually themed; apposite, of course, for a royal connoisseur of erotica and pornography

   But Giampiero Negretti, Jader Barracca and Franco Nencini, who authored the book, also elicit interest in their historical coverage from the reader, transcending the superficial gratuitousness of Timepiece Porn as they do. Of course, there are a great many double page spreads and money shots contained, for this is a history that stretches back deeply into elegant, diamond encrusted and monogrammed fobs with clever shutter mechanisms, utterly covetous platinum wristwatches, elaborate automatic calendars and the ne plus ultra accessorial decor of la Maison Cartier's pendules mystérieuse ("mystery clocks") - so named because the inner workings of those home, desk and travel clocks were concealed under the skilled artisinal artifice that makes such things desirable. Throughout the decades, Cartier's craftsmen would decorate these latter creations with carved jade, sculpted precious metals and artfully arranged jewels in intricate manners that oft drew on au courant themes in artistic movements - Egyptian, Oriental, Indian and animalistic motifs were all explored at one time or another

La Chimère (Chimera) pendule mystérieuse, 1926, comprised of substances such as topaz, agate, platinum

This pendule mystérieuse, dating from the early 1980s, is based on the original Buddhist temple-motif model circa the 1930s, which is featured in the publication

   Fundamentally, this is a social history of Cartier's horlogerie designs as they related to the whims of the market, the events of the passing days (the Viennese Secession, Art Deco, Modernism, World War II), its constant successes in jewellery creation and the exponential development of the firm itself, with the life and innovations of Louis Cartier - grandson of Louis-François - and the company as its foci. Those deeply involved in Louis's personal and professional orbit - his brothers, Jacques and Pierre, who operated and grew Cartier's businesses in London and New York, respectively; Jeanne Toussaint, Cartier's graceful, panther-obsessed Director of Fine Jewellery with an eye for gemmed and sculpted figural pieces based on creatures, as well as Louis's muse and love; Charles Jacqueau, the independent and ornately-minded legend of jewellery design; and Edmond Jaeger, whose legacy is contained not only within the famed Jaeger-LeCoultre firm of watchmakers but also in the exacting movements that he provided for Cartier during his exclusive 15 year-partnership with Louis. Working in such tandem, it would have been impossible not to have ensured Cartier's prepotency in its fields

   Covering the mid-to-late 19th century through to the establishing of Le Must de Cartier in 1973 after the company had passed from the hands of the family into a private group - today it is part of Richemont - the book concludes with a look at the then-contemporary state of auctioned Cartier timepieces, artfully tracing the high value the maison's works have come to command over the decades. But even in this pricey arena, it is the craft, the aesthetics and the sheer invention of these pieces that transcend mere lust and displays of status

   For at the end of the day, it is taste and appreciation that make a Cartier worth having

   Cartier Tonneau ladies wristwatch in 18k yellow gold circa the 1920s

Saturday, 14 August 2010


"Eduardo [Agnelli, upon his decease in a plane crash, 1935,] left a wife and seven children. His lady was Virginia Bourbon del Monte, Princess of San Faustino - because once the Agnellis made all that money, only the bluest blood would do. The princess, half American and thus relatively emancipated, indulged her own appetites with the ease that comes from an abundance of domestic help, and this with a clear conscience, given her husband's amorous adventures. Ten years after Eduardo's untimely demise, Virginia died in a car crash in the company of a male friend. The Agnelli family let it be known that she was strangled like Isadora Duncan of old, whose scarf had caught in the wheels and choked her to death. In fact she was amusing the trouser-less driver, who lost control in the wrong place and at the wrong time"

Monday, 19 July 2010

(A Book On) Fashion Blogs by Kirstin Hanssen and Felicia Nitzsche, with Elina Tozzi

   Everyone observes everyone else

   This is what the book is for:
Fashion blogs are crucial news and inspirational sources for everyone who wants to stay up-to-date about fashion. These blogs are therefore both visually and with regard to content in competition with traditional media. Fashion blogs raise many questions. Is the fashion blogger the new trend-watcher? Can they be referred to as professional amateurs? How does blogging affect privacy? Is fashion blogging the ultimate way of self expression? Kirstin Hanssen and Felicia Nitzsche carried out a research.The main content of the book is divided into five categories: fashion journalism, street style photography, party photography, personal style and men's style. Bloggers around the world have been interviewed and the interviews are supported by visual blog material.
   And this is how I came to be a part of it:

   Last autumn, before the instituting of the Mode Parade e-mail no less, Kirstin sweetly requested my involvement in a project that has taken her, Felicia and Elina countless months collating URLs, arranging the publication of this milieu-exposing tome and selecting the 40-odd bloggers they felt to be the faces of this little world who were not Scott Schuman, Yvan Rodic or that plucky yet grandmother-esque 13 year old Rei Kawakubo-fetishist. And me. Apparently, they appreciated my flair for opalescent flamboyance and murky self-portraiture, as well as my ability to perpetrate offences against the English language five times a month

   Also, I suppose that they needed some guys in there

   Resource allowances for my contribution to the book were no less frantic behind my scenes. Kirstin had tailored a series of 17 interview questions, along with photograph requests. Which arrived in January. When I had just moved to Accra, where I remain to this moment. With my photographic library in London undergoing a back-up process due to a vandalised MacBook. And my dislike for the column's original "Style Time" moniker already thrown into sharp relief

   Authoring the column itself does not approach true posterity. Blogger's servers can crash and it will all burn. Or I could delete it. My own caprice is probably equal to that of Fate's, so who knows who will get there first

   Being published in a collection that will eventually achieve a wider release outside of Europe this year and thus blind the colour-sensitive that will view my ensembles: when I put it this way, that reads much like posterity. Or a posterity error, by any other measure

   Elina evidently intuited that Mode Parade is something of an atypical "fashion blog;" this I noted when she described the language of other bloggers as "somewhat tiresome" in comparison to my own. I'm guessing that it had not been a fruitful day on Google when she wrote that down. I jest, Elina; I always welcome a compliment 

   Of course, The Mode Parade isn't for much other than my disorderly ruminations and my Narcissistic Ensemble Recordings. And my caprice, as noted above. I've no interest in being on-trend and I'm never knowingly on the pulse; those are the fringe benefits of the research I undertake. I like being able to reflect on the few collections I appreciate, months to years after their deployment into the world. I also prefer tradition, and permutations thereof, to the trendy anxieties of the hermaphroditic, ankle bearing, voluminous trousered, overly cropped jacket-sporting set that champions "eccentricity" over consideration. Actually, I disdain any set that rides such a train of thought - the brain food tends to be ruinous

   And now, back to the process report:

   It came together in the end once I'd finally hit on the best name to rebrand this space with. I overthought the 17 questions posed to me and typed accordingly. I found the various portraits taken by YF, Jamie Archer, James Lewis, Stephanie Rushton and Daniel Barnett, acquired their permission  for their usage and forwarded them on, along with a few other ensembles I excavated from my inbox. Regrettably, I've improved on most of those presentations since realising my proclivities for oversized eyeframes, Western-influenced African sartorial largesse and copious facial topiary, but the passport photograph that I was asked to take for my feature was developed in an aged colouration that tidily evokes the current Me. I was even wearing a silk brocade tie from the 1970s and a vintage shirt with a long collar as if to underscore the confluence at play. The editors aside, who knows how much of this photography made it in

   Loved ones in London have a copy. Apparently, Elina mistook the "Barimavox" in the column's URL for a genuine alias, despite the mononym in my About Me/Your Author page that also appends each post. Or maybe she thinks "Barima Vox" is a cute appellation. Nevertheless, the book's feedback was aglow with approbation, and this from non-readers of this column, no less (hello, Mum)

   I wanted to review the book, but they won't let me have it yet. This means that its authors can potentially succeed beyond our little milieu. Which they deserve to. They possess two capabilities that seem to be embargoed in some parts of the world: they are talented and they care

   My semi-regular readers should not investigate this book because I am a part of it. They should investigate it because it really merits those apt old phrases, "painstaking" and "a labour of love," whilst seeking to analyse just what drives people like me to our amateur editorialising, public showcasing and fiscally unrewarding endeavours

   History is sometimes made by the passionate and the self-regarding, or so I've been told. On that premise, the book writes itself. Nevertheless, there is a tangible value to blogging for those same reasons; the existence of the book - to gather, to assess, to comment, to edit and to highlight - intrinsically asserts this. This shooting into the dark has attracted the attention of Big Others, as exemplified by the likes of Susanna "Susie Bubble" Lau and Garance Doré, who also took part. I'd go as far to suggest that one day every single brand of perceived or real merit will gleefully utilise this modest communication tool until it breaks

   But I'd rather not give away my interview responses. The book is published by, and available from, d'jonge Hond and a visit to the book's blog will yield its collection of coverage and other stockists. Its international release indeed awaits; I hope it will be confirmed soon

   To conclude, if the Fellows behind my favourite style/cultural blogs (as requested during the interview) happen to read this, your bows are in order: Winston, Ryan, ADG and Christian, MM, Robert, Nick et al

   Everyone observes everyone else. And then they take notes

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

The Covetous Post

   I'm feeling yearnful:


Holga D Digital Camera

Gaziano & Girling bespoke stingray wholecuts, made for a Forvm member

Junya Watanabe S/S10 Blouson (for my Dressed Down Days)

Taschen's Favourite Hotels

Ettinger Bridle Hide Billfold, via Unabashedly Prep

A boat cloak, opera cloak or Inverness cape

 The most aureate car I've ever ridden in: the Mercedes Benz 600 Grosser


Friday, 9 April 2010

All Earthlings

   This is a post about the photographer Richard Kalvar

   In a 1990s issue of DC Comics' Supergirl written by Peter David, one character, anti- heroic demonic rogue Buzz, questions humanity's received wisdom of our own capacity for enlightenment, spiritual purity and self-glorification when we're essentially ridiculous beings lumbered with embarrassing functions such as ablutions. The gag's on us. I received quite an evocation of that insight when I first saw Richard Kalvar's Earthlings

   Kalvar does not so much pose questions with his unposed photographs as he invites the viewer to complete the sentences - the necessary elucidation is entirely up to us. In a sense, his preference for titling his subjects "earthlings" is explication in itself. We have as much a clue of the workings of each scene as its participants; indeed, as its creator, purportedly, at least. Not all that we do is clarifiable; think of the discomfort of strangers at a random look cast askance by another and suddenly anything we do could be construed as downright weird. The absurdity of such happenings cannot be minimised

   Kalvar does not stray often from black and white, which fuels the intrinsic abstraction of his work. The images are not titled, rather filed by date and location. They are seemingly built around the disconnect that occurs when a moment is immortalised on camera, removing that moment from the flow of natural events in a freeze framed second. And it proposes a view of life in which all human activity can be thought of as opaque and unordinary and bizarrely comic given the right pair of eyes. Naturally, such views and practices resonate with me

   I don't have to walk too far to cross the looking glass of the absurd these days - there are enough men and women here at all times of day openly pissing in the streets with the conspicuous abandon of the average 3am urbanite drunkard, enough people who are apparently disinterested in raping me yet will not take no for an answer if they believe that they can get something out of one of my pockets, enough transpicuous philandering that polygamy may as well be legalised for the non-nobles

   It's not our fault; we were just made this way, no?

Richard Kalvar is represented by Magnum Photos. Interviews may be perused here and there. All material is copyright

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Cally Blackman - 100 Years of Menswear

   Ah, coffee tables

   Cally Blackman’s 100 Years of Menswear was curated with a more general, and pictorial, approach than was taken in other 2009 works such as Nicholas Storey’s History of Men's Fashion and Eric Musgrave’s Sharp Suits. However, it is no lesser for it and its juxtapositions of traditional style with the shifts and challenges of fashion are certainly worth more than the occasional glance. The languid posture of the younger, rockabilly-haired David Bowie on the cover, clad in a pale mustard shawl collared suit and a yellow/white horizontal striped  towelling shirt – ever straddling boundaries – typifies this approach rather well

   It is light on words – though the paragraphs contain the necessary amount of elucidation – and heavy on imagery, which is, of course, the true draw. Unearthing a rich seam of photography from the early days of the 20th century onwards is an accomplishment I hope Blackman is proud of, and her consummate approach is testament to her knowledge and passion. Although she is careful to touch on the major – and by now obvious – style leaders and designers we all know (Astaire, Grant, Eden, Wolfe, Windsor, Saint Laurent, Gatsby/Redford, Jagger, Nutter, Ford, Lauren, Armani), a welcome inclusion of cultural context often pervades. I did wish at times that she would concentrate on some less trodden paths such as the aesthetes of Paris (although her curation of artistic styles in Europe between 1900 - 1939 is characteristically spot-on, at the very least, I feel that I know too little about the French creativity, dandyism and bohemianism of the period) the Suedeheads of the 1970s and the less clichéd side of Edwardian England, but there were, for me, genuine moments of enlightenment such as the Zazous of the 1940s, a nonchalant European counterpart to the Zoot Suiters

   The overall effect Blackman seems to aim for is one of clothing through culture and time of place rather than technicality, although the evolution of design and technique is obviously not ignored. Nevertheless, given that her foreword asserts that menswear is in fact as diverse and interesting and more influential than womenswear, the sheer variety of pictures almost flawlessly supports her on each point

   In this respect, and that of the changing fashions depicted within, the book champions a concept I'm rather attached to - menswear has far more to offer than we may think today. As the selection of modern day images of celebrities and fashion shoots somewhat ironically displays, we stopped trying, to our disadvantage, no less. It's cultural degeneration portrayed through morphing and dying sartorial codes; the old adage about pictures and words  is more than apt, for once

   The book is divided into sections by period of time and also by title. Naturally, my favourite section is "Peacock", which starts with the tweaks and experimentations of late 50s Continental tailoring and early 60s Pierre Cardin before flowering into the daring (and drugs) of the Peacock Revolution, the Counter Culture and the continued rise and rise of pop music. Second to this - despite its brevity - the use in "Suit" of a Laurence Fellows-drawn Esquire advert with the advice still intact (and an Anthony Eden-inspired one, no less) made me smile appreciatively. I don't yet have a third, but that will come in time - a strong contender is "Culture Clubber", since 1980s street fashion is rather close to my heart. 1980s hip hoppers and their oversized eyewear are more woven into my dress style than some might think

   Though this is not truly a history book - in this respect, we have enough of those - I was reminded why I, in my youth, thought I wanted to be a historian after my first read-through. It was not to lecture about Vietnam or The Battle of Agincourt; it was about learning about what changed and why. Pop culture dissection that so ably combines two of my interests is certainly worth purchasing, and so 100 Years of Menswear may become one of my favourite Christmas presents ever

   Even if it was from myself