Today’s men’s suit began life in the Victorian era as a less formal alternative to morning and frock coats, the standard business dress of the time. Because this “lounge suit” was more informal, there were few restrictions on its design, and therefore could be found in all manner of fabrics and permutations.
When a man’s tastes tend toward the idiosyncratic, when he sports a French tuck at the bar where everyone else’s hems hide entirely behind their waistbands, we would like to think those tastes are protected. That he has knitted his various coping mechanisms into an invisible shield that sends all but the kindest words ricocheting across the floor.
It doesn’t bear repeating that the neck tie features in fewer men’s daily wardrobes now than it did half a century ago: quite enough digital ink has been spilled on this subject already. It’s true that all but the most traditional offices have eschewed the tie, and certainly there are few bars or restaurants left in any of the world’s major cities that will turn you away for choosing to arrive open-collared (in fact, one well-known group of private members’ clubs has become notorious for refusing to admit patrons should they turn up in their favourite silk knit). All of this, when viewed together, might appear to be the death knell of the neck tie. In fact, quite the opposite is true.
I was astonished to learn recently that a new international custom shoemaking competition, and even more astonished that 30 entries placed. I hadn’t counted on 30 decent custom shoemakers existing in the world today, let alone entering an international competition.
I knew the art of travel was dead. We all know those hopelessly aspirational social media posts from clickbaiters with that tag, showing pictures of matching hardsided leather suitcases or steamer trunks, with all of the ridiculous specializations that used to be needed for the itinerant leisured class: hat trunks, crocodile-wrapped valet cases fully stocked with every unguent and ivory-handled accoutrement, shoe cases…
Fate gave Frida Kahlo a transfixing beauty and a lifetime of suffering, both physical and emotional. Over her life, she developed a distinctive personal style that accommodated all of her providential fortune, both assets and liabilities.
It wasn’t until I read The Story of Babar as an adult, to a young child who loves elephants, that I realized how jarring Jean de Brunhoff’s charming childhood story is. The Babar stories lay in my mind as a vague genial tale of a mellow, rather formal, pachyderm civilization.