One of the joys of custom clothing, they used to say, is that is supposed to last forever. Any English teacher would immediately ask, who are “they”? The reassuring voice of others that lured us down this path, the sybarite chorus of lazy fashion journalists and bored copywriters, repeating every few articles or press releases the same tropes about a kind of clothing that had become both incredibly rare and, generally, deterrently expensive a few decades ago.
It never ceases to amuse me. The portion of what we call classic men’s clothing that cannot claim a military origin (as do trenchcoats, khakis, raglan sleeves, cardigans, duffel coats, desert boots, wristwatches, and on and on and on) must pretend to a pedigree both butch and aristocratic: sport, generally involving horses.
Like Poole’s neighbor and contemporary Gieves & Hawkes, Poole has followed up a studiously dry, detailed tome from several decades ago with a heavier, flashier collection of pictures and monographs on famous customers, including their recorded lifetime spend at Henry Poole (with helpful conversion into current-day values) and signature garment.
Have you, dear reader, heard about Instagram Face? Not an app, but the phenomenon of increasing numbers of people visiting doctors, cosmetic clinics and outright quacks to obtain in real life the sort of face they see on Instagram.
What is the comfort of today? Cufflinks, jackets, ties become a mocking audience, hooting almost audibly to remind us of a register of dress this era has rendered ridiculous. Not a possession to dazzle me, but one to make me wryly laugh: an old, beautifully patterned silk scarf from Sulka Paris had to become my ersatz mask for a couple of outings. I supposed that’s the closest a possession has come to helping screen me from reality.
I’ve been inspired to turn to The Sartorial Travel Guide by the inimitable Simon Crompton for a glimpse of what already seems like a very different time, one where we were free to move around without fear of killing or being killed, one where brick-and-mortar retail existed and was worth the journey.
We cannot outrun history’s arrow. d’Artagnan and his boon companions the Three Musketeers learned that over 5,000-odd pages of Alexandre Dumas’ rambling historical fiction. History’s arrow? I should have said history’s cannonball, since that is what ended the real d’Artagnan’s life at the siege of Maastricht, an inevitability Dumas had to write into the life of his invented d’Artagnan, at the very end of the last Musketeers romance, The Man in the Iron Mask.