For those of us who try to dress properly, life is full of hurdles. One of them can be summed up thus: how can I ensure that I have a beautifully presented shirt to wear each day when I am travelling? The answer to this important question is not as straightforward as some might suppose. “Use hotel laundries,” I can hear many a reader murmur. But I have learnt over many years that sometimes the standard of these facilities can be woefully low, and it is not difficult for a bad laundry to ruin a good shirt. Therefore I make it a rule on my travels to wash my own shirts. Consequently, I always ask for an iron and an ironing board to be placed in my room. But some hotels – particularly in Italy – refuse to supply these items, usually claiming that ‘fire regulations’ necessitate their refusal. How, in these circumstances, can one avoid the risks of hotel laundries and yet still appear in a smart shirt? I believe I have finally found the answer.
Every item in a gentleman’s wardrobe should bring him pleasure. Those pieces which have been made for him alone – the finest suits and topcoats from Savile Row, the perfectly constructed shirts from Jermyn Street et al. – will be much loved pieces, regarded with that fondness he otherwise bestows only upon members of his own family. After all, they express not only his sartorial standards but also his aesthetic values, both of which, we hope, are impeccable. For myself, I confess that my keenest enthusiasm is reserved for the contemplation of my shoes. Fine bespoke shoes are works of art. In their form and in their practicality (for shoes must be comfortable), they manifest beauty and speak reassurance. In a world awash with the trivial and the second-rate, they tell us that there are still those with the skill and the eye to create and to care about the best. And, in my judgement, the best bespoke shoes in the world are made by George Cleverley & Co. Ltd.
Unless we subscribe to the heresy of Antinomianism, we know that we all need a few rules by which to lead our lives. Human beings are not made for chaos, but for order – of the proper sort. We do not want to be oppressed, yet we know instinctively that anarchy would probably be the worst oppression of all. Moses came down from the mountain with the tablets on which were written The Ten Commandments. In my own, rather more modest, fashion I wish to respond to those correspondents who have asked for some guidance about the proper way in which a gentleman can maintain a decent appearance in a world which can be depressingly indifferent to standards of the sartorial sort. I therefore humbly offer to readers my own version of The Ten Commandments. Most of the Commandments are to do with matters of dress, although a couple relate to aspects of behaviour. One of my heroes - the French writer, Anglophile and conservative, Maurice Druon (1918-2009) - was once denounced as "starched, outdated, reactionary, egotistical, haughty and sinister". If these Commandments prompt as noble a tribute from my many detractors, I shall know that my efforts have not been in vain.
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Readers might care to look at the interview with Francis Bown on Keikari