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heroes - the French writer, Anglophile and conservative, Maurice Druon (1918-2009) - was once denounced as "starched, outdated, reactionary, egotistical, haughty and sinister".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.
Never trust a man who wears cheap shoes. This sage advice is hardly new, but it bears repetition. A man in cheap shoes (unless personal tragedy is involved) can hardly command respect. He has no regard for his appearance (and therefore little respect for the rest of humankind), he cares nothing for personal discipline and his character will be of the ‘anything will do’ variety. Thanks be to God, then, for the patrons of the discreet premises near London’s Bond Street which are the shop and workroom of George Cleverley & Company. These patrons are the gentlemen (and I use the word advisedly) who have sought out the finest bespoke shoes in the world. I confess that I am of their number. And the shoes which form the subject of this article should convince you, dear Reader, that the union of craftsmanship and beauty, while never cheap, is always worthy of admiration.
My photograph brings together two symbols of the Best of British: a real Rolls-Royce and a real Savile Row suit. The former is my 1963 Silver Cloud III, made when the company was still truly British, and the latter is my three-piece City suit made by Henry Poole & Co. These two icons (for once, I think it is justifiable to use the term) are separated by half a century, but both embody in their different ways what we recognise as ‘the best’. In tailoring The Best is still British and it is still Savile Row. And Henry Poole & Co. is Savile Row. Certainly, the street would not have its tailoring associations if Mr Henry Poole had not moved his business there in 1846. Since then fashions have come and fashions have gone, but Henry Poole has remained the finest destination for any gentleman who cares about his appearance. Mercifully, the number of such gentlemen is now increasing once more. The idiocy of ‘dressing down’ (an evil plague which spread with alarming rapidity among persons in the City of London) has abated, and – mirabile dictu! – the three-piece City suit is increasingly the sartorial choice of those with taste and discernment. And for such a suit one can do no better than follow my example and go to Henry Poole.
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Readers might care to look at the interview with Francis Bown on Keikari