Chikashi Miyamoto

philosopher by training, gentleman by accident, pervert by nature, glutton by choice

Category: Nicholas Storey

Breaking Rules

There are rules for just about everything.  People break rules for one of three reasons:  1) ignorance, 2) carelessness or 3) naughtiness.  Sartorial rules are no exceptions; they are subject to all three types of breaches.  Unlike some rules that have grave consequences, sartorial rules are more like informal conventions that keep evolving slowly over time; if one is in breach, then one does not get tossed in gaol for even the most serious offence (although some offenders probably should be imprisoned at a maximum security facility).

There is nothing fun or cool about breaking rules because of ignorance.  However, it can be fun to break them knowingly.  There are plenty of occasions where this is the case with sartorial rules.  (But, of course, the fundamental premise is that one knows the rules and that one is in breach.)  It is even more fun when the rules are of one’s own making.

At l’Eroica, Simon was wearing aviator sunglasses after having written this piece.

200 l'eroica 2011 gaiole start

Whereas my eyewear the day before in Gaiole was in compliance with his ‘exception’.

I spotted his violation straightaway and, under normal circumstances, would have given him a good ribbing.  However, there were two things working in his favour.  The first was that he was wearing a pair of Randolph Engineering aviator sunglasses, the real deal instead of that other stuff.  The only pair of aviator shades that I have is a Randolph as well, so I was rather more forgiving.  The second was that we had amongst us an egregious sinner who turned up in Gaiole (and managed to slip through the event officials) with a carbon frame bike and therefore deserved to have all of our collective ribbing to be focussed exclusively on him.

And, of course, I have to give credit to someone that publishes his rules and then says, ‘sod ’em,’ with 4,000 cyclists around him.

Although Nicholas would not approve, I routinely wear brown in town.  Even when I worked for a rather conservative company in Manhattan, I wore brown in town.  However, I actually do have a particular restriction on brown.

Having lived on the Continent for a few years, I have become accustomed to seeing many men who wear brown shoes with a blue suit.  More recently, I see more of them wearing tan shoes with a blue suit; it seems to be something of a trend.  I am now used to seeing them on other men but have not reached a point where I have adopted their custom.  I do not wear tan shoes with a blue suit.  I just don’t.

I have a very simple method when dressing in the morning.  It requires very little thought.  The choice of suit is simply the one that is next in rotation.  I grab either the shirt that is hanging all the way to the right or all the way to the left.  I select the tie that catches my eyes first.  I take a pocket square from the bottom of the pile unless it clashes violently with everything else, in which case I take the next one up.  I choose my shoes in the same way I select my tie.  The only real decision I make is on the choice of socks:  pink or purple today?  (Actually, this got a bit more complicated recently, since I now have a pair of red ones, with ‘ER II’, no less, embroidered in yellow, making my legs look like a pair of postboxes.  Sexy hexy, eh?)

One day last week, I put on a petrol blue bird’s eye suit.  On the way back from lunch, I saw a reflection of myself in a shop window and realised that I was also wearing a pair of tan oxfords.  I almost jumped.  I broke my own rule because of carelessness.

I tried to tell myself, ‘It’s OK.  When in Rome, do as the Romans do and all that.’  However, after walking another block, I realised that I am not yet ready to go native and headed home to change my shoes before returning to the office.

Breaking rules because of carelessness lacks the bliss that accompanies ignorance and the cheap thrill that can be derived from naughtiness.  Amongst the three reasons, it is probably the worst way to break a rule.  Perhaps I should actually put some thought into dressing from now on.

Advertiser

Ever since I published a review of Nicholas Storey’s second book, this advert keeps being inserted in the right column of this page.  Presumably, this is  because I mentioned ‘manuscript’.  (Bugger, I mentioned it again!)

The advert certainly ticks many boxes.  It has an arresting visual that grabs one’s attention.  Then, it dives straight into a concise and comprehensive copy about his cute metaphoric moniker, academic credentials, commercial proposition and contact information.  It uses the limited space with mind blowing efficiency.  Furthermore, unlike London telephone boxes with dozens of similarly arresting and efficient adverts of a comparable size (if slightly easier on the delicate eye), this web page offers his advert something of a sanctuary, with no competing graphical (or is it graphic?) adverts in the vicinity to dilute its impact.

So, is the whole greater than the sum of its parts?

Just asking. 

A Book Review. Sort of.

Available from all the usual suspects, History of Men’s Accessories:  A Short Guide for Men About Town is the second book by my friend Nicholas Storey.  I happily characterise him as a friend even though doing so publicly is not without risk because he is opiniated.  However, one is of no consequence if one’s views have not upset someone somewhere at some point.  That is precisely why the book must be read by anyone remotely interested in matters of men’s style, as is the case with his first book, History of Men’s Fashion:  What the Well Dressed Man is Wearing.  It is not the bland, please-your-advertisers-and-the-masses sort of work that one usually suffers.  He does not subscribe to the views of contemporary pop fashionistas or to those of busybody moralists.  His books reflect this fact, which is an excellent reason to read them, especially when it comes to menswear and men’s accessories, subject matters in which interesting books still in print are, to put it mildly, extremely rare.  

Full disclosure:  I was previously given access to the manuscript (or ‘first draft’ if you prefer — does anyone still hand write or typewrite anything?).  I reviewed just a couple of chapters where I felt that I may be somewhat equipped to offer some substantive feedback but have chosen not to read the remainder until the final version was printed.  Nicholas was not given the opportunity to review this entry before I clicked the ‘publish post’ button.

One thing that is worth pointing out is the title.  As with his first book, ignore the main bit History of…  The latter, subsidiary half A Short Guide for Men About Town broadly but faithfully declares the content of the book.  I suspect that the History thing was added by the publishers in their attempt to make the books, in the publishers’ view, more marketable.  When Hollywood films reach their Japanese distributors, they are often given Japanese titles that have nothing to do with the content of the film or with the original American title.  One must assume that the distributors come up with titles that they feel will resonate more with media, critics and potential viewers in their market.  Good for them.  Nicholas’s first book is not a history book; neither is his second book.  

His first book seems to have offended quite a few sad, earnest, suburban sensibilities.  The passages that wound them up made me chortle, but the pitiful reaction from the minority led Nicholas to actually inform the readers of the second book that it was written in the spirit of fun.  Needless to say, if you actually needed to read that warning, then you really should not start reading.

My honest and humble view is that the History of Men’s Accessories can and should be enjoyed by a diverse audience, from ‘novices’ to ‘experts’, even women.  I would even recommend it to the anti-smoking brigade, especially Chapter 6, which is an excellent piece for those who enjoy tobacco as well as for those who like to wind themselves up about smoking and those who enjoy it.

If I were to raise one point of contention, then it would be about lighters.  Nicholas does not recommend the use of petrol lighters to light a cigar.  From a purist’s standpoint, this is understandable, given that the smell of burning kerosene affects the flavour of the first draw.  However, I think that the nicer Dunhill Uniques tend to be the older, petrol editions.  I do have a butane Unique, but I like my petrol Uniques better.  Furthermore, I believe that they were made to be used rather than just being admired, and I actually like using them.

However, Nicholas expected disagreements, even from those that do not take themselves seriously.

Get your paws on a copy and enjoy it.

Middle Aged Men in Lycra

My friend and author Nicholas Storey knows a thing or two about propriety of dress.  Amongst many subjects that he covers, there is the matter of style or stylishness, but the principal, unifying theme is propriety.  One should strive for what Lord Byron called Exquisite Propriety when describing George ‘Beau’ Brummell.  Beau Brummell’s dictum was, ‘If people turn to look at you in the street, you are not well dressed, but either too stiff, too tight or too fashionable.’  The central theme of Brummell’s guidance seems clear at first glance.  The difficulty is that it seems to be dependent on context, and any given context of relevance is never without the presence of other people.  In fact, the core premise of the dictum is the reliance on other people for validation.

This is tricky business when cycling.  Who are these ‘other people’?

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