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heroes - the French writer, Anglophile and conservative, Maurice Druon (1918-2009) - was once denounced as "starched, outdated, reactionary, egotistical, haughty and sinister".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.
The elegance of a gentleman begins with his shoes. He might be wearing the finest Savile Row suit and have upon his wrist the most complicated Patek Philippe watch, but if his shoes are cheap and nasty, he will be an inelegant mess. It is astonishing how many chaps do not realise the truth of this sartorial rule: there can be no substitute for a fine pair of bespoke leather shoes. And the finest bespoke shoes in the world, in the less-than-humble opinion of your correspondent, are made by George Cleverley & Co. in the Royal Arcade, off Bond Street, in London. But no-one can make do with a single pair of shoes – and I make bold to say that a fellow can never have too many good shoes – so it is a constant necessity to give thought to the design of the next pair. Beauty must be paramount, of course, but useability and comfort must also be considerations.
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