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heroes - the French writer, Anglophile and conservative, Maurice Druon (1918-2009) - was once denounced as "starched, outdated, reactionary, egotistical, haughty and sinister".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.
The first pair of shoes I had made by the excellent firm of George Cleverley & Co. date from more than twenty years ago. They are still in fine condition and they still look as elegant as they did on the day on which I collected them from the shop in the Royal Arcade off Bond Street. If I may be permitted a little self-deprecation, I will observe that the shoes have survived the years rather better than their owner. But even the very finest shoes eventually require repair. What then? To entrust such works of art to “the man round the corner” would be risky indeed. But the answer is obvious: Cleverley shoes must return to Cleverley. The craftsmanship which made must be the craftsmanship which restores.
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Readers might care to look at the interview with Francis Bown on Keikari