THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
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heroes - the French writer, Anglophile and conservative, Maurice Druon (1918-2009) - was once denounced as "starched, outdated, reactionary, egotistical, haughty and sinister".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.
H.H. Princess Marie Louise, in her charming book, 'My Memories of Six Reigns' (published in 1956), remarked that she was pained to see "the audience in ordinary day clothes in the theatre, even tweed coats and skirts, and showing the same 'laisser aller' in their mode of dressing... I was dining the other day with a young foreign relative of mine at a very fashionable and well-known hotel, and he said to me, 'I think that I and the waiters are the only men in evening dress.' " To the memory of this great lady are my Commandments humbly dedicated.
( I ) THOU SHALT WEAR BESPOKE
This is the first and Great Commandment. Whether it is for his suits, his shirts or his shoes, a gentleman’s first priority should be to wear bespoke. By bespoke, I do not mean ‘made to measure’. The mark of true bespoke is that the craftsman – the tailor, the shirt-maker or the shoemaker – makes a pattern which is unique for each of his customers, and that his workmanship, based on that pattern, is of the highest order. There are no short cuts in the world of true bespoke. Bespoke can, therefore, never be cheap. I realize, of course, that the vagaries of life mean that some who would very much like to obey this commandment are prevented from doing so by financial constraints. I would urge them to remember that one bespoke suit (or one pair of bespoke shoes) is worth a whole wardrobe (or boot room) of inferior items.
( II ) THOU SHALT WALK ONLY ON LEATHER
There is something utterly vile about the way in which the footwear of Western men has been defiled by the widespread adoption of the ‘trainer’. I suppose it has brought huge profits to the manufacturers of these nasty items, but it has also done inestimable damage to the character, as well as the appearance, of our sex. Trainers are for training: they are not fit for respectable living. Nor should we countenance those shoes which, at an indifferent glance, look passable – but which have soles made from synthetic material. Men should wear leather shoes with leather soles.
( III ) THOU SHALT WEAR A COLLAR AND TIE
To dress without effort is to dress without respect for one’s fellow man. To wear a collar with a tie means that decisions have been made and time has been spent in making one’s appearance smart. Such discipline is a habit which promotes grace.
( IV ) THOU SHALT HAVE A PARTING
Americans call the parting in the hair ‘the part’. Frenchmen call it ‘la raie’. Italians call it ‘la riga’. The widespread disappearance of the parting has gone almost unremarked. It should have been the cause of outrage and protest. Why has it gone? Is it the laziness of barbers? A parting requires work to maintain, for it is the making of order where there is inclined to be indiscipline. Its presence now denotes a person who cares about tradition and about propriety.
( V ) THOU SHALT WEAR CUFF-LINKS
A buttoned cuff on a gentleman’s shirt is a miserable, squalid thing, suggestive of the ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude. Cuff-links can be valuable or relatively cheap, but they are essential if a man is to be smartly dressed.
( VI ) THOU SHALT WEAR BRACES
Trousers can only be kept at the correct height by braces. Nothing is more dispiriting than the sight of trousers sagging at the waist and horribly crumpled at the shoe.
( VII ) THOU SHALT NOT WEAR UNPOLISHED SHOES
Unpolished shoes are a disgrace to God and man. This is a truth I learnt from my dear Father. Perhaps this is why I find the polishing of shoes to be positively therapeutic. Requiring concentration and a modest expenditure of energy, but no thought, it enables the mind to rest and find comfort. And the result is truly satisfying. Scuffed, badly-maintained shoes denote laziness and unreliability in the wearer.
( VIII ) THOU SHALT NOT WEAR UNFASTENED CUFF BUTTONS
Every gentleman should have working cuff buttons on his jacket. But to leave any of them un-buttoned – one supposes, to impress the observer with the quality and/or expense of the garment being worn – is unconscionably vulgar. It is sartorial boasting and must not be done.
( IX ) THOU SHALT NOT USE A PORTABLE TELEPHONE IN A PUBLIC PLACE
No device has done more to promote bad manners and the vulgarisation of our public spaces than the portable telephone. It has also proved deleterious to the appearance of many a gentleman who might otherwise have looked properly dressed. If a telephone must be carried, it should be carried discreetly and should only be used in an emergency. I confess that I do possess one of these machines: I keep it in the glove box of my motor car, in case the Royce ‘declines to proceed’.
( X ) THOU SHALT NOT CHEW GUM
I am very sorry indeed that this unpleasant subject has to be mentioned. But the chewing of gum has become an epidemic which is disfiguring mankind. It has spread far beyond the confines of the underclass and now infects even some of those who have had the privilege of a decent education. It makes its practitioners appear moronic and it results in the defilement of our pavements. A gentleman who is worthy of the name does not chew gum.