Sir F. Chook, Inventor of Leopard Oil

Likeness captured upon a daguerrotype machine in Japan, July 1891


Wherein the Author reflects upon certain topical & personal issues of the Day.

Conventions, like crème brulée, are made to be broken.

Penned upon the 15th of July, 2006

Like any discipline, the practice of sartorial physics is bound by certain rules. It is imperative that these rules be widely known and understood, else breaking them would pass unnoticed, and the truly well-dressed must at some point break every rule that they can find. ‘Bosh’ and ‘pshaw’ readers cry; let me give bulk to my statement with some examples, and the aid of a decade of Vanity Fair!

The Standard.
The Earl of March here demonstrates something close enough to Following the Rules. With his black morning coat, striped grey trousers, pale cravat, top hat and waxed moustaches, he is as good as hard currency in the world of men’s dress. From here we shall begin!

The Monochrome.
One’s coat and one’s trousers, we are often told, must never match – colour and pattern must always differentiate one’s calves from one’s rest. Sir Algernon ‘Algy’ Edward West disagrees, and by the jovial curve of his two-foot moustache, I’d say not many people argue the point with him.

The Dramatic.
A frock-coat traditionally ends around the level of the knee, but when Prince Napoleon Victor Jerome Frederic Bonaparte’s tailor asked him how long he wanted it, he replied “All the way, babydoll!”

The Effete.
Conventionally, the masculine man is the ideal image, but M. Theophile Delcasse will hear none of it. A dainty pince-nez and an expansive fur collar mark him out as a man prepared to fly his personal style in the face of expectations, and also as a man who can probably sleep quite comfortably standing up.

The Rogue.
Three different shades of brown, with black shoes and bow tie? Knee-breeches? And is that a velvet jacket? Lord Barnard seems to think of The Rules as a nasty disease, and gee, he looks swell.

The Practical.
Now this is interesting. Robert Uniacke Penrose-Fitzgerald’s cargo coat and urban baggy trousers would not be out of place at a rave, decades after his own death. With the pocket-square establishing the Primary Pocket and Secondary Pockets, the outfit works rather well. PLUR, Mr Penrose-Fitzgerald, PLUR!

The Supreme.
Conservative tastes dictate that pocket squares and cravats should not match, that spats and gloves should be a subdued brown or grey, that boutonnieres should be small and inoffensive and that facial hair should be kept to a sensible moustache. Senhor Luiz de Soveral, with his shining white shirt, cravat, pocket square, spats, gloves and rose, and his pitch-black frock-coat, trousers, shoes, top-hat, thick waxed moustache and soul-patch, is a walking, Portuguese-talking refutation.

The Eclectic.
Finally, we come to Mr Jonathan Edward Backhouse. With voluminous greatcoat, bowler hat, blue bowtie, brown waistcoat, white scarf, monocle and big cigar, Jonathan represents a diverse set of fashions, levels of formality and social statements. He looks ready to write a scientific paper, lead a nation through a land war and rob you of your valuables. His very buttons say “don’t fuck with me”.

Honourable mentions!

The Industrialist.
Generally, one wears a waistcoat under one’s coat. Le Comte de Dion has instead opted to wear a natty motortrike and some truly enormous knee-breeches, accessorised with a straw boater and cigarette. Anyone who feels he could be doing better should be ready to be revved at.

The Debonaire.
Viscount Valentia is technically following all the rules. He looks so suave, however, that I felt compelled to include him.

The Obvious.
This is Mr Thomas Henry Hall Caine. He is, of course, a poet.

The Eep.
Don’t pay Walter Winans too much heed: like Ray Davies, he’s a dedicated follower of fashion, and loaded revolvers and terrifying expressions are in this season.

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Commentary upon “Conventions, like crème brulée, are made to be broken.”

  1. Madam C was heard to remark,

    Upon the 15th of July, 2006 at 9:03 am,

    Have promptly sent Cockfoster to the tailor with examples of The Practical, and The Rogue (for weekends). My heartiest thanks for a most informative and entertaining guide!

  2. Matthew Robert Fowler was heard to remark,

    Upon the 4th of March, 2008 at 8:51 pm,

    Thanks for your website I found from google
    As I am Matthew Robert FOWLER (another chook) 3rd cousins 3 times removed from Sir Robert Uniack Penrose FITZGERALD 1st Bt. (created 1896) of Corkbeg, Whitegate Ireland. Our common ancestors are Colonel Sir Robert UNIACKE FITZGERALD and Frances JUDKIN.

    I live a lil ways from you …

    Cheers, another chook & fellow Parliamentary Candidate albeit via

Further remarks are not permitted.