Notes of a Fuddy Duddy

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I am no longer what is universally considered a ‘young man.’

I know this because someone informed me of the fact very recently, touching me firmly on the wrist as they might a nervous patient to whom they were dispensing a diagnosis.

I also know it because I have recognised in myself some peculiar fuddy duddyness: skepticism is creeping over me like a vine,  I have an increasing desire for solitude and am starting to adopt the inherited belief that is the rite of all those who begin to feel the effects of aging; an unswerving conviction that the world is going down the plug hole.

This thinking recently took hold at a lunch, whilst on holiday.

The establishment was a smart one and would, in my opinion, be one which demanded that both men and women dress appropriately. If someone suggested to me that, on a warm but not oppressive day, the most sensible attire for Sunday lunch at a venerable chateau in the south of France was a t-shirt that said ‘Give Me Some Love’, some cargo shorts and flip-flops, I’d have laughed them to Antibes.

Sadly, when it comes to clothing, ‘live and let live’ is a mantra I am yet to submit to successfully. The issue with sartorial decorum is that nowadays, it is optional. And it is not simply a lazy culture that has propagated it but a sheep-like adherence to the cult of celebrity; laying this at the door of people who ‘can’t be bothered’ isn’t quite the whole picture. There are a glut of followers who believe they are doing what is expected of them.

Readers of this column are more likely to be aware of the strictures of sartorial dogma than the average. A simple example of this would be knowing when and where black tie should be worn; a more complex conundrum might be which style of loafers are most appropriate for flying.

I have never believed in purism when it comes to style. Fundamentalism is an unaccommodating master and allows for little evolution – which is the essence of making style relevant. However, there is an attraction to using classics as anchor points, and this is something that enables menswear to stand above the crazed trendsetting of womenswear, which suffers no unifying commandments – besides the suggested adoption of underwear.

This is why  it is always amazing, and not a little upsetting, to witness the continuing phenomenon of men who persistently underdress. I would have thought that the prospect of a smart restaurant, on a Sunday in a Catholic country, would have inspired one or two jackets or at least a collared shirt. However it seems that everyone is intent on playing the same role; that of the absurdly self-absorbed billionaire/celebrity who, in their power, does not follow any rules but instead sets the tone by doing exactly as they please.

Little is sacred anymore. People are gradually losing their reverence for a sense of occasion- and the privilege of enjoying such occasions – which is in itself a sign of decadence. And, though I might have sniffed at the Ritz in London for their stiff policy regarding gentlemen’s attire, it is now obvious that such reinforcement is necessary against the great tide of sartorial decay that grows ever larger.


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Winston Chesterfield is an amateur composer, fashion blogger, trained lawyer and style aficionado. He lives in Westminster, London and blogs at www.levraiwinston.com.

Comments

  1. Mxolisi says:

    Hi Winston,

    I’m curious to know, what are the dress code rules at the Ritz? I’m quite surprised that you would react somewhat ‘indifferently’ towards dress code rules in an establishment.

    Do tell.

    Mxolisi

  2. Ray Frensham says:

    I was walking along the street the other day and saw an 8-year old boy wearing a t-shirt with the slogan: My Life is In Ruins”…..

  3. DaveMinella says:

    Ray, maybe the boy dreams of becoming an archaeologist.

  4. Farnarkel says:

    It often staggers me the number of times I have seen a “couple” (read boyfriend and girlfriend) at a classy establishment where “she” has made the effort and has dressed appropriately in a stylish fashion, whilst “he” is wearing a tee-shirt, grubby jeans and nearly worn-out sneakers. I cringe. Come on guys, lift your game – don’t you know that you have a better chance of being invited in for “cup of coffee” afterwards if you show her some respect and dress for the occasion.

  5. Mxolisi,

    It used to be jacket/blazer AND tie for men in the public areas of the hotel. However, I think they’ve reverted to just a jacket/blazer now. It is also resolutely anti-denim.

    This dress code is fine for me as I wear a jacket and tie all the time but it is a bit rigid for others, particularly those who are smart but just less formal.

    It has made the Ritz bars, particularly the Rivoli, rather faded and crusty. I think you can have a door policy (as they do at the Savoy bars) but you need a mixed clientele. The Ritz is in danger of becoming an ostentatious retirement home.

  6. Alan says:

    Mxolisi, saw your South African name and was delighted when I clicked through to your blog. If Winston thinks there are problems in France…

  7. Mitchell says:

    We were in St. Martin and frequented a very nice restaurant that had a great décor and very well dressed staff. We always wore a jacket, tie and sometimes no tie. Upon leaving there on our last evening the female manager asked if she could ask a question. She said why were you guys always so well dressed when you came here. My answer was “Out of respect for where we are and the effort the staff made in food, service and dress.”
    Recently in St. Lucia we were at a resort that had a dress code for 3 out of the 4 restaurants in the evening. We constantly saw couples arriving, the women always well put together but 9 out of 10 men were slobs. A few minutes later you would see the man walking back alone having been turned away. 15 min. or so returning properly dressed.
    A sad state of affairs.

  8. derrick says:

    I don’t think this has as much to do with fashion as laziness. I find that men in resorts don’t bother to pack cloths appropriate for an evening out as do woman. I also find they leave there hygiene at home also, if in fact they do bother to shower at all? It seams younger men are all too eager to impress their date or friends by taking them to an expensive restaurant, the very fact they can afford to do this make them feel important. I have seen men in expensive resorts wear the same inappropriate t-shirt to dinner as they have wore all day sweating on the beach. its not there choice of clothing but there rank body odor that offends me. And Mitchell, as we visit St. Maarten quite a bit I would like to know the name of this restaurant.

  9. Tony says:

    It’s a matter of respect for others. Many people don’t comprehend that they too are objects in a room like the tables and chairs. One designs a beautiful room for the delight of patrons, only to have the aesthetics marred by the ugliness of some of its occupants.