Happy Birthday Sir Mick!
First and foremost, this is not an instructional series of posts. Rather it is a compilation of pieces of advice, tid-bits from well known authors and my own personal views on dressing appropriately and dressing well.
Day one, the Head.
Question: Are hats outdated, where and when can they be worn and what should I buy?
To answer…there is no correct answer to the first part of the question, it really depends on the person and the confidence with which that person can and will pull off a desired look. Fedoras, Trilbys, Bowlers – purchase and wear these with caution. There was a time, for example, that Bowlers could only be worn by officers in the military and the political or social elite. So be sure to match these type of hats with clothing that will look both stylish and ‘correct.’ Fedora: straw or felt? Cream Chinos, tapered, blue suede or blue boat shoes, cream or light blue poplar cotton shirt (cream straw hat) (or) a tailored solid blue or black suit, strong crimson tie, solid white Egyptian cotton shirt and Black brogued oxfords. Trilbys are more universal. The bowler can be worn with three piece striped or solid TAILORED suits. Matched with solid leather (black) oxfords or cap toe monks.
I wear and enjoy wearing a traditional driving cap in green plaid tweed by Christies of London. These are easy to pair with well fitted jeans (not slim!!!) a nice pair of light brown loafers and a light or medium colored solid, plaid or striped shirt with a brown belt!
Today, from around the Commonwealth and certainly, from around the world; we welcome a new addition to the Royal family. A baby boy, he was born early this morning to two adoring and beautiful parents. What a great thing for the Monarchy, that is suffering through hard economic and social times. Let’s all make sure we spare a thought for the Royal Family on this awesome day!
The spotlight is on Grant this month, as EssentialBritish kicks off a year long series on the best actors in the history of cinema. It’s a big feat to say the least, who do we choose from? What makes an actor and what makes them good?
Born in a working-class area of Bristol, in the west of England, in 1904, Mr Archibald Leach legally changed his name to Cary Grant, his professional name as an actor, in 1942. His mother suffered from depression when he was young and was committed to a mental institution. He never saw her at all during his childhood and adolescence. In fact, he thought she was dead and did not discover the truth until he had lived in the US for many years. He hated school, managed to get expelled and started his long theatrical career on the “halls” doing all the undignified things that were part of an actor’s practical training in those days.
Grant arrived in the US in 1920 having travelled on the same liner – but certainly not in the same class – as Mr Douglas Fairbanks and Ms Mary Pickford. Catching glimpses of them changed his life. The elegant and timeless dress sense of Mr Fairbanks had such an effect on him that many years later he was able to describe the Fairbanks look to Mr Ralph Lauren in almost photographic detail, even down to the width of the lapels on the actor’s suits. He had found his archetype. Always attracted to men dressed impeccably in the English upper-class style, the Cary Grant manner of dress was suave and confident. In his own words, he favoured the clothes of a “well-dressed, sophisticated chap”.
What makes him so interesting?
His sense of style and his mannerisms on screen. These are both unmatched by any previous actor, and certainly by the actors of today
Is he REALLY the best?
As much as this blog tries to be objective – this is a huge call for anyone to make. Yes he’s the best. From the English cut of his suit, his insistence on the wearing of hats, to his being able to fit into any film role that was written for him
What is his best work?
North by Northwest. Quintessential Alfred Hitchcock. A film containing the two best actors of their generation, Grant and Eva Marie Saint.
By the mid-1930s Mr Grant was one of Hollywood’s top male stars and he married the first of his five wives. There were inevitably many affairs over the years but the great question that stayed with him despite the high profile liaisons with the opposite sex would not go away. Was he bisexual – or even gay? Certainly the rumour mill made much of the fact that he and Mr Randolph Scott, one of the more macho movie stars of the time, shared a house together for many years and were inseparable. Of course, as such rumours were the province of Hollywood insiders and even the gossip columnists treated them with caution, they did nothing to jeopardise Mr Grant’s image to his legions of fans as an elegant, confident lady-killer – on screen, at least.
Because of his perfect figure – which he kept well into old age – Mr Grant occasionally bought his clothes off the peg, being a regular customer of Abercrombie & Fitch and Aquascutum, which was owned by his friend Sir Charles Abrahams. According to Ms Nancy Reagan, Mr Grant “always looked smashing. Ronnie thought the turtleneck sweaters he wore in To Catch a Thief were so good-looking and when I mentioned it to Cary, he sent Ronnie two of his own sweaters.” But although he occasionally bought off the peg, Mr Grant’s clothes were usually tailor-made, often from Schiaparelli in Rome – one of the great tailors in the 1950s – or Dunhill in London. Then he had them copied in Hong Kong.
On one occasion the copy was too good. Mr Grant had a favourite shirt that he had worn many times. He sent it to his copyist in Hong Kong with strict instructions to make a dozen and copy the original exactly. And that was done, right down to the little fray in the identical place on the collar.
He once told an interviewer that the crop-spraying scene in North by Northwest had required him to change suits six times and have “dozens of ties” – which seems perfectly right for Mr Grant, a man who believed that clothes maketh the man. It was a lesson he had learnt many years before from his father, who taught him the art of understatement by telling him, when he was inclined to wear “loud” socks when he was young, “Remember, that’s you walking down the street, not the socks.” Mr Grant never forgot it.
I’m a keen photographer of the street and use a Leica M8.2 Camera with a 35mm Summaron Lens. I love all things British, especially motorcycles and tweed jackets. In my spare time – I like to box, lift and socialize with friends. Pretty run of the mill, really? What about my readers? The best answer will get a Twill Tie in the mail (Vintage, by Drake’s).
Opened in 2009, together with the Mark Hix-operated restaurant on the ground floor, this is a destination in its own right. It’s a subterranean speakeasy with plenty of style – low zinc bar, tin ceiling panels, comfortable Chesterfields, bar billiards table – but with precious little attitude.
Former Hawksmoor bartender Nick Strangeway celebrates the seasons on his fascinating, history-minded cocktail list; highlights include the Hanky Panky (Beefeater, Fernet Branca and red vermouth), created in the 1930s for Charles Hawtrey by a Savoy bartender, and the Scoff-Law Cocktail, a rye-whisky-based drink from the same period.
There are plenty of appetising alternatives on the 150-strong wine list and
the enlightened beer menu, with pale ales, bitters, stouts and Hix’s own porter all served in gleaming tankards.
The conditions of the licence mean drinkers have to order some food, either selections from the restaurant menu or lovely bar snacks (pork crackling, fennel sausage, posh fish fingers).
The second, Belgravia branch of Mark’s Bar opened in February 2012 within the new Hix Belgravia restaurant.
66 Brewer Street City of Westminster, London W1F 9, United Kingdom – 020 7292 3518