In London last week, I spent a few afternoons wandering alone while my husband attended meetings. The monuments and museums were grand, and between destinations, the people-watching was just as compelling. On a whim, I decided to snap photos of street fashion. Scrolling through my phone after about fifty pics, I noticed a pattern emerge. The stylish ones were mostly men.
It's true. The Dapper Dan of Londontown is everywhere. Well-tailored, well-heeled, well-coiffed. Bespoke jacket. Tight pants. Tighter shirts. Chiseled chins.
I sound like the Wife of Bath, that lecherous middle-aged woman who lusted after every 12th-century bloke with a pulse in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. She and I do share a gap-toothed smile. But my interest in these men is strictly sartorial. I love men's fashion. Maybe it was a coping mechanism for all the testosterone in my house, but who doesn't adore tweed, cashmere, and a shiny shoe boot?
Besides, I have my own rakish fellow who is just as handsome as the lookers you will see below. (Okay, that previous sentence was for my mother-in-law, who, shockingly, reads my blog every week.)
Anyway, whether you are a fashion lover or not, I'm sure you can appreciate the fetching subjects I caught on camera. So, your attention, everyone! This week's episode of the Great British Bake-Off is "The English Studmuffin". Let's get to it!
My husband and his fellow attorneys visited London's oldest barrister wig shop, but truly, what charmed them all were the varying shades of blue suits we saw everywhere. It called to mind that scene in The Devil Wears Prada where Meryl Streep talks about Anne Hathaway's lumpy blue sweater: "It's not blue, it's not turquoise, it's not lapis. It's cerulean."
British men congregate very openly on the street, all matchey-matchey, like they called each other the night before:
Reginald: Hiya mate. What's on for tomorrow?
Cilve: Right. I was thinking our Manchester United neckties and tweed trousers.
Reginald: Don't be a wanker. This isn't 1984, is it.
Clive: No need to get argy-bargy. What do you suggest?
Reginald: Hows about we leave neckties at the flat, and wear our blue suits.
Clive: The Lord Nelson blues or the cerulean blues.
Reginald: It's Friday, matey. Lord Nelson.
Clive: I'm chuffed. See you at the pub.
A State of Déshabillé
A couple of times, I caught gentlemen removing articles of clothing. Also, many men wearing wingtips go sockless. On purpose.
The British gentleman has taken a cue from his French compatriot across the Channel, and sports pink proudly and without apology.
Just a Sliver of Silk
Accessories are not an afterthought. Umbrellas, pocket squares, waistcoats, scarves, bags, watches, patterned socks. Nothing smartens up an ensemble like a couple of well-chosen accessories.
Is it because I love camels or is it the bravery involved wearing a lighter-colored fabric?
Even When Slouchy, They Look Great
I don't know if the abomination of Casual Friday exists in England, but even if it does, they know how to dress down and still look chic. No easy feat!
Jeans So Tight, They're Practically Painted On
Interviewed by Esquire Magazine, actress Lena Headey said of too tight trousers, "No one needs to see a man-toe wrapped in wrinkled, sweaty fabric." I disagree. But then again I'm the lecherous Widow of Bath.
Carnaby Street Style
A little deviation from contemporary taste is always interesting. In the land of Beau Brummell, Lord Byron, and Austin Powers, we expect a certain amount of flamboyance.
That last gent, the one in the photo above, was from Nigeria. We had a short conversation. He thought I was German. When he found out I was American, and from Wisconsin, he said, "You've got a dodgy governor, haven't you, ole Scott Walker." I agreed, and he shook his head sadly. "The world's turned upside down. Nothing but despots."
Most of the time though, I snapped these photos on the sly, while walking. My technique involved holding my phone to my chest and pretending to text whilst pushing the down-volume button, which operates the shutter. But really, I needn't have been so careful. No one noticed me. Everyone is looking at their phones, or they are smoking, or both.
Also, no one noticed me for another reason, which you can guess if you are a woman over forty. I'm fifty-four and invisible. I could point a magic wand and yell "Expelliarmus!" and these gentlemen would blithely gaze right through me. It's nice, actually. I liked being so anonymous. And anytime I wanted to puncture my cloak of invisibility, I smiled at people. That simple act does get noticed.
My friend Henry did bring up a privacy issue. He is an attorney and always thinking about the what-ifs. I asked the other lawyer, the one in bed with me, to research the question. Here is what he found. "If you are on a public right-of-way such as a public pavement, footpath, or public highway, you are free to take photographs for personal and commercial use, so long as you are not causing an obstruction to other users or falling foul of anti-terrorism laws." (Read more here.)
I don't care about the law. If one of these gentlemen had objected, I was ready with this response:
If you don't want your photo taken, you shouldn't look so gorgeous.
And for those who feel guilty about spending the last ten minutes reading about such frippery, here's Miranda Priestly on the importance of this fashion "stuff."
Wow! You made it down here! Did you know that every Friday, I send out a newsletter with a curated list of essays, antiques, and many other tidbits you might enjoy? Subscribe below if you want a little bit of Joy in your inbox at the start of the weekend.