Whatever next – handlebar moustaches, plus-fours and crochet-backed driving gloves?
Have you noticed them? The increasing numbers of plucky men in classic, well-cut clothing matched up with a structured and efficient personal grooming routine.
In celebritydom, the likes of Matt Smith and Benedict Cumberbatch are recognised dabblers, joining more mature devotees like Stephen Fry in leading the well-turned out charge. From their horn-rimmed glasses to sensible shoes, these chaps are taking a determined sartorial stand as part of a last remaining bulwark against a tide of baseball caps, skinny jeans and trainers.
They are banding together to say: “enough is enough” – pulling their trousers firmly back up to the waistline (ideally held there with some practical braces) and mixing vintage apparel with a certain geek chic aplomb.
Chaps will be Chaps
And while the vintage scene is seen by some as largely driven by women, we caught up with some chaps who raise a quizzical eyebrow while perhaps laconically twirling a moustache tip at such an outrageous suggestion.
Paul Winnister, writer of the Modern British Gent is one such leading chap exponent. “Vintage attired ladies do look ravishing to us fellows, don’t they?” he posits. “And if they look this good to us, just think what dressing like a dashing gent does to them?” Fair point. Another member of the chap club is celebrated designer and organiser of The Vintage Festival events, Wayne Hemingway. He gives the idea that the vintage scene is strictly part of the female domain short shrift. “Well, that makes a lady for the past 30 odd years, and my eldest a lady for starters.”
Author of Secondhand and Vintage London, Andrew Whittaker, is the third chap in the boat. “Dinosaur! Men are just as interested in style and looking sharp as women these days. It’s true there are fewer shops catering solely to men in search of vintage clothes, but that’s more a reflection of supply than demand.”
Get the Look
So if vintage has its masculine side, what’s the typical chap like? Gustav Temple, editor of The Chap magazine and Guardian writer, explains, “A chap’s principal concern is to stand out from the crowd with a timeless elegance. Purchasing an off-the-peg suit from FCUK will not permit one to do so; purchasing a vintage item, lovingly crafted on Savile Row in the 1950s, will.”
Paul says, “You don’t have to be a cardigan-wearing, vinyl-collecting, try-hard hipster to appreciate vintage. Vintage for me is about being classic, unique, stylish and using yesterday’s fine tailoring and great clothing to good contemporary effect.” The modern chap, therefore, mixes and matches. Yes, agrees, Paul. “So a vintage jacket could be tailored slightly for a more modern cut, or vintage shoes worn with contemporary smart trousers.” Whittaker, meanwhile, cuts a dash with his own unique sense of styling. “A classic, fitted three-piece suit if I’m trying to look smart. Otherwise, in the summer weather, perhaps a pair of beatnik shorts and some vintage Ray Bans, usually combined with a plaid shirt of new tee.”
“A nicely cut three-button suit, narrow trousers, Loakes classic brogues,” advises Wayne.
Up to Scratch
Now, while all this talk of sharp tailoring and classic cuts sounds appealing, don’t all those old materials, well, chafe a chap somewhat? Gustav wryly prickles, “Yes. And? It also offers protection from the coarser elements of modern society. A nice thick thornproof tweed will withstand being brushed against by nylon tracksuits. The pewter hip flask in one’s breast pocket will also protect against gunfire, should one be unfortunate enough to reside in one of the larger cities.” Paul agrees. “The finest vintage wool is a joy to behold and will last years. Cotton and linen also have their place, but none will age as well as good quality wool.”
With fashion’s insatiable and exciting appetite for the next thing, it all begs the question: why would any fellow want to follow his old grandfather’s style footsteps? “Because, let’s be honest, most of our grandfathers dressed a lot better than the hordes of today,” says Paul. “Can you imagine how ridiculous your grandfather would have looked in labelled t-shirts and trainers?” Hmmm, perhaps he’s right. Andrew presses home the point, asking, “What, in a beautifully tailored three-piece grey mohair suit and tan brogues? No idea…” Temple joins the fray to say, “Because it’s far more stylish than dressing like his 7-year-old son, which is what many non-chaps seem to be doing.”
No to Yesterday
While most vintage devotees naturally return to former decades for style inspiration, they also say they are still denizens of the modern world rather than dewy-eyed nostalgia buffs. Wayne Hemingway says, “For more vintage cognoscenti, it is about timeless, stylish classics, rather than the past. There are designers out there who design vintage today – Paul smith, for one.”
Whittaker agrees. “Vintage is about classic tailoring, style – something totally different from fashion, which lives briefly in the wardrobe and long in the landfill. If you know where to look, for relatively little money you can buy a handmade Savile Row suit that will look as good now as it did the day it was made.” Paul Winnister believes it’s about appreciating the workmanship of a bygone era and bringing it into the present. “Things were made more elegantly back then and should be treasured.”
So, who amongst the current slew of male celebrities do the chaps believe would benefit from a vintage refresh to their look? For Whittaker it’s evergreen cuddly TV present, Eamon Holmes. “Just to prove that even Man at C&A could look good in vintage.” And, more controversially, he hits a vicious volley at Wimbledon hero Andy Murray’s on-court attire. “Why not replace that bland, modern sportswear with some Borg-esque. Sure the striped headband is overdue a renaissance?”
For Paul, restyling Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson could also rev up the wardrobe of his fan base. “I wish they wouldn’t follow his dreadful sartorial choice of stone-washed jeans and ill-fitting blazer. A little vintage styling would sort Clarkson in no time and set an excellent example to all his fans.” However, there are some celebs who cut the mustard. Whittaker cites such examples as Steve McQueen, Dustin Hoffman as Benjamin Braddock and Michael Caine.
“Jarvis Cocker and Alex Turner from Arctic Monkeys… lots of northerners, because having less money makes us more creative,” says Wayne. Paul, meanwhile, gives an appreciative nod to, “Matt Smith as Dr Who. He demonstrated how good a tweed jacket and bow tie could look.” He also plumps for swing hip hop duo, The Correspondents (the well-dressed pair above).
Sorted for Suits, Sir
Convinced, chaps? So, if you’ve now decided to ditch the denim and give the sportswear a rest, where can a fellow go to nab some natty attire?
“Sites like Preloved make it much easier to source vintage clothing,” says Andrew. “The research for Secondhand and Vintage London took me to some great men’s vintage shops, like Hornets in Kensington and the Vintage Showroom in Seven Dials.
Wayne suggests, “Check out Rough Guide to Vintage London. And most decent size towns have good vintage shops, so get to know the owner, tell them what you like and they will look out for it.”
Chap Picks on Preloved
If you’re on the hunt for some awfully good value items that every chap needs, Preloved’s damned fine Time Machine search facility is right this way, sir. And here’s a few more that caught our monocled eye
The vintage chap’s footwear of choice – Loakes
Here’s a handy little cuff link box to keep those essential accessories in order
Can’t bear a creased tie? Keep them smart and straight with this handy set of hangers
Pure silk ties – the only neckwear for when a chap wants to get knotted
This luxurious bath robe is perfect post-bathe wear before the evening’s social whirl commences
Every chap needs a sensible, stylish and warm overcoat in his wardrobe
Not impressed by that thumping bass so redolent of modern ‘music’? This vintage gramophone is perfect for playing some smooth platters of yesteryear
How about a spin to blow away the cobwebs? This Morris Isis Series 1 De Luxe is a very handsome chap