Image: Brijesh Patel
July 20 2010
Summer holds a great sartorial contradiction for me, namely that while it may be the warmest time of the year, it is also the season in which I seem to be wearing my most formal clothes. Starting in Cannes with the film festival, where of course a dinner jacket is de rigueur; through Royal Ascot and the Derby, for which I put on the morning coat, waistcoat and top hat; to the many charity events, which have now adopted a white tie dress code and for which, unlike many other men, I still tend to interpret white tie in the traditional – rather than Hollywood – manner.
The Cannes dinner jacket thing is not too bad; it can be got round with a white silk dinner jacket, made for me by Terry Haste in the mid-1990s, and a pair of light white silk trousers with a strip of ribbon down the side. But when it comes to nocturnal and daytime tails, things really heat up, quite literally, as both my white tie and morning coat were built in an earlier age in which men did not seem to get hot (the former dates from 1937, the latter a little earlier).
However, this summer I have started to experiment by wearing my formal attire sans socks – even the white tie. I did a trial run last year at Cannes with a pair black suede slip-on moccasins from Pepe of Marbella, and seemed to get away with it. But Cannes and London are very different places; nevertheless this year as I struggled into my white tie and almost performed a DIY tracheotomy with the assembly of shirt studs, I thought I might just try and carry off the same trick, except this time wearing a pair of bespoke velvet slippers from Maxwell’s, when it was still on Savile Row. Once again I was rewarded with success. This is quite a coup, given that the slippers were actually bespoken by someone else entirely (who probably died and had no further use for them) and bought cheaply by me – ludicrously cheaply as it happens – because they are lavishly embroidered with someone else’s initials entirely.
The propriety of wearing slippers commissioned by and emblazoned with the cipher of another man is a question best left to those who can afford to pass up bargains. Besides, as any gentleman knows, it is infra-dig in the extreme to wear your own velvet slippers, let alone someone else’s, outside your own house. Fortunately I do not call myself a gentleman, so that does not need to worry me, and I suppose it opens the door for other climate change-led modifications to formal dress: I am currently looking into acquiring one of those long-sleeved T-shirts printed with a dress shirt, dinner jacket with carnation in the buttonhole that were so popular in the 1970s.