Style | Swellboy

Swellboy on… choosing a summer ashtray

Tobacco-related accessories have a deserved place in history

Swellboy on… choosing a summer ashtray

Image: Brijesh Patel

August 10 2010
Nick Foulkes

One of my most cherished annual rituals, more of a ceremony really, is the annual selection of the summer ashtray. One can never have enough ashtrays, and of course the mark of a civilised life is a selection of seasonally adjusted receptacles in which to rest one’s aestival Havana.

For instance, I have a wonderful, washbasin-sized, silver-mounted crystal ashtray from the early 20th century that is the centrepiece of my winter smoking arrangement; but for summer, something altogether less formal is called for. Accordingly I was in Paris for the serious business of inspecting the full range of new-season Hermès ashtrays in decorated porcelain. When faced with such a tough decision, I think back to the comment of the celebrated Georgian-era tea-drinking dandy Lord Petersham, who observed with due solemnity that a light blue Sèvres snuffbox may well have been “a nice summer box, but would not do for winter wear”.

It strikes me that not enough attention is paid to tobacco-related accessories today. After all, they can be incredibly useful, as I believe Frederick the Great found when, at the battle of Kunersdorf in 1759, a well-located snuff box deflected a bullet and saved his life. It was just as well that cigar smoking had not yet caught on in 18th-century Prussia, as I think that stuffing a large Hermès ashtray into his breast pocket would have spoilt the line of Fred’s uniform.

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People, Ashtrays