Swellboy on… Oxford bags

Our man enlists voluminous trousers in the latest ploy to conceal his unsightly surgical boot

Image: 2012 Popperfoto

Oxford bags are the only way to go.

My surgical boot is getting me down. The other day I was resting it on the club fender at a Mayfair club when a waiter came over and whispered almost apologetically that he would be grateful if I could take my injured foot down because it was distressing some of the more aesthetically sensitive members, and that several ladies had actually fainted – I presume they felt that the particular shade of call-centre grey clashed with the wallpaper. I had half a mind to tell said club servant that if it was distressing them, imagine what it was doing to me, who had to walk around with something the size and colour of an elephant’s foot umbrella stand at the end of his leg. But in a rare moment of self-restraint, I found myself acquiescing with a meekness that would put a newborn lamb to shame.

Instead, I hobbled out of the door with as much dignity as I could muster and took a taxi round to Terry Haste’s tailoring emporium on Sackville Street.


You may remember that in recent years I have been experimenting with wide-legged trousers of such dimensions that they obscure my shoes from view. As luck would have it, Mariano Rubinacci has made me a couple of pairs of fabulous wide-legged trousers with Gurkha fastenings. However, as they are in shades of primrose and bougainvillea linen, it is still a little too early in the year to be wearing them around the West End. Besides, voluminous though they are, they have 22in bottoms; mirabile dictu, they only just fit over the top of the boot.

Terry has therefore embarked upon the mammoth (well, they are elephant-leg trousers) task of engineering a pair of Oxford bags of the type made famous by undergraduates at the university during the Evelyn Waugh years [pictured]. It requires all manner of ruses for putting extra cloth into the trousers: deeper pleats, more fullness at the waistband, crookening and all sorts of arcane procedures. We have chosen a West of England 15oz flannel in as close a shade as possible to the boot.

Apparently, they became fashionable when students were banned from wearing plus fours to lectures and tutorials (I imagine it must have been like wearing tracksuits today) and so the ingenious undergrads resorted to wide trousers to pull over the top of their sportswear.


I have read that 28in bottoms with correspondingly deep turn-ups were the thing, and I have heard that for a wager someone sauntered around the West End in trousers with a 48in bottom. I am not sure I will go that far, but if I did rest my feet on a club fender wearing those, then I think it would be the circumference of the trousers rather than the boot that would be the magnet for opprobrium.

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