My personal style signifier is the goatee beard I have worn for 25 years. And the fact that I never wear a tie. I recently gave a talk at London’s Royal Automobile Club, where ties are compulsory, but I managed to incorporate the removal of mine into my speech. My dislike of ties is probably something to do with wanting to appear nonconformist.
The last thing I bought and loved was a carbon Kevlar racing kayak made by Marsport. It is hand-built and tailored personally for my height and weight. The Kevlar weave is exposed, which gives it a deep green colour with this wonderful bronze mesh running through it. I had to wait eight months for a build slot and it cost £2,200 – I justify it by the fact that I live right beside the River Thames. www.marsport.co.uk; 01189-665 912.
And the thing I’m eyeing next is a vintage Selmer Mark VI tenor saxophone. I have been playing the sax since around 1996 and find it very relaxing. The sound of the vintage Selmers made during the 1960s is, to me, the most beautiful and harmonic sax sound of all – but finding one that isn’t overpolished and has the right patina is not easy. www.selmer.com.
The books on my bedside table are Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44, a thriller set in 1950s Stalinist Russia, and City of Thieves by David Benioff, set during the time of the siege of Leningrad. I find this period of Russian history very interesting, and both of these novels are historically factual and accurate, which is important to me.
A recent “find” is the bar on the top floor of New York’s Standard hotel. It is something of a “who’s who” in there, but it never seems to be overcrowded. There’s a light installation that hangs above the bar and they do a particularly good Mojito, though I tend to stick to Cosmopolitans. 848 Washington Street, New York 10014 (+1212-645 4646; www.standardhotels.com).
An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is southern India – Kerala and Goa. I was wandering along a beach one morning and a local fisherman invited me to go out in his boat. I loved the culture, the colours and the people. I was staying in a rather luxurious hotel called Fort Tiracol, a converted Portuguese stronghold with white linens and superb food. Tiracol 403524, Pernem, Goa (+912366-227 631; www.forttiracol.com).
And the best souvenir I’ve brought home came from that trip to India. I bought handmade silks that combine shades of orange, purple, pink and green. The Indian love of colour makes life in the UK seem very drab. I bought five lengths of fabric; one is spread across a table and another is being used as a decorative throw.
If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d probably choose Bond Street in London. I like the variety: all the major luxury brands are there as well as many one-off stores and individual craftsmen. When I’m there, I usually start with breakfast at Cecconi’s. And I always stop in at Smythson. Cecconi’s, 5a Burlington Gardens, London W1 (020-7434 1500; www.cecconis.co.uk). Smythson, 40 New Bond Street, London W1 (020-7629 8558; www.smythson.com).
The people I rely on for grooming and style are my tailor, Henry Poole; and Mark Smith at the John Frieda salon, who cuts my hair. Since I’m from the North I don’t really go in for facials and massage. Henry Poole, 15 Savile Row, London W1 (020-7734 5985; www.henrypoole.com). John Frieda, 75 New Cavendish Street, London W1 (020-7636 1401; www.johnfrieda.co.uk).
The last item I added to my wardrobe was a pair of Ferragamo shoes in emerald green suede. The soles are in perfect proportion – the problem is, we have so much rain in England that I shall wear them rarely. From £289, www.salvatoreferragamo.com.
My favourite website is Urban Daddy. It keeps me in touch with the nightlife, bars, restaurants, exhibitions and pop-up stores in the US. The information always proves correct. www.urbandaddy.com.