One of the reasons I remain a Right Bank person is because of Charvet, the spiritual order that masquerades as a shirtmaker. Charvet inspires the sort of walk-barefoot-over-hot-coals-and-broken-glass devotion that mere religion is powerless to stimulate… at least in my breast. As with all sacerdotal sites, it is a place of pilgrimage – and no visit to Paris is complete without at least a quick genuflection at the altar of the perfect shirt.
In common with so many religious fanatics, I am always looking for a sign, a vision, a revelation of a profound truth, and at Charvet I am seldom disappointed. On my last visit, you will recall, I was vouchsafed a shimmering vision of the new slimmed-down Charvet pochette – a boon for those who find, for some uncomfortable and unaccountable reason, their poitrine becoming unaccountably snug within their jacket. This time I was fortunate enough to glimpse another example of French brilliance at work.
The Charvet silk buttonhole rosette is, like so many great ideas, very simple. Mimicking the shape of a small flower, but created from vividly hued tie silks, it is an ornament I never knew I had need of – until I saw it.
Most of the time I occupy the buttonhole of my right lapel with a chain, at the end of which dangles a cigar cutter. However, when I wear a waistcoat I transfer this adornment to that garment and it loops across my stomach like the chain that used to bar entry to hostile vessels in the port of Constantinople. And while one end bears the cutter, the other carries either a little vintage astrological charm from Bulgari or a small silver cage containing two ivory dice. But this does rather denude the lapel.
As it happened, I was wearing a three-piece white cotton suit to the Charvet store and co-owner Anne-Marie Colban spotted the absence of interest in the lapel right away – for some reason the French government has overlooked me when dishing out the Légion d’Honneur (although to be honest, if you are reading this, M Hollande, I would prefer the Arts et Lettres).
In a ceremony every bit as solemn as any investiture into an order of chivalry, Anne-Marie attached an enchanting checked silk rosette to my lapel. What is more, I would hazard a guess that the Ordre de Charvet is a less widely distributed honour than most.