Swellboy on… Royal Ascot

A gentleman is clearly not properly dressed without his stylish stickpin

At my age, Royal Ascot is a blessing. Most of my friends have married and divorced, and their children are as yet too young to wed, so if it were not for the generosity of kind friends who invite me to join them for lunch on the racecourse, my morning coat would remain unworn for about a generation and I would be deprived of wearing my more exuberant stickpins.

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Granted, I sometimes wear a three-piece suit so I can impale my tie in that little “v” left between waistcoat and shirt-collar, but you can really go to town with a morning coat in a way that a mere three-piece suit does not permit. Indeed, daytime tails are the perfect environment in which to enact the inverse of Chanel’s law, instead of standing in front of the mirror deciding what to take off, one gazes lovingly at the reflected image looking for space in which to pin, hang, button or otherwise afix some extra bauble: watch chain, check; brace of cigar cutters attached to ends of watch chain, check; rings, check; cuff links, check; clove carnation worn in button hole, check; bracelets, check; vintage Asprey collar stiffeners, check; sufficient box and enclosure badges to give the appearance of the rear view mirrors on a mod’s scooter in Quadrophenia, check; and of course, stickpin glinting with gems or carved to resemble some mythological or zoological motif, check.

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My wife very sweetly converted a sapphire and emerald ring of grandmother’s into a tiepin, which is about the best, kindest and most thoughtful love token someone with a magpie eye like mine can receive. But in particular order the other highlights include a Second Empire pin depicting an eagle fighting with a snake that would have been just thing to wear to court levee with the Emperor Napoleon III; a small coral head of Dante that looks to the uninitiated like a bit of chewing gum that I let fall carelessly to my neckwear; and then the usual equestrian motifs of shoe horns, crops etc, and the other day, while at Wartski, I came across a wonderful 19th-century French pin that is a naturalistic depiction of the head of a wolfhound, and I have just the tie to wear it with – a large blue and navy woven silk from Turnbull & Asser in yes, you guessed it, a houndstooth check.

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