Swellboy on… flamboyant outfits

The sea air brings out our man’s innate desire for experimental attire

Image: Brijesh Patel

I have a sneaking suspicion that Oscar Udeshi sees me coming down Davies Street and rushes to garnish his window with the loudest pairs of trousers he can find (the kind that even he, practised and persuasive salesman that he is, cannot sell to his regular Mayfair hedgefund customers). Then, with the weary predictability of a winged insect coming across a Venus flytrap, or a mouse spying a bit of Emmental on a trap, I find myself ineluctably drawn into his shop and into investing in yet another pair of colourful trousers. Of course, the only place I can really get away with wearing these sorts of garments is in a seaside resort and, of course, my resort of choice is Marbella.

The logical thing therefore would be for Oscar to open a shop in Marbella specialising in vividly hued trousers. And then, while touring the first edition of the Marbella art fair – a holiday is just not a holiday without an art fair – I walked past the stand of self-styled street artist without a street Prince Hubertus von Hohenlohe (son of Marbella Club founder Prince Alfonso) and an idea occurred. Why not get Hubertus to design a cloth that Oscar could make into a line of men’s clothes? These could then be sold in stunningly stylish Simona Gandolfi’s summer pop-up shop on the Marbella Club patio.

I reckon this could be a 21st-century riposte to the success enjoyed by Lilly Pulitzer, whose colourful print shift dresses were such a staple of smart Palm Beach wardrobes during the 1960s that she launched a range of men’s jackets, jeans, shorts and guayaberas.

There is something about the sea air, with its iodine tang, that brings out an experimental taste for clothes that I believe is an immanent human quality. After all, how else could one account for the evolution of that deathless garment the kiss-me-quick hat?  

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Moreover, one of the theories proposed for the invention, or at least the popularisation, of the dinner jacket (as opposed to the traditional tailcoat worn with white tie) is that gamblers in the casino of Monte Carlo revolted against having to wear full evening dress to fritter away their fortunes, and instead adopted the daring informality of the dinner jacket, which was known as a Monte Carlo.

And for the sartorially susceptible, the effects of sea air can be positively intoxicating, as PG Wodehouse demonstrated in his 1922 story Aunt Agatha Takes the Count. Jeeves and his employer have headed to the south of France where, one morning (yes, ante meridiem), Wooster puts on “a fairly fruity cummerbund”.

“I’d known all along that there might be trouble with Jeeves. It was a pretty brightish scarlet” – and sure enough, the manservant is not encouraging on the subject of “Cuthbert the Cummerbund”, prompting this exasperated response: “‘You know, the trouble with you, Jeeves,’ I said, ‘is that you’re too – what’s the word I want? – too bally insular. You can’t realise that you aren’t in Piccadilly all the time. In a place like this, simply dripping with the gaiety and joie-de-vivre of France, a bit of colour and a touch of the poetic is expected of you. Why, last night at the Casino I saw a fellow in a full evening suit of yellow velvet.’”

Come to think of it, a yellow velvet evening suit is the sort of garment that might well cheer up autumnal nights in northern Europe, and I have been in touch with Mariano Rubinacci to see if he can lay his hands on as many shades of yellow velvet as possible, from pale primrose to egg yolk.

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