The headlong rush from Christmas and New Year into the maelstrom of London Collections Men (after which I have barely time to draw breath, straighten my tie and wind my watch before it is time to head to Geneva) is nothing if not invigorating, and this weekend my glorious home city reaffirms its status as not just capital of the world, but capital of male elegance. Along with cigars and watches, I love little more than a good saunter up and down Savile Row.
However, in my preparation for this weekend I rather unwisely broadened my reading from Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus and Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly’s essential text Du Dandysme et de George Brummell to look over some fashion reporting. I rather wished I hadn’t. My eye flitted across the newspaper headline “This year’s big fashion item: the tracksuit”. It is not the sort of news that one should become acquainted with over breakfast – it quite put me off my kedgeree and I could only force down a bit of lightly poached haddock and a pot of Darjeeling before having a little lie down.
I have a slight problem with tracksuits. It may surprise you to know that I do not possess one, and you could go so far as saying they alarm me. It is probably my aversion to physical exertion that is responsible. I still have flashbacks to a time about a quarter of a century ago when I saw a man in a shellsuit, which he had accessorised with a tweed cap and polished brogues – terrifying.
I had one when I was a child and it was a sort of blue sweatshirt material – I was reminded of it when I saw the films of a young Jimmy Hill training a football team sometime in the 1960s – but even if I could by some miracle find it, I very much doubt it would fit.
Frantically I searched my wardrobe to see if, in a moment of retail somnambulism, I had inadvertently bought a shellsuit and forgotten about it. But no luck, not so much as a polychrome zip-fronted Sergio Tacchini sports-leisure garment. My rummaging taught me that the nearest thing I have to sportswear is a pair of plus-fours.
As a result, I was somewhat dubious about the wisdom of attending the opening celebrations of LCM at Spencer House on Thursday evening. I rather feared that I would arrive in my usual three-piece suit, mirror-polished Eric Cook shoes etc only to find myself in my own Bateman cartoon – the sole man not wearing a tracksuit to a fashion gathering at the beginning of the year of the tracksuit. I had, of course, started the process of choosing fabrics for Terry Haste and Mariano Rubinacci to work on a couple of tracksuits, but bespoke tailoring is not a swift business and, to be honest, my heart was not really in it.
Imagine then my relief when the first person I bumped into was David Gandy – such a nice man and so smartly turned out in a grey double-breasted suit and rollneck sweater. Dylan Jones, chairman of LCM, was standing in front of an impressive fireplace in a similarly smart double-breasted grey suit and rollneck.
That is another thing – when it comes to fires, I cannot imagine it would be a good idea to stand too close if you are wearing a shellsuit.
In fact, as I looked around, my racing pulse subsided, my anguished features relaxed; while I saw the occasional motorcycle jacket and so forth, I do not recall spotting a single tracksuit. However, I did notice one thing: quite a number of men of style were wearing rollnecks. As well as Messrs Jones and Gandy, David Furnish was looking very spruce in a charcoal Huntsman suit and rollneck (with natty Charvet boutonniere), while Patrick Cox was probably the beau of the evening in a leopard-print coat and yes… a rollneck.
Happily, I do have one or two rollnecks to see me through LCM, but rustling up a leopard-print coat at short notice might be a bit more of a problem.