13 July 2012

London's Contradian: A Colonist's Visit

Lloyd's of London Paper Weight

My wife at the time scolded me for pronouncing schedule - shed-yool, and for saying lift and fortnight. She didn't think the term "Brit" was appropriate and associated "across the pond" with the sort of American who used 'needless markup' for Neiman Marcus. I was allowed use of, 'POET'S Day' for Friday. 'Piss Off Early Tomorrow's Saturday.' Virtually unknown in the US twenty years ago as well as today.

Lloyd's of London Waiter by Susan Warburton

A friend from the States showed up at Lloyd's wearing a khaki poplin suit. He was prohibited entry and told to go home and change, "You are not on safari, sir."

A.A. Gill Restaurant Review

I discovered restaurant and TV critic A.A. Gill in 1990 through a classic Christmas review of TGI Fridays. I photo copied it and faxed it to everyone I knew. In this undated clipping from The Sunday Times Style section, Gill bemoans suits with hacking pockets as well as a suit sold with a, 'fashion twist.'

Cat Gut braces with Harvie Hudson shirt & tie

Lloyd's was my tutor for dress. I didn't need to look beyond the main underwriting floor to learn cloth. Many of the brokers and underwriters were clothes mad in the way men who lust for the knowledge of food, wine, cars, travel, music, books, and art often are. The pleasing line of a suit is carried over to a sports car or a photograph or a pair of chocolate suede tassel loafers.

Gangster stripe double breasted suits, double cuff shirts with double links (never swivel). Monk shoes, tassel loafers and socks from Mark & Spencer. I still have navy and black over calf hose from M&S that I bought 15 years ago and there's no evidence of wear. God knows what they're made of.

Double link cuff links circa 1910

I bought what I thought I needed. Over the years much of it has taken on a patina of wear and history. It's not just a tie or a suit or even a tee-shirt. It's an afternoon on Jermyn Street. "How is sir today? Is sir looking for anything particular? Is sir aware of our 3 for 99 pound sale? Sir would like matching boxers with his shirts? Where in America is sir from?"

"That's a lovely tie. Does sir play cricket?"

I saw some men wear the same tie everyday. Public school (why don't they pronounce it, Schoo-well?), university and regiment ties are proudly worn while a man's shirting takes care of any color diversity. Meanwhile, Americans wearing insipid Nicole Miller ties (today's Vineyard Vines) were criticized in much the same way American colonists were when they got off the boat in London 200 years ago.

As charming as these people can be, there is always a subtle superiority shown towards Americans. More so by the English upper class where aspiration is frowned on. These folks do not climb ladders. They're content with the rung they're on. If you're ever curious as to what it's like to be a minority in America -- Visit London and hang out with the upper crust.

Lloyd's of London Council

I was surprised many of the public school types have a fondness for jellied eel, spotted dick and meat pies. I was told it's their soul food from school years. They're very fond of taking Yanks to dinner in the East End, where, thanks to the Cockney Rhyming slang, we're known as Septics- "Septic Tank" - "Yank" When it's your time to buy, they'll usually suggest Claridge's.

I was constantly watching them and, as much as I love London -- London will never love me. That's okay. I'm an American Army Brat and all that entails. Missing home, I had dinner alone one night at the Texas Lone Star, a Tex-Mex train wreck of a restaurant in South Kensington. They piped in an Austin, Texas radio station via reel to reel tapes that were Fed X'ed from the US. At the table behind me a chap was having trouble with the menu. The man finally ordered a Chimichang-er and a glass of Cabernet. Anyway, have a great weekend. I have some reading to catch up on.


Anonymous said...

Great post! Class is class is class. And that will never, ever change.

Next time, go with the Indian food around Covent Garden - always a safe bet.


tintin said...

DB- Thanks. By the way, I covered the Indian restaurants here:


I also invented butt sized chap stick.

Trailer Trad said...

It's sad when a pair of old fox cufflinks have a more expressive, pleasing face than most people that you come across on the street.

Anonymous said...

I used to love the Sgt Fury comics as a kid, didn't know there was an adult version available for my teen years!

GSV JR said...

What the cuss?! Those cufflinks are cussin' beautiful.