Guest Post by Imogen Reed

"Human Race Reaches Sartorial Nadir"
So reads an article title in one of the UK’s most retro-chic ports of call - The Chap magazine. The subject of its ire? The invention of the ‘sweat pant for work’. To a Chap, being less than impeccably dressed at any time, under any circumstances, is totally unacceptable. There is a quote from their literary hero, Jeeves, butler to the P.G Wodehouse creation Bertie Wooster, the quintessential English gentleman. The quotation, which they display as an encapsulation of this world-view, can be seen on the site, almost as a call to arms:

What do ties matter, Jeeves, at a time like this?
There is no time, sir, at which ties do not matter.

P.G. Wodehouse

Chaps Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, as Wodehouse creations Jeeves and Bertie Wooster

The Chap Manifesto
Celebrating the past in retro clothing choices is gaining popularity, particularly in conservative arenas such as Oxford and Cambridge Universities, where Chappism has become a competitive lifestyle choice. Chaps can be seen wandering college corridors, wearing tweed (essential) and smoking pipes (also essential). Their manners are impeccable – they open doors for ‘ladies’ and doff their hats, they love their dogs and love to grow moustaches. 

What is behind this phenomenon is hard to gauge, but its glorious celebration of everything retro is a joy to behold. If you need wax for your curly moustache The Chap shop can supply it. If you need to know the correct protocol in any given situation, The Chap Magazine has an advice column. It also has a manifesto, which is a good place to start for the retro ‘new gentleman’. Allow us to quote:

“6. THOU SHALT NEVER FASTEN THE LOWEST BUTTON ON THY WESKIT. Look, we don't make the rules, we simply try to keep them going. This one dates back to Edward VII, sufficient reason in itself to observe it.

7. THOU SHALT ALWAYS SPEAK PROPERLY. It's quite simple really. Instead of saying "Yo, wassup?", say "How do you do?"

8. THOU SHALT NEVER WEAR PLIMSOLLS WHEN NOT DOING SPORT. Nor even when doing sport. Which you shouldn't be doing anyway. Except cricket.”  

Young Fogeyism
Quintessential English chap, John Steed.
Chappishness is the natural extension of the ‘Young Fogey’ movement, which dominated a tiny corner of England in the 1990’s. Confined mainly to London, journalists, antique dealers and the arty set, Young Fogey’s enjoyed a brief flirt with the media. This obsession with the past was really born of conservatism, and the longing for a return to the manners and decorum of the past. Always undertaken with immense good humour, there is a serious point underlying the movement, which is essentially an insistence that life doesn’t need to be bland, and that there is no reason for standards of politeness to lapse in the way they have. 

One could criticise the ideology as backward looking, but in many ways it has as much to do with the modern day ‘Respect’ meme as anything archaic. It remains firmly in the territory of the elite, however, and as such it is doubtful if it will catch on in anything other than that elite circles. Which is a shame, because there is nothing nicer than a well-dressed man, with impeccable manners. What’s not to like?

A chap always always acts with decorum and dignity. This is a stance challenged once a year during the Pythonesque Chap Olympiad, where umbrella jousting and other silliness takes place. A Chap must know how to have fun, even with his suspenders on!

Umbrella jousting at the Chap Olympics
Esquire’s Best Dressed
Esquire's Best Dressed Man competition seems to draw a fair number of Young Fogey types, who are in love with the tailoring and style of years gone by. This year saw the nomination of Winston Chesterfield, a Dandy of the highest order, who runs two highly successful blogs on men’s styling and elegance. He offers advice and tips to other Chaps, and shows how to put together stylish retro looks at low cost. Good style should never require a bank loan. It’s a mistake to think that men’s tailoring and elegance have to be expensive, in his view. He has a few retro pieces, but most of his outfits are bought on the High Street and customised with retro touches, such a mother of pearl buttons, which he sews on himself. The balance between authentic retro and modern ready to wear clothing creates a joyous fusion of colour and style. Winston was cruelly robbed of the title this year, but the competition was stiff, which again demonstrates the popularity of men’s classic styling as a growing trend. Young Fogeys Unite! Your time has come…

Beacon of sartorial elegance - Winston Chesterfield

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