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BOOK REVIEW:  Meet the Georgians: Epic Tales from Britain’s Wildest Century, by Robert Peal

By Robin Dutt

Of course, one might say that there have been wilder periods of history. But the Georgian era spanning four kings of England (1714-1830), which looks like a partial keeping up with Jones’s where France’s Louis’ are concerned and is marked out for its peculiarities, excess, charm and horror. Robert Peal in this very entertaining tome delves deep into the century (plus 30 years of a new one) much of the former, which is widely accepted as The Age of Enlightenment and exposes everything which typified an era of excess and brilliance from gambling and inordinate intoxication to the establishment of gentlemen’s clubs and the proliferation of prostitutes – not always necessarily linked!

The especially late Georgian period of the 18th century and indeed the Regency that followed threw men’s attire into sharp focus and with one man, Beau Brummell, pictured left,  still heralded as the patron saint of modern male clothing – for its comparative plainness. Just a few decades before, men who could, were happy to parade in silk and shine, fields of embroidered flowers on satin or elaborate, powdered wigs and jewels. But the burgeoning birth of a new century gave birth also to a new concept of presentation. An elegant anonymity took over in male suiting and colours became more sober and demure. Patterns which were worn all over the body tended to retire to waistcoats and cravats. This may be said about male decorative choice in accoutrements today. And of course, this was emphasised in the greatest reign of the 19th century, Queen Victoria’s, when black became not so much a funereal colour alone but one of sober respectability from the requirements of an opera venue to, indeed the elegance of, an exclusive club. Although designers today may experiment with ‘outlandish’ colour for male suits in the name of Fashion, season after season, it is black, navy, grey and brown that win hands down as especially the old guard in Savile Row might opine – bar of course the delightful colour blends, say, of traditional and contemporary Tweed.

Peal is keen to remind just how experimental and adventurous the Georgian age was in terms of political thought, radical ideas, literature and art but also paints a grim picture of life without privilege and those who sold unwanted wives in filthy markets. As a history teacher at the West London Free School, he gained quite a reputation as a communicator and has always adored the Georgian period in general – one supposes for its mad richness and insane differences which are all, fair or unfair, part of blind history’s remit. And for a period known as the Age of Enlightenment where one’s thoughts might turn to those of addressing ossified social systems or atrophied ancient customs, Peal reminds that some (presumably with little else to do) would repair to a ‘farting club’, stuff themselves with cabbage, onions and pease-porridge, the better to see (and hear!) who could emit the loudest (and foulest?) samples of induced flatulence. Oh and there was an accolade for who could sound the longest escape of wind to the merriment of the assembly. The word for this was ‘bumfiddle’ and whilst that might put in mind to a contemporary audience, something quite different, an 18th century time waster might queue up and even bring his own basket of leafy veg and cruciferous delights to win that accolade, at the door of the appropriate venue. ‘All in the best possible taste’ as the late, great Kenny Everett might have said…

Meet the Georgians: Epic Tales from Britain’s Wildest Century by Robert Peal (Collins). £18.99.

BOOK REVIEW:  Meet the Georgians: Epic Tales

Just what is it about watches that has many or even most men transfixed, wonders Robin Dutt

Is it that for today’s successful gentleman about town, a watch is really the only acceptable form of ‘jewellery’ (unlike the long past with its pins, buttons and clips) which conveys status because of money spent? Or, is it that it conveys status with the accompanying thought of judicious choice? Whichever it is, the season could not go by without a major watch reference triggered by the release of the latest James Bond film – called appositely – No Time to Die.

This will be the 25th offering of the James Bond franchise and apparently Daniel Craig’s last appearance in this role. To mark the occasion, Watchfinder & Co wants to remind all about those horological examples which have been so centre stage to the Bond character – whether as a cocktail timepiece or an adaptable and useful tool to fool a villain, a sleek addition to a suit or a sleek advertising device.

George Lazenby sported the Rolex 6238, ‘Pre Daytona’, Roger Moore the Rolex 5513 Submariner, Pierce Brosnan wore his Omega Seamaster and Daniel Craig wore three – the Omega Seamaster 300, Omega Planet Ocean and Omega Aqua Terra 150m.

The first reference to a specific Bond watch was made in Ian Fleming’s second book, Live and Let Die (1954) and was a Rolex Explorer 1. There is no doubt that the cachet the character of this ultimate agent lent to these timepieces gave the brands and models instant, internationally appreciated kudos and cachet. And even if you have to start at the humblest entry point purchase level (for show – or fun) you can think – if not exactly say – that you are in the company of Mr Bond. or

And with Mr Bond in mind, if it’s not a watch then it has to be a car, doesn’t it? Aston Martin with The Little Car Company and EON Productions has collaborated to create a No Time to Die special edition of the Aston Martin DB5 Junior. Looking sleek with definite references to an underwater creature crossed with a space vehicle (d’un age certain) and coated in that seductive argent paint – Silver Birch, the car is an electric, two thirds scale version of the iconic film conveyance, a star in its own right – ‘complete with gadgets’. with only 125 models available.

Vroom for thought?


Just what is it about watches that

Created in partnership with Bravado, ‘Queen the Greatest’ will open on one of London’s most historically fashion-led streets, Carnaby Street, on 28 September, writes Robin Dutt.

The feted rock band with a loyal international following, celebrates five decades in music which has spanned unique takes on Rock & Roll, romantic ballads, haunting melodies and operatic masterpieces, with each member, Freddie Mercury, John Deacon, Brian May and Roger Taylor masters of their individual instruments. And the much missed Mercury was arguably centre of it all with one early music journalist describing his scintillating and powerful voice as ‘an orchestra’. But the assembly of the four from the start, was a magical combination of diverging and converging elements of brilliance, so each must be seen as a focal character.

Each month will have a theme at the store such as Music (October), Art & Design (November) and Magic (December) with visual installations telling the story of one of the most unusual and creative bands in the history of contemporary music with the bravado to be fierce and camp in equal measure. Even the band name was a touch of cheeky genius and their electric performances filled with drama. Their keystone was simply that they were brilliantly unpredictable. Just what would they serve next?

Queen doesn’t have to be your favourite band but surely almost everyone will have a favourite ‘Queen moment’, whether it was indeed the breakout album, ‘Queen’ in 1973 or that time when ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ didn’t seem to want to exit the charts. Or might it be Freddie prancing about in a provocative (almost) S&M buckled jacket in canary yellow or one of Brian May’s stellar guitar solos? This writer vividly recalls falling in love with their early mix of hard rock and folkloric and fairy-tale themes which were instantly compelling and otherworldly.

Set over two floors, visitors to ‘Queen the Greatest’ will be able to shop for T and sweatshirts, denim items created by Wrangler (some adorned with the band’s well known song titles) and admire the unique jewellery of British designer, Jonny Hoxton who has created memorable pieces in gold and silver. And then of course, there is the music itself, available to purchase. There is even a Queen Monopoly game!

Queen said –

‘We are pleased to collaborate with Bravado on this project, which will be
an exciting experience for everyone to come to London and enjoy.’

And David Boyne of Bravado reminds us of Queen’s undoubted half century legacy as ‘one of the world’s most iconic and beloved bands.’

‘Queen the Greatest’ is at 57 Carnaby Street, London, W1, 28 September 2021-January 2022.
Mon-Sat 11am-7pm Sun – 12pm-6pm.

(Proceeds from an exclusive Freddie Mercury T-shirt will go to the Mercury Phoenix Trust, established by Brian May, Roger Taylor and Jim Beach in memory of Freddie and raises awareness and funds to combat HIV/Aids).

Created in partnership with Bravado, 'Queen the

Esteemed clothing company Pringle of Scotland is pleased to announce an on-going collaboration with artists, writes Robin Dutt. Desiring a unique experience for their customers, it will feature works by established and London-based creators who are not represented by a gallery. An altruistic endeavour indeed, Pringle will also not take commission on any sales.
Their featured artist currently is Caroline Banks, pictured right,  who is well known for her hypnotic, concentric forms – often swirls of energy or dappled with intent to look like elements of space or the magnetism of an almost vocal void. There is movement and energy here, forms which really do suggest the “Music of the Spheres”.  Her palette features calming tones of Prussian blues, earthy browns and ivory-creams – ironic calm maelstroms.
Pringle spokesman Ashwin is delighted to host at his store this artist’s thought-provoking and magnetic work. “I really love the simplicity and peacefulness of Caroline’s work,” he says.  “The colours she uses and circle shapes are almost mesmerising.”
Pringle’s plan is to showcase artists for a 4-6 week residency, offering a platform on one of London’s chicest and historic luxury brand locales.
 The show runs until October 11. Caroline’s work can also be seen at The Other Art Fair, The Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, E1 until October 17.

Esteemed clothing company Pringle of Scotland is

Tribute by Robin Dutt

When Charlie Watts died in August at the age of 80, a music journalist expressed what surely all had thought for a long time. Not so much that the Rolling Stones would never be the same again (which is self-evident) but more importantly, did we ever imagine that it would be the “quiet one” of the group who would sail forth first? Many writers and observers have identified the fact that Watts, with his innate calm and cool, made all the others in the band look like they might not have to be quite so “out there”.  The contrast was striking.

Too Cool for School? Mr Watts would have probably disagreed. Every drummer in every group suffers, perhaps, from the same fate. His equipment, whilst being the essential blood-beat, acts also as partial barrier and fortress whereas the others can leap about to their hearts’ content with their stringed axes or saxes. And they are always standing, dancing or rushing about, whereas the drummer must, for the most part, occupy a disc of a seat, trammelling meaning through sticks and skins but for the main part, hidden by the paraphernalia. But there was a time (brief as it was) that the whole band (like The Beatles) did indeed wear practically matching suits and a Cuban-heeled boot was also not far away. Early 60s television stills will bear this out. But it was Watts who unwaveringly sported a suit – then and throughout his near 60-year tenure in what has been described as the greatest rock band in the world.

When it came to his sense of dress, it is not difficult to understand why he has been lauded for his exquisite sense of sartorial style. For example, Savile Row’s William Dege recalls encountering this dandified figure as a boy of 12 and noticing how transfixed Watts was about material and how much he enjoyed and engaged with the identity of a tailoring establishment. At the time, the cutter was making a replica of an Army Flying Corp service dress coat. It is a given in sartorial circles that garments with a military or equestrian past are more than referential to the lore of Savile Row and tailors of note the world over. Whilst Mick Jagger’s suits were really, on most occasions, glam showstoppers – some even reminiscent of the gloss and deliberate femininity of Marc Bolan’s satins and velvets – Charlie Watts’ threads were slicingly traditional and purposefully plain. But plain need not mean dull and in Watts’ case they never were. The double-breasted coat became synonymous with his style – neat, encased, formal and ready for all occasions. However smart a single-breasted example might be, the double has the edge and with a slightly wider lapel – not comically cut, of course, nor experimentally, this gives a new and well-found gravitas to a classic in the wardrobe and a garment to rely upon. It is almost impossible to look slovenly in a well-fitted, buttoned up double-breasted coat with minimal float.

But even Bolan started off as a Mod and the Mods were known for their take on English tailoring – ultra fitted and with spareness of cut being the central feature – much like the minet youth movement of France – the closest equivalent. And Watts, who was introduced to tailoring by his father in the form of a visit to a traditional, Jewish East End tailor, never forgot the language and power of a well cut and appointed suit. And this simple idea can look even more radical when pitched against floaty silk blouses and velvet loons, or tumbledown denim with rips and tie-dye ethnic-inspired tunics – worn in all seriousness – by men. Charlie Watts always said that he did not fit in with the rest of the Stones on the dress issue and, although there are indeed images of him at the drums in precise, minimal T-shirts, when younger, he did drum in a suit. Watts owned over 200 suits and bought lavishly but with good taste from tailors such as Tommy Nutter and Chittleborough & Morgan and whilst eschewing the soft ‘shoe’ shuffle of his bandmates love of casual footwear (he loathed trainers) patronised the internationally feted George Cleverley. Now, in this latter case, anyone who has beheld a Cleverley masterpiece will understand its seduction. I once bought a pair of vintage Cleverley’s with the original trees, which were not my size. But, as sculpture for the book shelf, they were a constant reminder of elegance and the craftsmanship of a seasoned artisan.

Each tailor, each shoemaker of any worth surely has his hallmark and the discerning customer is very quick to understand this and to also comprehend what suits him. Perhaps Watts in the annals of rock and roll is nothing new when it comes to choosing suits. Think of what suits have done (after they put away the glitz and glitter) for David Bowie or Bryan Ferry or Robert Palmer come to that (for whom there was no glitz and glitter period).  The direct contrast Watts made with Mick, Ronnie and “Keef” – and, for a time, Bill was more than palpable. It was perhaps predictable that Mick would embrace suiting at some stage and his memorable wedding suit (echoed by bride, Bianca) somehow still looked more costume celebratory than pared-down calm.

At heart, and everyone says it, Watts was a jazz musician and his love of a well-cut suit stemmed from the influences of musicians such as Gene Krupa, Art Blakey and Buddy Rich. Perhaps Nelson Riddle and Frank Sinatra can also be included in the canon of stars who meant something through their precision of presentation. But, then, they came from an age which understood the stage and the need to convey a strident look which was aspired to by countless men who bought expensively – if they could, or on a budget for those who never would be able to. Still, chosen with care, suiting can simply suit most people. Watts believed his taste to be “old fashioned” but this comes with a proviso. Whilst mutton and lamb should not necessarily spring to mind, Watts was aware that a middle-aged man (or older) does not put on the clothes of a twenty-something year old – and be taken seriously. This is helped, of course, if one’s original choice was never loud or brash in the first place. Sir Hardy Amies was a keen advocate, trumpeting about never being too tight or too fashionable and favoured the wearing of “appropriate clothes”. Watts would surely have understood this stance. Joe Morgan (of Chittleborough & Morgan) refers to Watts’ innate style of glamour – which is not only appropriate when describing female, visual charm alone.

“Mr Watts always knew what he wanted. He liked a structured look with a masculine chest, crisp shoulder line and a narrow waist. He enjoyed his clothes and chose to wear suits to represent himself in the best possible way.” And, crucially, Morgan finishes with – “He was the epitome of tailored elegance.”

And, as ever when it comes to bespoke tailoring, where one “bespeaks (or speaks for) the cloth”, it is the subtle, personal details which count. The customer, of course can have anything that is cuttable and sew-able but if he is a sensible and sentient man, he will never ignore the advice of his tailor – which is given because of years of training and a bank of knowledge. It is not simply a matter of fit but personality too and, at the very base, the functionality of a garment that counts the most.

With his love of a well-constructed suit, it may be surprising to know that Watts never wore excellent bespoke second-hand vintage suits – even if they fitted him and were in pristine condition. And it has nothing to do with a stigma or indeed the fact that they may come with some family curse or other. We still, after all, use the term, “dead men’s shoes” to describe vintage or even charity finds which seem to cast a clinging, superstitious shadow. Watts’ point was that the wearer had to make the garment his – from the first. But, of course, one can (and should) be inspired by the past. It’s a rich country where indeed, things were done differently when it comes to the world of tailoring of the first order.

Alexis Petridis, writing in The Guardian very soon after Watts’ death, refers to this ultimate drummer as possessing “unshowy brilliance”.

No-one would – or could – disagree.


Tribute by Robin Dutt When Charlie Watts died