Thursday, multinational chains such as McDonalds, Starbucks and
Gap will face a new wave of actions against their homogenisation
of our high streets. Though these protests will not come from rowdy
mobs of anti-World Trade Organisation campaigners, but rather from
polite, well-spoken gents garbed in bespoke tweeds and elegant brogues.
may sound like an unlikely attempt by elements within the Countryside
Alliance to clamber aboard the anti-WTO bandwagon or simply flush
out a few urban foxes from behind the bins of these establishments,
but it is actually the first wave of direct action by a group who
wish to see good manners, real food and fine tailoring restored
to our city centres.
under the banner 'Civilise the City' these self-styled
'Chaps' will disrupt the normal day's business
at global chains by enquiring as to the availability of devilled
kidneys in fast food outlets and asking to be measured by the head
cutter at retailers more used to dealing with S,M,L or XL than inside
legs. Neatly-printed banners with slogans such as 'give three-piece
a chance' and 'all proper tea is best' have been
manufactured in preparation for the day that promises to turn the
tide on the progression of uncouth behaviour in the UK.
this protest are Gustav Temple and Vic Darkwood, the mildly eccentric
and always well-turned-out editors of that other gentlemen's
quarterly, The Chap magazine. A kind of Dada-dandyist journal celebrating
the likes of David Niven and Stephen Fry, as well as giving tips
on everything from choosing a manservant to pipe-smoking and trouser
semaphore, The Chap often has its tongue lodged as firmly in its
cheek as its editors' feet are in their hand-stitched shoes.
But, that said, the pair they do seem deadly serious about initiating
a return to civility, even if they do plan to employ faintly ridiculous
methods to highlight their cause.
for the Chaps to arrive at our allotted meeting place outside Selfridges
on London's Oxford Street I do feel somewhat conspicuous in
my second-hand tweed three-piece. Temple and Darkwood had invited
me to join them as an initiate to their cause on a trial run of
Civilise the City and issued strict instructions that they wouldn't
like to be seen around town with anyone wearing jeans and trainers.
are not home to Messrs Adidas and Nike," Temple had admonished
me on the telephone. "As Wilde said: 'To be a work of
art you must wear a work of art'."
to undo the top button of my shirt, as my work of art is already
to feel a little uncomfortable, but fearing that the duo may be
checking my sartorial suitability from a distance I put up with
they arrive (precisely on time, of course) Temple is toting a cane
and wearing a green trilby whilst Darkwood sports dark tweeds and
swings a full-length umbrella. Both carry pipes and are dressed
as if they have arrived from the 1940s rather than from Bond Street
tube station, so at least I don't feel that I personally stand
out quite so much any more. As we retire to a café in the
department store Temple looks me up and down, examining my hastily
assembled outfit. I had been worried about wearing brown in town,
but he assures me that such adages are now outdated.
are doing exceptionally well," he says. "One criticism
is that you are wearing black shoes with a tweed suit. It is wrong,
though some eccentrics will deliberately wear them."
then spots that I am not wearing cufflinks, but the pair let this
pass and decide that I am elegant enough to join them on a stroll
through the thoroughfare that they feel best represents what they
are up against. Just before we leave, Tony Parsons walks by and
Darkwood hoots derision at his black leather blouson. Even after
such a short spell in the company of the Chaps I can tell that his
attire is suitable only for a stint selling fruit on Berwick Street
market and not the sort of thing that a supposed man of style should
be caught wearing.
thought it was a German tourist," says Temple cattily.
east along Oxford Street we come across the EasyEverything Internet
café, a large, uninspiring room filled with computer screens
that is situated above a foul-smelling Subway sandwich bar. Following
Temple and Darkwood in to the building I wonder if they simply need
to check their email but then remember that they tend to shun electronic
communication in favour of something far more likely to involve
vellum and a Mont Blanc.
we reach the top of the stairs it becomes apparent that the pair
intend to turn the emphasis from chat rooms to Chappism as Temple
doffs his hat before attempting to speak philosophy with some of
the foreign students who seem to make up the majority of EasyEverything's
clientele. Most shift uneasily in their seats, though one does warily
pass the time of day for a few minutes before Temple shakes his
hand and invites him to "get on with watching your television".
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