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The Independent

There's a good chap by Iain Aitch

On 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.

This 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.

Marching 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.

Organising 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.

Waiting 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.

"We 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'."

I want 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 the irritation.

When 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.

"You 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."

Darkwood 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.

"I thought it was a German tourist," says Temple cattily.

Walking 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.

Once 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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