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Evelyn Waugh BEAU BRUMMELLS on £60 A YEAR.

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by Archivist, Mar 5, 2011.

  1. Archivist

    Archivist Senior member

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    A friend found this in a book of essays and sent me a scanned copy. I've never seen it online. I have transcribed it here for your enjoyment. I apologize for any errors in transcription.
    -Archivist.

    Daily Express, 13 February 1929.

    Evelyn Waugh

    BEAU BRUMMELLS on £60 A YEAR.

    Of course, there is really only one way of being perfectly dressed - that is, to be grossly rich. You may have exquisite discrimination and the elegance of a gigolo, but you can never rival the millionaire if he has even the faintest inclination towards smartness. He orders suits as you order collars, by the dozen. His valet wears them for the first three days so that they never look new, and confiscates them after three months so that they never look old. He basks in a perpetual high noon of bland magnificence.

    It is useless to compete against him. If your object in choosing your clothes is to give an impression of wealth, you had far better adopt a pose of reckless dowdiness and spend your money in maintaining under a hat green and mildewed with age a cigar of fabulous proportions. If, however, you have no intention of deceit, but simply, for some reason, happen to like being well dressed, it is essential to have at least two tailors.

    There are about a dozen first-rate tailors in London whose names you may always see quoted by the purveyors of ‘mis-fit’ clothing. Below them are about a hundred rather expensive eminently respectable unobtrusive shops in fashionable streets, where your uncles have bought their clothes since undergraduate days. Below them are several hundreds of quite cheap very busy little shops in the City and business quarters. The secret of being well dressed on a moderate income is to choose one of the first-rate and and one of the third-rate tailors and maintain a happy balance between them.

    There are some things, an evening tail-coat for instance, which only a first-rate tailor can make. On the other hand, the difference between a pair of white flannel trousers costing five guineas in Savile Row or George Street and one costing two guineas in the Strand is practically negligible. The same applies to almost all country clothes. It is not necessary or particularly desirable that these, except of course the riding breeches, should be obtrusively well cut.

    The chief disadvantage of small tailors is that they usually have such a very depressing selection of patterns. It is a good plan to buy all your tweeds direct from the mills in Scotland and to have them made up. Another disadvantage of the small tailor is that he never knows what is fashionable. At least once every eighteen months you should spend fifteen guineas in getting a suit in Savile Row, which will serve as a model for him.

    It is never wise to allow any one except a first-rate tailor to attempt a double-breasted waistcoat; in some mysterious way this apparently simple garment is invariably a failure except in expert hands. But you can safely leave all trousers which are not part of a suit, even evening trousers, which ought, in any case, to be made of a rather heavier material than the coat, to our less expensive shop. The most magnificent-looking traveling coat I ever saw had been made up for four guineas from the owner’s own stuff by the second -best tailor in a cathedral town.

    It is usually an economy to buy your hosiery at an expensive shop. It is essential that evening shirts and waistcoats should be made to your measure; cheap ties betray their origin in a very short time.

    There is only one completely satisfactory sort of handkerchief - the thick squares of red and white cotton in which workmen carry their dinners. Socks wear out just as quickly whatever their quality, and are the one part of a man’s wardrobe which ought never to attract attention. Expensive shoes are a perfectly sound investment, particularly if you keep six or seven pairs and always put them on trees when they are not in use.

    By taking trouble in this way a young man should be able to be more than ordinarily well dressed for less than £60 a year.


    ______________________________________£ s. d.
    One suit (Savile Row) cash price___________ 13 13 6
    One-third evening suit (one every three years;
    Savile Row) cash price___________________ 6 6 0
    One suit (Strand)________________________ 7 7 0
    Country clothes: flannels, part of tweeds, etc.
    made in Stand from own materials__________ 10 0 0
    One pair of shoes (best quality)_____________ 3 10 0
    Hosiery, hats, etc________________________ 10 0 0
    One-third town overcoat (Savile Row)________ 6 6 0
    ______________________________________ £57 2 6
     
  2. mic

    mic Senior member

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    But what's 60 pounds in today's money?[​IMG]
     
  3. Archivist

    Archivist Senior member

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    That's a fascinating question with no real direct answer. It was a different world.
     
  4. Anthony Jordan

    Anthony Jordan Senior member

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    This reads like advice I would love to follow... I seem to recall that Waugh was known (and possibly slightly looked-down upon in some circles) for having his country suits made up in cloths popular with officers of the horse guards for the overcoats, so it sounds as though he practiced what he preached, in this regard at least. It is an interesting reflection on the changing of the times that, even given the heavier cloths and more robust construction of 1929 (leaving aside his advice that evening trousers should be of heavier cloth than the coat), he should have anticipated needing a new dress suit every three years.

    Many thanks, Archivist, for posting this!
     
  5. venessian

    venessian Senior member

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    But what's 60 pounds in today's money?[​IMG]

    Current data is only available till 2009. In 2009, the relative worth of £57 2s 6d from 1929 is:

    £2,580.00 using the retail price index

    £2,920.00 using the GDP deflator

    £10,900.00 using the average earnings

    £12,600.00 using the per capita GDP

    £17,000.00 using the share of GDP

    http://www.measuringworth.com/ukcompare/result.php
     
  6. mic

    mic Senior member

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    Current data is only available till 2009. In 2009, the relative worth of £57 2s 6d from 1929 is:

    £2,580.00 using the retail price index

    £2,920.00 using the GDP deflator

    £10,900.00 using the average earnings

    £12,600.00 using the per capita GDP

    £17,000.00 using the share of GDP

    http://www.measuringworth.com/ukcompare/result.php


    ^Thanks. And everyone on this forum should read a little Waugh.

    Snarky, he was.
     
  7. Archivist

    Archivist Senior member

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    The relative value is an interesting question.

    Let's think about today. I'll use Steed and Chan, their prices are known. These numbers are hardly exact, this is just an example.

    ______________________________________£
    One suit (Savile Row) cash price___________ 2520
    One-third evening suit (one every three years;
    Savile Row) cash price___________________ 913
    One suit (Strand)________________________ 1000 (Chan)
    Country clothes: flannels, part of tweeds, etc.
    made in Stand from own materials__________ 1300? (Chan)
    One pair of shoes (best quality)_____________ 750? (RTW Edward Green)
    Hosiery, hats, etc________________________ 1300? (let's include shirts here)
    One-third town overcoat (Savile Row)________ 700
    ______________________________________ £7563, or about $12,300

    Now, Waugh presents this as a reasonable annual price for someone on a modest income. What would that be? 1/4? 1/5? We are talking about someone with an income of at least say £35K, or about $55K. That's a modest income to be spending so much on clothes. I think the relative values in Waugh's time were different enough from today that it's difficult to just look at inflation.
     
  8. mic

    mic Senior member

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    He very well may have been spending beyond his means. I have the impression (mostly the result of his novels) that he ran in some pretty wealthy circles, while still remaining an outsider.
     
  9. Pennyfeather

    Pennyfeather Member

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    Absolutely fascinating.

    Does anyone understand what Waugh meant by this sentence?

    Are the purveyors of 'mis-fit' clothing selling poorly fitting goods, and if so, why are they always quoting the names of first-rate tailors?

    This sentence absolutely leaped out at me! So how "classic" can classic clothing be if Waugh found it necessary to update his suits every 18 months in order to stay fashionable?

    If it's an economy to buy your hosiery at an expensive shop, why does he later state?

    Wouldn't that suggest that cheaper socks from a less expensive store were a bargain? Or was he not referring to socks when he mentioned hosiery? Surely hosiery meant the same thing in Waugh's day as it does now?

    Good God, what am I to do with all my Paul Stuart socks?

    Thanks for this. The best thing I've lurked on SF in a long time.
     
  10. mic

    mic Senior member

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    Absolutely fascinating.

    Thanks for this. The best thing I've lurked on SF in a long time.


    You should read the umbrella article that Labelking posted a while back.
     
  11. Archivist

    Archivist Senior member

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    In 1929, most of what we would call classic clothing was daring and stylish.

    I'm very curious about 'mis-fit' s well.

    I think he may have been making a distinction between fine hosiery one would wear with evening clothes, vs. socks one would wear day to day and with boots? But that is simply a guess.
     
  12. Montauk

    Montauk Senior member

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    Excellent find! Exactly the sort of thing SF needs these days. Thank you for taking the time to transcribe and share it.

    Discovering the orginal Granada adaptation of Brideshead Revisited pretty much kicked off my personal dandyism almost 20 years ago.
     
  13. venessian

    venessian Senior member

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    Some of the English members here can certainly elucidate better....

    When I read the article, I read 'mis-fits' rather literally is; that is, discarded (for various reasons) clothes, made by first-rate tailors, sold in discount shops. Perhaps I'm wrong.

    Isn't the distinction between socks and hosiery an actual distinction? "Socks" = socks, while "hosiery" = leggings, undergarments, etc?

    Finally, I may be wrong, but as a percentage of income, weren't basic expenses (food, utilities, rent) less expensive and many other expenses we now take for granted (car, various insurance, TV, phone, internet, etc.) not really existent in 1929? Meaning a "modest" income then could afford the budget Waugh listed, whereas these days, as Archivist pointed out above, it seems exorbitant to spend 1/4 or 1/5 of one's income on clothes, especially if we earn a modest income, since we now have more expenses eating away at our budgets?
     
  14. Pennyfeather

    Pennyfeather Member

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    I think he may have been making a distinction between fine hosiery one would wear with evening clothes, vs. socks one would wear day to day and with boots? But that is simply a guess.

    I think this reading makes a lot of sense and goes along with his insistence that one shouldn't fuss too much about one's country clothing.
     
  15. Pennyfeather

    Pennyfeather Member

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    When I read the article, I read 'mis-fits' rather literally is; that is, discarded (for various reasons) clothes, made by first-rate tailors, sold in discount shops. Perhaps I'm wrong.

    No, I think you're probably right. It certainly makes more sense than anything I could come up with.
     
  16. Don Carlos

    Don Carlos Senior member

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    If it's an economy to buy your hosiery at an expensive shop, why does he later state? ... Wouldn't that suggest that cheaper socks from a less expensive store were a bargain? Or was he not referring to socks when he mentioned hosiery? Surely hosiery meant the same thing in Waugh's day as it does now?.
    My best guess is that there was a semantic distinction between "socks" and "hose" in his day. Hose were probably dress stockings of some sort, while socks were closer to what we currently think of as socks/hosiery.
     
  17. thejollyco

    thejollyco Member

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    so you think thrift stores would fall under "mis-fits?"
     
  18. imageWIS

    imageWIS Senior member

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    I feel that trying to compare any sort of value, even from 1929 to now is simply not possible. There are so many factors which one has to consider now which existed then and don't exist now and vice-versa, that it is simply impossible.

    Brummell's ability to find a tailor was far easier than it is today. There were so many more skilled tailors in his era. The ability to find certain finished cloths was far greater in his time than ours (consider Harris Tweeds), and both tailors and cloths were cheaper in his era than ours. We pay a very high premium for handwork today; handwork which was the norm in 1929. Comparing car prices as well from the 20's is also quite impossible; as are home prices.
     
  19. venessian

    venessian Senior member

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    I feel that trying to compare any sort of value, even from 1929 to now is simply not possible. There are so many factors which one has to consider now which existed then and don't exist now and vice-versa, that it is simply impossible.

    Brummell's ability to find a tailor was far easier than it is today. There were so many more skilled tailors in his era. The ability to find certain finished cloths was far greater in his time than ours (consider Harris Tweeds), and both tailors and cloths were cheaper in his era than ours. We pay a very high premium for handwork today; handwork which was the norm in 1929. Comparing car prices as well from the 20's is also quite impossible; as are home prices.


    I think this is very true.

    As an analogy: a custom bicycle frame now is considered "high art", etc., etc. There are some very good current practitioners and some not-so-good ones, but either way there aren't so many. In Waugh's time and even until after WWII and the rise of production on a factory scale, hell, if you owned a bicycle shop in a big city, small town, no matter...you made the frames you sold. Good ones. Lots of them. Not expensive. Hundreds of "brands"; that is, hundreds of extremely capable one-man shops. It was still a local craft era.
     
  20. Sator

    Sator Senior member

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    This sentence absolutely leaped out at me! So how "classic" can classic clothing be if Waugh found it necessary to update his suits every 18 months in order to stay fashionable?


    It means that the idea of Eternal Style that is pushed on internet clothing fora is complete nonsense. In 1929 you would have been laughed at if you wore the fashions of the 1890s on the grounds that it represented the victory of permanent style over fashion.

    In fact I would go so far as to say fashion is the essence of style and is not possible without it. Many of the catwalk freakshow stuff that gets rightly ridiculed are failures because they are neither fashionable nor wearable. For in order to be fashionable something has to be wearable first and foremost. In fact, the real problem is that fashion "designers" (so called) don't really have any idea about what is fashionable in the real world. That is why they have failed so miserably in getting any new tailored fashions (beyond minor fluctuations changes in style) become mainstream and widely accepted for any prolonged period of time. Most of their novelties disappear forever once the model walks off the catwalk. And if the odd fashion victim gets conned into wearing this crap it hardly represents a seismic change in real world fashion that is widely accepted and admired.
     

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