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Evelyn Waugh BEAU BRUMMELLS on £60 A YEAR.

Archivist

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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
 

mic

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But what's 60 pounds in today's money?
 

Archivist

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

Anthony Jordan

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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!
 

venessian

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Originally Posted by mic
But what's 60 pounds in today's money?


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
 

mic

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Originally Posted by venessian
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.
 

Archivist

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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.
 

mic

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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.
 

Pennyfeather

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Absolutely fascinating.

Does anyone understand what Waugh meant by this sentence?

There are about a dozen first-rate tailors in London whose names you may always see quoted by the purveyors of ‘mis-fit’ clothing.
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?

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

Socks wear out just as quickly whatever their quality...
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?

... and are the one part of a man’s wardrobe which ought never to attract attention.
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.
 

mic

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Originally Posted by Pennyfeather
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.
 

Archivist

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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.
 

Montauk

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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.
 

venessian

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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?
 

Pennyfeather

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Originally Posted by Archivist
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.
 

Pennyfeather

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Originally Posted by venessian
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.
 

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