As readers of Pleasure Dividend will know, I adhere to the opposite of the joyless maxim of Mademoiselle Chanel that, upon leaving home, one should consult the mirror and see what unnecessary item of personal ornament one should remove. Now, while I am not advocating that every man leave the house decked out like a Christmas tree attending the Rio Carnival, I have become prey to a bit of a Chanel-like prejudice, in that if I see a man without a pocket handkerchief I find him in some way or another not fully dressed.
I treasure my Charvet pochettes as if I were living in Constantinople at the zenith of its power and they were holy relics, and in a way these squares of silk do have magical powers of transformation, in that they can completely change the way a garment looks. A well-chosen pocket handkerchief with the right colours and tonal variation can help bring an outfit together, tying together the various strands of colour and style.
The pocket handkerchief is one of the smaller pleasures that life affords; it is not a Lucullan banquet of sartorial opportunity, it is more of an amuse-bouche, an exquisite canapé. It is indisputable that dressing is an art; and if an entire wardrobe were, say, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, then a well-executed pochette would be a miniature by Hilliard or a caricature by Daumier — impossible to compare to the more ambitious work, but worthy of appreciation on its own merits nonetheless.
The reason I am drawing a simile from the artistic world is because my latest discovery is the new work of an artist, an artist with whom we are all familiar: Adam Dant. Each of his intricately realised covers for the magazine you are now holding in your hands is (along with this column, of course) a great ornament to our noble profession, nay vocation, of bringing that multiple-ring journalistic circus that is Spear’s to life.
Like all good art, Adam’s work takes you somewhere else, in this case into a quasi-Hogarthian world. Each one is like a picaresque novel gone Manga. If I have had one criticism of Adam’s work until now, it is that if you have ever tried tearing one of his covers off the front of the magazine and using it as a pocket handkerchief, the results are far from satisfactory.
Clearly Adam thought exactly the same, as he has produced a series of pocket handkerchiefs with Drake’s. I like Drake’s. First, it is a tie factory in the heart of London that makes for some of the biggest names in the world. Drake’s knows its silks and understands the importance of weaving, say, a Grenadine on shuttle looms from the 1920s.
As well as the factory in East London there is a Drake’s shop in the West End, on Clifford Street, where among other things I get the Fair Isle sweaters in which I go shooting — they appeal to my magpie taste for colour. Appropriately just down the road from the Royal Academy, this is where Adam’s pocket handkerchiefs will be exhibited. They pay witty homage to the practice of printing maps on silk that used to be an essential part of every secret agent’s kit.
While the cartographical value to those engaged in espionage may be limited, the themes would have been familiar to Ian Fleming, or for that matter PG Wodehouse. The one called ‘Clubland’ features a monocled and bow-tied figure, a Bentley and charming miniature drawings of the clubs of Pall Mall, while ‘Great Men’ is a tour through London according to the public statuary of individuals of stature, including Churchill and Wilde. There is one called ‘Grub Street’ with a fair representation of the capital’s literary men. His ‘Museums’ handkerchief (pictured below) favours the more recondite cultural sites: John Soane (of course), Leighton House, Handel House.
For students of the naked human form, there is a map that guides one around the nude statues of London, and Adam is toying with the idea of devoting another one to the sort of places that call themselves gentlemen’s clubs but in reality offer the edifying sight of women removing their clothes.
‘It is,’ explains Adam, ‘a real London-centric, chap-about-town collection of maps to have at your disposal.’ The only trouble is that I have trouble wearing six pocket handkerchiefs at once, so perhaps a scarf that incorporates more of the city and its diversions should be his next project.
Adam’s pocket squares are being launched at Drake’s on Clifford Street on the evening of Thursday 13 November
Adam Dant writes:
For the gentleman spy in London, these discreet pocket squares keep their secrets, for the most part, well hidden in the top pocket.
Ready to be whipped out and consulted during clandestine operations, each bears a handsome map of strategic locations on the capitals terrain. Essential kit for the chap about town on an important mission.
While the cartography of Clubland will assist explorers of the upper St James’s regions to traverse the peaks of the upper social echelons, The Map of London Nudes provides essential data as to the location of the City of London’s most sublime naked statuary. This is data of paramount importance for all operatives on manoeuvres in the field of adventurous urban discovery.
These five pieces of important sartorial kit are coloured appropriately to provide correct camouflage in the varied environs of the covert operative. In addition to Clubland and London Nudes, the realms of Great Men, Grub Street and London Museums present invaluable material in a form that is practical, informative and imbued with the completely unnecessarily stylish verve that always set the British spy apart from his oafish rivals.