Friday, 29 April 2011

The Return of the Young Fogey


The term Young Fogey was humorously applied, in British context, to some younger-generation, rather buttoned-down writers and journalists, such as Simon Heffer, Charles Moore and, for a while, A. N. Wilson. The term is attributed to Alan Watkins writing in 1984 in The Spectator.
Young Fogey is still used to describe conservative young men (aged approximately between 15 and 40) who dress in a vintage style (usually that of the 1920's-1950's, also known as the 'Brideshead' look, after the influence of 'Brideshead Revisited', by Evelyn Waugh), and who tend towards erudite, conservative cultural pursuits.
Old, somewhat shabby clothing is preferred, such as heavy tweeds and antique dinner jackets. As well, the favoured mode of transport is the bicycle or Morris Minor. Popular pursuits are classical music, fine wines, pipe smoking, and ecclesiasticana, generally of the High Anglican or Roman Catholic persuasion.
The movement reached its peak in the mid eighties with adherents such as A.N. Wilson and Gavin Stamp. The movement declined in the nineties, but still has a following amongst students at Oxbridge, Durham, Edinburgh, St Andrews and other older universities, as well as in some professions (in particular the antiques and arts dealing world, and the minority classical architecture practices). At Oxbridge, teenage undergraduates can be seen wearing tweed and affecting mannerisms that are reminiscent of a long-gone era; a particular strongholds of Young Fogeys include the Oxford University Conservative Association and Trinity College, Cambridge, but they are also seen elsewhere.
The Young Fogey is sometimes confused with the Sloane Ranger, but this is incorrect; whilst there is some crossover between the two in clothing styles, the Young Fogey tends toward reserved, intellectual and cultured pursuits, and avoids heartiness.
The Young Fogey style of dress also has some surface similarity with the Preppy style, but it is essentially an anglo-centric style, restricted to the United Kingdom and the more anglicised areas of the British Commonwealth such as Australia and New Zealand.
The Chap magazine has revived many aspects of the Young Fogey, albeit in a somewhat boisterous and tongue-in-cheek manner.


It is difficult to define the Young Fogey. The most obvious trait in him however, is that he likes to pretend that the modern age does not exist and that he is living in another era. Any era will do. The Young Fogey knows that such fondness for past times has nothing to do with weakness and little to do with mere nostalgia or escapism. The Young Fogey is tired of consumerism and of the giant shopping mall world; the Young Fogey rebels against the constant search for 'the latest thing'. The Young Fogey believes in Pleasantness, Civility, Music, Art, Literature, gentlemen doffing their hats to ladies... and gentlemen having hats to doff in the first place. The Young Fogey knows the importance of grammar and punctuation; generally dislikes modern architecture, enjoys walking and travelling by train, and laments the difficulty of purchasing good bread, cheese, kippers and sausages (see Alan Watkins' defintion of the Young Fogey for more details).
The Young Fogey knows that a vinyl record is better than a CD, that a book is better than a laptop, and believes that the telephone worth sleeping outside stores for is a 1935 model in deep black - not a small, silver mobile. The Young Fogey has been known to wail: what has happened to the BBC?
The Young Fogey may feel homesick as he watches a period drama or a historical programme be it "Brideshead Revisited", "Pride and Prejudice" or a documentary on Ancient Egypt.
The Young Fogey may read works by William Shakespeare, Walter Scott, Boswell, the Brontes, Elizabeth Gaskell, William Thackeray, Henry Fielding, Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy,Charles Dickens,George Gissing, George Eliot, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Lewis Carroll, Samuel Butler, Robert Louis Stevenson, Anthony Trollope, Joseph Conrad, John Galsworthy, Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle, Oscar Wilde, E.M Forster, Graham Greene, Marcel Proust, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Evelyn Waugh (indeed, most Young Fogeys are disciples of Mr Waugh), Anthony Powell, Saki, JRR Tolkien, Kingsley Amis, C.P Snow, James Lees Milne, P.G Wodehouse, Simon Raven, Barbara Pym, Nancy Mitford, George MacDonald Fraser, A.N Wilson, Niall Ferguson, Roger Scruton, Mark Steyn, James Delingpole, Tom Hodgkinson, Eva Rice, Hugh Massingberd, Jonathan Coe...the names stretch into eternity.
The Young Fogey often enjoys the films of Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn and Alfred Hitchcock. He never switches off a movie because it's in black and white. The Young Fogey spends long hours deciding who is the better: Mr Fred Astaire or Mr Gene Kelly?
As for music, this varies a lot, of course. So here we discuss pretty much anything from the 1980's back to primitive 'lets dance in grass skirts' BC. Also discussed are are radio programs like Hancock, the Goons, Round the Horne. Poetry is much favoured (well, by some of us,) from Chaucer to Wordsworth to Dylan Thomas to Wendy Cope.
Here at the Young Fogeys Club you can exchange ideas and views with like Fogeyed souls; discuss the revolution that will come as we Young Fogeys prepare to stand up and be counted; as we bewilder the masses with our tweeds and silver hipflasks; with our traffic-stopping hats and perfectly pressed trousers or skirts (sometimes, but not always, depending on the sex of the Young Fogey in question) with our haircuts and homes, with our ability to recite the works of our favourite poets for five solid hours. We are a happy band of brothers (and sisters) confident in the belief that, if we do not rule the world, it is the world's misfortune. And we prize our Freedom and Fogeydom above all else.


A combination of the royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton and a Coalition run by public schoolboys has had an interesting side-effect – the return of the Young Fogeys, those young men who wear four-piece tweed suits, read the old Prayer Book and travel around by sit-up-and-beg bicycle, equipped with wicker basket and bicycle clips.

A new society has been set up at Oxford University, called The Young Fogeys of Oxford. They’ve even got their own Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=10150138616045696
It’s run by someone called Kelsey Williams at Balliol, who says, “A brief survey of Balliol men and their acquaintances throughout the university suggests that young fogeydom is alive and well and present everywhere, from Duke Humfrey’s to the college dining societies.”

“It’s hardly the most young fogeyish of things to join a Facebook group, but it’s hoped that this one will let isolated young fogeys know they’re not alone and, perhaps, encourage the continued vibrant cultural of young fogeydom in our glorious university.”

It’s an intriguing sociological phenomenon. In 2003, I wrote an article for the Spectator, saying that the Young Fogey had died.

“They’re playing rap music in the jewellery department at Christie’s South Kensington,” I wrote, “In T.M. Lewin, the Jermyn Street shirtmakers, you can dip into a fridge by the cufflinks counter and have a frozen mini-Mars while you are leafing through the chocolate corduroy jackets. Goodbye, braces with old-fashioned fasteners and trouser waistbands strapped perilously close to the nipple line. Farewell, frockcoats cut for long-dead Victorians. No more the endless pairs of black brogues. Hello, suit of modern cut. Hello, moccasins. Hello, loafers.”

It turns out – to quote Evelyn Waugh, a Fogey deity – that I was preaching a panegyric over an empty coffin.

These things go in cycles. The Young Fogey died out in the 2000s – through a combination of a New Labour government, and a tide of international money that obliterated all talk of monocles, wind-up gramophones and discussions over how many buttons you should have on your jacket cuff. The recession, the anarchists on the streets of London, the collapse of the brave new modern world… all of it sends wistful hearts harking back to a supposed golden age of sound, thornproof tweed jackets, stout brogues and a teddy bear stuffed into the armpit.(By Harry Mount, The Telegraph)











4 comments:

Laguna Beach Fogey said...

Brilliant post.

BruttiBuoni said...

I have this book and it is well read! Your post has made me pull it off my shelf and peruse again.

Winslow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeeves said...

Thank you very much ... indeed ... Yours ... Jeeves