Sunday 30 July 2017

The Nato Strap / G10 Military Nylon Strap

 (…) “Interestingly enough, the term “NATO strap” came into use as a shortened version of NATO Stocking Number (NSN), and otherwise has very little to do with the strap carrying its namesake. The more appropriate name for the “NATO” strap is actually the “G10” — which is how we’ll refer to it from here. In 1973, “Strap, Wrist Watch” made its debut in the British Ministry of Defence Standard (DefStan) 66-15. For soldiers to get their hands on one, they had to fill out a form known as the G1098, or G10 for short. Subsequently, they could retrieve the strap at their unit’s supply store of the same name.

Though DefStan’s name for the strap was decidedly nondescript, its specifications were distinct and specific. MoD-issued G10 straps were nylon, only made in “Admiralty Grey” with a width of 20mm, and had chrome-plated brass buckle and keepers. Another key trait was a second, shorter piece of nylon strap attached to the buckle. Since the strap was to be used by the military, it needed to be functional and fail-safe. The extra nylon had a keeper at its end through which the main part of the strap passed through after it had been looped behind the watch. This created a pocket, limiting the distance the case could move. As long as the strap was passed through properly and snugly on the wrist, the case would stay exactly where it was needed. The bonus feature of a strap that passes behind the watch is there so that in the event that a spring bar breaks or pops out, the case will still be secured by the other spring bar.

Since 1973, the G10 strap has seen only slight modification. The current version has been downsized to 18mm (this is due to the 18mm lugs found on the Cabot Watch Company’s military issue watch) and now has stainless steel hardware. In 1978, a company known as Phoenix took over production of MoD-spec G10 straps; those would be the “real deal” if one were looking for them today.

Not long after the simple “Admiralty Grey” G10 was issued, British military regiments began wearing straps honoring their respective regimental colors with stripes of all colors and combinations. One strap’s stripe pattern has become more famous than all the rest, but to call it a G10 or a NATO strap is actually a misnomer. When Sean Connery’s Bond famously wrist-checked his “Big Crown” reference 6538 Submariner in Goldfinger, he revealed an interestingly striped nylon strap. Aside from being too narrow, the strap was notable because of its navy blue color with red and green stripes. Many watch enthusiasts have labeled this strap as the “Bond NATO.” Despite the strap’s similarities to a G10, Goldfinger began filming in 1964, nine years before the first MoD G10 strap was issued. Timeline issues aside, it’s clear that the strap Connery wore had a very simple one-piece construction, not unlike that of a waist belt, and distinct from a true NATO.

Despite Bond’s trendsetting strap choice, it would be many years before the nylon strap industry would take hold. Like many other trends born from utilitarian military items (M65 Jackets, camouflage, etc.), early G10 strap adopters were attracted to the item’s usefulness and “tacti-cool” street cred. The usefulness is still intact, but now that there are literally hundreds of straps of different colors, stripes and materials sold by vendors around the world, the street cred has become more “faux” than ever. This shouldn’t stop you from wearing one, however. The straps are inexpensive, extremely durable, and can be switched out to fit whatever outfit or mood you’re in. In fact, most watch nerds probably have more G10s than they do watches.

G10s have been heavily trending upwards over the last several years or so. While it may be a fad that eventually fades, they don’t appear to be going away in the short term. Watchmakers like Tudor, Blancpain, Hamilton and Bremont have been either throwing in a G10 as an accessory to a watch purchase, or flat out offering one as the main strap option. The horology purist may scoff at such a thing, but watchmakers would be foolish not to ride the G10 wave; and while they come in varying degrees of quality, a good one is a trustworthy piece of equipment with a rich history.”

Thursday 27 July 2017

Eight Ghosts: The English Heritage Book of New Ghost Stories

With stories by Kate Clanchy, Mark Haddon, Andrew Michael Hurley, Stuart Evers, Max Porter, Sarah Perry, Kamila Shamsie, Jeanette Winterson and an introduction from Andrew Martin.
In the winter of 2016 English Heritage sent some of the UK's finest contemporary writers to stay at different sites of historical importance across the UK. From Max Porter at Eltham Palace to Mark Haddon deep in York's Cold War Bunker their experiences informed their chilling creations. Eight authors, eight ghost stories, eight unsettling, supernatural creations set loose in time for Halloween.
With a foreword by Andrew Martin and fascinating background detail on English Heritage sites and their supernatural legacies, this is a book to be savoured - and read aloud - as the nights draw in this winter.

Not giving up the ghost story … Audley End House, in Essex, which inspired Sarah Perry’s story. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

'A genuinely disturbing place': England's spookiest sites inspire new ghost stories from top writers

The likes of Jeanette Winterson, Mark Haddon and Sarah Perry have penned dark tales of ancient houses and hauntings, spanning the country from Audley End in Essex to York Cold War Bunker

Danuta Kean
Wednesday 19 July 2017 14.55 BST Last modified on Wednesday 19 July 2017 15.58 BST

Beneath Dover Castle, an imposing Gothic bulk atop the chalk hills of the English port, is a labyrinth of tunnels. Dug in the 18th century for troops garrisoned there as a first line of defence against revolutionary France, the tunnels have recently developed a ghostly reputation.

Once a month, English Heritage, which manages the site, evacuates the tunnels for staff to perform sweeps, searching for any of the mysterious figures that tourists have reported seeing. In one report, a heavy door slammed shut and a stretcher trolley, part of a wartime exhibit, raced along the corridor as if pushed by a violent force. In another, a stranger in wartime fatigues approached a small boy asking for his help to find “Helen” (neither man nor his quarry were found).

With such tales coming out from many of its historic sites, it is a little surprising that English Heritage felt it needed to recruit authors to invent new ghost stories. But the charity has commissioned eight – including Jeanette Winterson, Mark Haddon and Sarah Perry – to contribute to Eight Ghosts, a collection of spectral tales set in some of its spookier sites, including Dover Castle, Hadrian’s Wall and Audley End.

Ghost stories and the gothic tend to have a resurgence in the aftermath of periods of rationalism and scientific advance
Sarah Perry
“The castles and stately homes of England have long inspired ghostly myths and legends,” says English Heritage editor Bronwen Riley. “After all, white ladies, cursed souls and headless apparitions all need somewhere fitting to haunt.”

Some of the authors did not have to travel far from their own geographical origins. Glaswegian Kate Clanchy chose Housesteads Roman Fort on Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland, while Perry chose Audley End in Essex, which she visited as a child. Others chose more unusual settings: Haddon used the York Cold War Bunker – described by English Heritage as its “most modern and spine-chilling” site – while Jeanette Winterson selected Pendennis Castle, Cornwall.

 Ruins of the barnsUNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 15: Ruins of the barns, Housesteads Roman Fort, Hadrian’s Wall (Unesco World Heritage List, 1987), Northumberland, England, United Kingdom. Roman civilisation, 2nd century. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Location is vital to a good ghost story, and ancient houses and abandoned barracks are standard tropes in a genre that has deep roots in English architecture; from Mr Lockwood’s bedroom in Wuthering Heights to the Dartmoor manor in Catherine Fisher’s Chronoptika series. As Andrew Michael Hurley, author of horror novel The Loney and, in Eight Ghosts, a story set in the dungeons of Carlisle Castle, says: “Buildings, like ghosts, are things that endure beyond the usual human span of life. They are the theatres in which the past may be replayed.”

Kamila Shamsie saw the ruins of Kenilworth Castle as “like a bombed-out building”, making them a perfect backdrop to her tale of the castle’s night security guard, who has arrived in England from an unnamed war-torn country and is facing the horrors of his past through the prism of a night in which the events may be real or imagined.

“I drew very much on the ghost stories that the English Heritage staff at Kenilworth told me – stories of voices from behind locked doors, presences felt in the kitchen,” the Burnt Shadows author says. A specific architectural feature of the building niggled her imagination, she adds: “I noticed that the guidebook kept referring to unusually large windows built into Kenilworth Castle through the centuries – it raised the question: did they want to let in the light or were they afraid of something in the dark?”

 Elizabethan Gardens Open At Kenilworth Castle After ReconstructionKENILWORTH, ENGLAND - APRIL 30: Historic interpreters Hilary Janewood and Charles Neville re-enact a meeting between Queen Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester in the new Elizabethan Gardens in the grounds of Kenilworth Castle on April 30, 2009 in Kenilworth, England. English Heritage has reconstructed the pleasure gardens created by Robert Dudley the Earl of Leicester which he built to impress and court Queen Elizabeth I over 400 years ago. The garden has painstakingly been re-created with the aid of archaeology and historic notes and cost over GBP 2.1 million. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Historic interpreters re-enact a meeting between Queen Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester in the grounds of Kenilworth Castle. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The architecture of ghost stories is based in the landscape of memory, whether real or imagined, which often means they contain a dreamlike quality – think of the nightmarish glimpse of the sheet-wrapped ghost in MR James’s Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You My Lad. Perry, who visited the Great Hall at Audley End for the first time in 20 years for her story, had this uncanny feeling while gazing at the Jacobean splendour: “I thought I’d forgotten it all – but there was the yew hedge looking like black stormclouds, and the fire buckets hanging from the ceiling, as if I remembered it all from a dream.”

There are creepy exceptions to the gothic homes and castle ruins: the York Cold War Bunker may be a modern structure, but Haddon calls it “a genuinely disturbing place … It was in use during my lifetime in the expectation that the majority of the human race might be burned from the surface of the earth,” he says. “You don’t get that kind of frisson at Kenilworth Castle.”

 York Cold War Bunker was in active service from the 1960s-90s and was designed as a nerve-centre to monitor fall-out in the event of a nuclear attack.

York Cold War Bunker was in active service from the 1960s-90s and was designed as a nerve-centre to monitor fall-out in the event of a nuclear attack. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The popularity of ghost stories has been tied to societal change: in Victorian times, with their servants suddenly popping out of hidden passages around their creaky, gaslit houses, and spiritualism coming into vogue, the middle classes marvelled at the ghostly possibilities of new technologies such as radio and telephones, setting new parameters for what was possible. Their popularity today, Perry believes, reflects the insecurities of our age. “Ghost stories and the gothic tend to have something of a resurgence in the aftermath of periods of rationalism and scientific advance, as if the reader sighs and thinks: wouldn’t it be nice if there was more to it all than this?” she says.

Haddon believes this hunger, for something beyond what is provable, is what drives writers to the genre. The self-proclaimed “ardent materialist” says: “I think a lot of literature is driven by a desire to find some kind of doorway into that other place. To look at it another way, isn’t the function of all fiction to bring the dead to life?”

Eight Ghosts: The English Heritage Book of New Ghost Stories is published in October 2017 by September Publishing.

Tuesday 25 July 2017

William Crockford's St James's Club

Crockford was born 13 January 1776 in Temple Bar, London, the son of a fishmonger, and for some time himself carried on that business. He married firstly (1801) Mary Lockwood and secondly (20 May 1812 St George's Hanover Square) Sarah Frances Douglass. After winning a large sum of money (according to one story, £100,000) either at cards or by running a gambling establishment, he built a luxurious gambling house designed by Benjamin and Philip Wyatt at 50-53 St James's Street in 1827. In order to ensure exclusiveness, he organized the house as a members' club under the name "The St James's Club" though popularly known as "Crockford's Club" and it quickly became the rage – every English social celebrity and every distinguished foreigner visiting London hastened to become a member. Even the Duke of Wellington joined, though it is alleged this was in order merely to blackball his son, Lord Douro, should he seek election. Hazard was the favourite game, and very large sums changed hands.

Crockford retired in 1840, when, in the expressive language of Captain Rees Howell Gronow, he had "won the whole of the ready money of the then existing generation." He took approximately £1,200,000 out of the club, but subsequently invested some of it unwisely, particularly with two of his sons and one daughter (Henry, Charles and Fanny Crockford) in mining and zinc manufacturing in Greenfield, Flintshire, Wales. Crockford died at his home 11 Carlton House Terrace (later Prime Minister Gladstone's home) on 24 May 1844. and lies buried in a family vault underneath Kensal Green Cemetery Chapel London

Crockford's, the popular name for William Crockford's St James's Club was a London gentlemen's club, now dissolved. It was established in 1823, closed in 1845, re-founded in 1928 and closed in 1970. One of London's older clubs, it was centred on gambling and maintained a somewhat raffish and raucous reputation. It was founded by William Crockford who employed Benjamin Wyatt and Philip Wyatt to construct the city's most opulent palace of gentlemanly pleasure, which opened in November 1827 and he employed two of London's finest chefs of the time, Louis Eustache Ude and then Charles Elmé Francatelli to feed its members, food and drink being supplied free after midnight.

From 1823, the club leased 50 St. James's Street, and then nos. 51–53, which enabled Crockford to pull down all four houses and build his palatial club on the site. After the club's closure, this continued to be used as a clubhouse, at first briefly by the short-lived Military, Naval and County Service Club, and then between 1874 and 1976 it was home to the Devonshire Club.

“The Georgian Art of Gambling takes readers on a wild tour through high and low society in Georgian England to reveal all aspects of the widespread love of gambling. From detailed accounts of the fashionable card and dice games of the day, as played in fine homes and gambling houses alike, to wagering on blood sports like cockfighting and bull baiting, and such less gruesome affairs as boxing and cricket, Claire Cock-Starkey brings to life the world of Jane Austen; Beau Brummel; Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire; and more. We see aristocrats ruined by the turn of a card; activists mounting antigambling campaigns through pamphlets, broadsides, and legislation; and the devious machinations of card sharps and dice loaders. Cock-Starkey also offers rules and descriptions for a number of games that have fallen out of favor, along with copious anecdotes and facts about the culture of chance in Regency England.”

Thursday 20 July 2017

Churchill tried to suppress Nazi plot to restore Edward VIII to British throne / VIDEO: Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson - Interview with Kenneth Harris (video)

Churchill tried to suppress Nazi plot to restore Edward VIII to British throne

PM sought US and French help to withhold publication of telegrams revealing German overtures to Duke and Duchess of Windsor, cabinet papers reveal

Edward and Wallis Simpson are greeted by Adolf Hitler during a visit to Nazi Germany in 1937.

Alan Travis Home affairs editor
Thursday 20 July 2017 10.01 BST Last modified on Thursday 20 July 2017 17.20 BST

Winston Churchill wanted “to destroy all traces” of telegrams revealing a Nazi plot to reinstate the former King Edward VIII to the British throne in return for his support during the second world war, newly released cabinet papers have revealed.

The telegrams document Nazi plans to kidnap the Duke of Windsor – the title granted to Edward following his abdication in 1936 – and his wife, Wallis Simpson, when they reached Portugal after fleeing their Paris home when France fell to German forces in 1940.

The Cabinet Office file published on Thursday by the National Archives reveals how Churchill appealed to the US president, Dwight Eisenhower, and the French government to prevent publication of the intercepted German telegrams for “at least 10 or 20 years”.

Churchill, the UK prime minister, said the captured German telegrams offering Edward the British throne in the event of a Nazi invasion of Britain were “tendentious and unreliable” and likely to leave the misleading impression that the duke “was in close touch with German agents and was listening to suggestions that were disloyal”.

Churchill made his appeal to Eisenhower after learning that a microfilm copy of the telegrams, which were found in German archives at the end of the war, had been sent to the US State Department and were being considered for inclusion in the official US history of the conflict.

Eisenhower told Churchill on 2 July 1953 that US intelligence shared his assessment that the communications were “obviously concocted with some idea of promoting German propaganda and weakening western resistance” and were “totally unfair” to the duke.

Churchill told the US president that fears for the duke’s safety had led to his appointment as governor of the Bahamas, part of “strenuous efforts to get him away from Europe beyond the reach of the enemy”.

The German telegrams claim that the duke and duchess reacted with surprise when it was suggested to them that Edward might yet have another opportunity to take the throne. “Both seem to be completely bound up in formalistic ways of thought since they replied that according to British constitution this was not possible after abdication,” one telegram says. “When [an] agent then remarked the course of war may produce changes even in the British constitution the Duchess in particular became very thoughtful.”

Churchill told cabinet on 12 August 1953, in a top secret memorandum, that the duke had no knowledge of the telegrams. “The late King [George VI], who had seen the documents, confined himself to insisting that if publication could not be avoided, the Duke of Windsor should be given full and timely warning,” the papers reveal.

Churchill succeeded only in delaying the publication of the telegrams for a few years. When they did come to light, in 1957, duke denounced them as “complete fabrications”.

• This article was amended on 20 July 2017. Due to an editing error, an earlier version incorrectly said that Edward VIII abdicated in 1938. This has been corrected. The picture caption said that in 1937 Edward was later to become King Edward VIII. This has also been corrected.

Kenneth Harris interviews HRH Duke of Windsor, the former King Edward VIII, and his spouse Wallis, Duchess of Windsor

Monday 17 July 2017

Dunkirk review

Dunkirk review – Christopher Nolan's apocalyptic war epic is his best film so far
5 / 5 stars
    Nolan eschews war porn for a powerful and superbly crafted disaster movie – starring Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy and a decent Harry Styles – with a story to tell

Peter Bradshaw
Monday 17 July 2017 21.00 BST Last modified on Monday 17 July 2017 22.14 BST

Britain’s great pyrrhic defeat or inverse victory of 1940 has been brought to the screen as a terrifying, shattering spectacle by Christopher Nolan. He plunges you into the chaotic evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from northern France after the catastrophic battle of Dunkirk –helped by the now legendary flotilla of small civilian craft. It is part disaster movie, part compressed war epic, and all horribly appropriate for these Brexit times.

Nolan’s Dunkirk has that kind of blazing big-screen certainty that I last saw in James Cameron’s Titanic or Paul Greengrass’s United 93. It is very different to his previous feature, the bafflingly overhyped sci-fi convolution Interstellar. This is a powerful, superbly crafted film with a story to tell, avoiding war porn in favour of something desolate and apocalyptic, a beachscape of shame, littered with soldiers zombified with defeat, a grimly male world with hardly any women on screen.

It is Nolan’s best film so far. It also has Hans Zimmer’s best musical score: an eerie, keening, groaning accompaniment to a nightmare, switching finally to quasi-Elgar variations for the deliverance itself. Zimmer creates a continuous pantonal lament, which imitates the dive bomber scream and queasy turning of the tides, and it works in counterpoint to the deafening artillery and machine-gun fire that pretty much took the fillings out of my teeth and sent them in a shrapnel fusillade all over the cinema auditorium.

The film is, of course, on a massive Nolanesque scale. The Battle of Dunkirk is traditionally seen in terms of a miraculous underdog littleness that somehow redeemed the disaster. The plucky small boats countered the memory of a British army dwarfed by Wehrmacht strategy and a British establishment humiliated by the suspicion that it was only Hitler’s miscalculation or mysterious realpolitik in halting the German advance that permitted the evacuation in the first place. A different kind of Dunkirk movie might have included High Command scenes in Berlin showing the generals arguing with the Führer about precisely this. Maybe Nolan didn’t want his film hijacked by a lot of satirical fake-subtitle YouTubers.

The event itself entered Britain’s pop-cultural bloodstream after the war by way of the opening titles to TV’s Dad’s Army, with its Nazi map-arrows pushing north and the Flanagan theme inspired by Leslie Norman’s 1958 film Dunkirk, starring John Mills and Richard Attenborough. But Nolan is not having any morale-raising laughter or chirpiness. His disaster is big; the stakes are high, the anxiety is unbearable.

We are forced into eardrum-perforating action straight away. A squaddie named Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) scrambles desperately to the beach through the Dunkirk streets under heavy fire and sees the bad-dream panorama in front of him: hundreds of thousands of stranded French and British soldiers waiting all over the sand. Corpses are being buried there. There are no ships to rescue them and – apparently – no air cover to prevent them being picked off. Tommy is to come into contact with fellow soldier, Alex (Harry Styles, making a perfectly strong acting debut). Meanwhile, RAF pilot Farrier (Tom Hardy) is, in fact, engaging the enemy overhead and taking desperate risks with fuel. A grizzled naval officer played by Kenneth Branagh – channelling Jack Hawkins in The Cruel Sea (1953) – broodingly scans the horizon. And on the home front, a Mr Dawson, laconically played by Mark Rylance, takes his little cruiser, joins the people’s armada, encounters a traumatised officer (Cillian Murphy) and endures a terrible sacrifice, which he lives to see mythologised and falsified by the press.

In military terms, Dunkirk is almost entirely static for most of its running time: the battle is over before the film has begun, and there is no narrative context of the sort offered in Leslie Norman’s version. Nolan surrounds his audience with chaos and horror from the outset, and amazing images and dazzlingly accomplished set pieces on a huge 70mm screen, particularly the pontoon crammed with soldiers extending into the churning sea, exposed to enemy aircraft. It is an architectural expression of doomed homeward yearning. There is a tremendous image when some of the soldiers do manage to scramble aboard a destroyer, and are welcomed with tea and that now vanished treat, bread-and-jam, and so tiny rectangles of red surreally speckle the grey-and-khaki picture. It is also persuasively horrible when soldiers wait by the surf’s edge, which has become a lapping scummy froth, as if these are the survivors of some horrible natural disaster.

Christopher Nolan might have found some inspiration from the Dunkirk scene in Joe Wright’s 2007 movie Atonement, but otherwise he brings his own colossal and very distinctive confidence to this story. It’s a visceral piece of film-making.

Saturday 15 July 2017


14 JUIL 2017

j’ai la joie de vous annoncer officiellement, avec presque deux ans de retard, que mon livre “The Italian Gentleman” est depuis quelques semaines chez l’imprimeur et qu’il sera disponible dans les librairies du monde entier le 26 octobre 2017.
Afin de bien clarifier les choses en termes d’édition (et d’éditeurs), ce livre verra tout d’abord le jour en langue anglaise (donc en édition originale) chez deux éditeurs majeurs : Thames & Hudson à Londres et Rizzoli à New York. Les deux éditions sont identiques, sauf la couverture qui sera très légèrement différente. Thames & Hudson (mon éditeur principal) couvrira prioritairement les marchés européens, moyen et extrême orientaux tandis que Rizzoli couvrira prioritairement le marché nord-américain.
L’année prochaine, en 2018, trois autres éditions sont prévues : une édition en langue française (avec a priori un contenu photographique légèrement différent et la publication de nombreuses photos inédites), une édition en langue italienne et une autre en langue allemande.
Les pré-commandes de l’édition originale sont d’ores et déjà ouvertes chez comme vous pouvez le constater en suivant ce lien : The Italian Gentleman
Comme vous pouvez vous en douter, et au vu de l’immense investissement personnel et financier que ce volume a représenté pour mon équipe, pour mon camarade Lyle Roblin (photographe du livre) et pour moi-même, toute pré-commande de votre part sera la bienvenue et sera très (très) appréciée.
L’événement de lancement et de dédicace du livre aura lieu au mois de novembre à Paris dans un lieu très prestigieux. La date et le lieu de l’événement vous seront révélés dans ces colonnes durant les premiers jours de septembre.
En attendant, et pour vous remercier de votre patience et de votre fidélité, j’ai le plaisir de partager avec vous aujourd’hui en exclusivité la préface intégrale du livre en langue française.
En espérant que ce premier paragraphe vous donne envie de faire l’acquisition du livre, je vous donne rendez-vous en novembre pour une soirée de dédicace qui s’annonce d’ores et déjà comme exceptionnelle.

par Hugo Jacomet
Photographies Lyle Roblin
Ce livre constitue, de très loin, le projet le plus long, le plus excitant, le plus exigeant, le plus émouvant mais aussi, et surtout, le plus complexe de ma vie d’auteur, de chroniqueur de l’élégance masculine classique et peut-être, l’avenir me le dira, de ma vie d’homme tout entière.
Si j’utilise ici, à dessein, le terme complexe, si cher à Edgard Morin, c’est qu’il décrit à merveille ce projet éditorial extravagant qui aura occupé presque trois années de mon existence.
J’étais parfaitement conscient, au moment où j’ai accepté d’écrire ce livre, que la tâche consistant à tenter de rendre compte de l’apport exceptionnel de l’Italie à l’élégance des hommes, surtout depuis les années 50, serait compliquée. Mais je n’imaginais pas un seul instant que la tentative de décrypter, à défaut d’expliquer, le style italien masculin dans toutes ses dimensions, tout son foisonnement et tout son génie, demanderait autant d’efforts et, oserais-je le dire, autant de sacrifices.
Je savais, dès le début du projet, qu’il me faudrait passer un peu de temps de l’autre côté des Alpes afin d’approfondir ma connaissance, que je considérais par ailleurs comme déjà excellente, du sujet. Pourtant après quelques semaines seulement en Lombardie, à Rome et dans la baie de Naples j’ai vite compris que j’avais très largement surestimé mon expertise dans le domaine et que mener – vraiment- à bien cette entreprise allait me prendre du temps. Beaucoup de temps.
Au début de l’année 2015, en pleine période de finition de mon premier livre « The Parisian Gentleman », deux choix s’offrent alors à moi.
Soit je décide d’écrire le livre depuis mon bureau parisien avec les outils d’aujourd’hui (comprenez l’internet et les e-mails) en demandant à mon ami le talentueux photographe Lyle Roblin, canadien de naissance et milanais d’adoption, d’effectuer des prises de vue dans certaines maisons – tailleurs, chemisiers, bottiers, fabricants d’accessoires – sélectionnées par mes soins.
Soit je prends le risque de me lancer à corps perdu dans une entreprise déraisonnable à tous points de vue (surtout économique) et de produire cet ouvrage « à l’ancienne », en m’installant – littéralement – avec Sonya mon épouse adorée, en Italie pour une année entière (qui se transformera, finalement, en presque deux années) et de sillonner le pays sans relâche à la recherche des meilleurs artisans oeuvrant, en pleine lumière ou dans l’obscurité, à l’élégance des gentlemen du monde entier.
Le livre que vous tenez aujourd’hui entre les mains est donc le fruit de ces deux années d’immersion totale au cœur de l’Italie de l’élégance masculine : plus de 100 ateliers, boutiques, usines, showrooms visités un par un, plus de 70 diners aussi gargantuesques que sympathiques de Biella à Rome, de Milan à Naples, de Florence à Bologne, plus de 15 000 prises de vue effectuées par mon complice Lyle, sans qui ce livre n’aurait jamais vu le jour, probablement plus de 4000 kilomètres parcourus dans la bien-nommée « botte » italienne en voiture, en train, en avion, en taxi, en Vespa et à pied et, finalement, plus de cinquante maisons choisies, étudiées, photographiées et chroniquées dans cet Italian Gentleman intégralement produit « à la main » et qui, je l’espère, vous servira de guide dans cet immense labyrinthe aussi fascinant que déroutant de l’élégance à l’italienne.
A l’instar de mon précédent ouvrage « The Parisian Gentleman », ce livre n’a pas pour objectif de constituer un catalogue exhaustif et parfait de toutes les maisons transalpines spécialisées dans l’art tailleur et bottier. Dix livres n’y suffiraient sans doute pas. Cet « Italian Gentleman » n’a pas non plus la prétention de raconter avec une précision académique l’histoire du tailoring Italien, de ses racines et de tous ses acteurs, car cela demanderait le travail d’une vie entière pour le faire correctement.
Ce voyage au cœur de l’Italie de l’élégance masculine est plus simplement le compte-rendu d’un voyage personnel de deux ans m’ayant conduit des showrooms les plus luxueux aux ateliers les plus sommaires, des palaces les plus rutilants aux sous-sols les plus crasseux et des usines les plus chirurgicalement organisées aux salons de maitres-tailleurs ayant appris leur art dans les années 30 et 40 et produisant encore dans leur propre salle à manger des vêtements comme plus personne n’en réalise sur terre.
C’est de cet amalgame anarchique, de cette sédimentation complexe, de cette histoire fabuleuse, mais que personne ne raconte de la même manière de l’autre côté des Alpes, que j’ai tenté de rendre compte avec ce livre.
Deux années à essayer de trouver son chemin dans un tel foisonnement humain, cela vous change un homme. En ce qui me concerne, je ne serai plus jamais le même, et pas uniquement parce que depuis un certain séjour de quatre mois à Naples, je parle désormais avec les mains…
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Pré-commande du livre disponible sur Amazon : The Italian Gentleman
304 pages, 447 photos originales.