26 October 2007

The Importance of Buttonholes

As you know, I am not a big fan of three-button, undarted sack suits. Why? They look too boxy, too square, too American on me. The presence of darts on a suit jacket simply does not cause me to lose sleep. I find a traditional two-button, darted jacket in an English cut provides a nice frame for my broad chest and athletic build. However, there is something about the look of a traditional three-button jacket that I like, especially after I have consumed a glass of Glenfiddich or three and thoughts turn to rainy mornings, cold autumn days, and stone fireplaces set in country cottages in Connecticut. For me, the key is the placement of the top buttonhole on the roll of the lapel.Note how the top buttonhole on this three-button Southwick sack suit above is partly obscured by the high lapel roll. In fact, it is barely visible. This Southwick jacket, therefore, to my mind, is rendered indistinguishable from any number of common three-button monstrosities found in mall stores, and would look entirely appropriate with a stripey shirt and a pair of Kenneth Cole square-toed shoes.
The top buttonhole on this three-button, flannel Samuelsohn suit jacket above is distinctive and bold. The traditional lapel, rolled to the second button, exposes the top buttonhole and allows it to shine in all its glory. And yet, we should remind ourselves, it is superfluous, which is not a bad thing. I happen to like this look, to the extent that I am considering acquiring a three-button suit, blazer, or odd jacket with a similar buttonhole arrangement.

24 October 2007

The Man in the J.Press Suit

Pirate Slipper Dreams

A recent action pic of my pair of pirate slippers from Stubbs & Wootton. These are the slippers of which slipper dreams are made. Featuring a high vamp design, these handcrafted, leather-soled gems were made in Northampton, England, and took 3 months to complete. I have to say, they were well worth the wait. I mostly wear them in the evenings with a Viyella robe whilst enjoying a glass of Dewar's and an Avo Robusto. They are equally suited to intimate cocktail gatherings, where I combine them with a blue BB OCBD, v-neck sweater in navy cashmere, and chestnut cords. Without socks, of course. Decadence defined.


I like a good Fez just as much as the next chap. The Fez originated not in the Muslim world, as some would have it, but in ancient Greece. The Byzantine Greeks, of whom Robert Byron wrote so eloquently and passionately in The Byzantine Achievement (1929), were devoted to the Fez. The Ottoman Turks appropriated the style during their conquest of the Balkans in the 19th Century, and it is the Turks with whom the Fez is most commonly associated. The Fez has long been worn by certain military units, especially those recruited from colonial populations in Africa, the Near East, and India. Today the Fez remains an underappreciated item of headgear, and, sadly, is used in popular entertainment to ridiculous effect to indicate a comic character or situation. Should you wish to purchase your own Fez, inquire with your local haberdashery. I acquired my first Fez as a gift from a young Syrian Muslim woman with whom I was once romantically involved. Pair your Fez with facial hair accessories, as in the photo above, or with tobacco accoutrements such as a pipe or cigar. I like to wear my Fez whilst sporting a Viyella robe and pirate slippers from Stubbs & Wootton.

23 October 2007

Holiday in Pretoria

By 1999, I had achieved a successful Wall Street career in the mortgage-backed securities (MBS) market. But I wanted a break. So I went to South Africa, a move I had been intending to make for years. I went in part to write, to conduct academic research, and to pursue paramilitary training. And, to be perfectly honest, to look for adventure. South Africa was then, as it is now, undergoing a process of black-on-white crime and ethnic cleansing, and I thought I could play a part in addressing it. Shortly before I arrived in the country, a white Namibian female student at the University of Pretoria had been abducted and raped by a dozen or so local blacks. It was horrific events such as this that, to me, called out for a direct response.

I settled in Pretoria. Through some contacts in Afrikaner political circles, I rented a large villa in Hatfield, a Pretoria suburb. I traded in my Brooks Brothers shirts, J.Press suits, and Alfred Sargent brogues for khaki bush shirts, fatigues, moleskin jeans, and Veldschoen. I grew my hair long and stopped shaving. I tanned and my hair became blonder in the African sun. I took Afrikaans lessons from pretty blonde girls at the University of Pretoria, where I also attended seminars at the Institute for Strategic Studies.

A short walk away was McGinty's, a bar popular with local residents and University of Pretoria students. There I got to know the bartender, a short, muscular white guy with a thin moustache. He had once worked in the mines, he told me, where he had led a mine gang. He said his blacks were lazy workers with a mañana attitude and constantly complained about racism. Tending bar was a better job. One afternoon, as a group of rowdy students was making noise and irritating customers at the bar, I saw him calmly walk up to the biggest, tallest student in the group and lay him out flat on the ground with a right hook to the nose. Blood and broken glass were scattered about the floor. I was impressed.

At McGinty's I met a short, well-built, shaven-headed Irishman in a short-sleeved shirt and brown boots. He said he was an ex-soldier. He looked it. He had moved to South Africa as a young boy in the mid-1980s with his parents, who had wanted to escape the Irish troubles. They must have realised later, I thought to myself, that things were much worse in South Africa. He had served in an artillery unit in the SADF and had seen fighting in the border war in Namibia and Angola. He sounded bitter. He asked me what tourist sites I had visited and I told him most of them. He said I should visit some of the farms east of the city. "Right-wingers are storing nuclear weapons in underground silos on those farms," he told me.

22 October 2007

The Impossibility of Love

Beware a hard heart, was the advice given by Giuseppe di Lampedusa to his adopted son. It was not something she had managed to avoid. The constant couplings and ruttings, the one-night stands, this was the modern way of love. As a result, her heart had been broken many times. Her heart turned in on itself and became so tight and twisted and gnarled, it had lost all feeling. It was now almost completely numb. When she thought about it, which was often, she imagined it to be cold, clammy, and hard like a leftover pork roast or a greasy chunk of honey-glazed ham in the fridge. Her heart had scarred over and it was now impossible for her to love.

18 October 2007

Economic Forecast 2008

One of my correspondents, a Laguna Beach-based private banker, recently attended a luncheon for high net worth investors featuring a talk given by Dr. Abidi, an economic forecaster based at a local university. There were several dozen people in attendance, including a few celebrities, while the majority consisted of investors, private bankers, investment professionals, and real estate developers.

As expected, Dr. Abidi presented a fairly bleak picture, though nothing he said should surprise us. With job growth and consumer spending down, and unemployment up, the next 2-5 years will be critical. Dr. Abidi's brief talk focused on the housing market, a subject on everyone's mind at the moment, especially here in Southern California. Home prices will continue to fall throughout 2008. He is predicting a a drop in local housing prices next year of almost 7%. The non-residential real estate market is still strong, he pointed out, but it will soon cool as well.

When asked where does he see investment opportunity, Dr. Abidi discussed international investments, particularly emerging markets. A weaker dollar currently makes foreign equities and currencies very attractve. Plus, foreign economies are enjoying higher growth than the US economy, which, he emphasised, was poised for lower growth in the next few years. I happen to agree with this assessment. Most of the investors of my acquaintance are moving their money into international funds, ADRs, or non-correlated alternative investments, including hedge funds and commodities.

The sartorial choices on display at the luncheon were varied. For the most part, local investors wore variations on a theme of navy blazer or tweed sport jacket, khakis, and loafers. A few youngsters sported striped shirts and square-toed shoes. The private banking contingent were mostly kitted out in ill-fitting navy suits. Tassel loafers from Cole Haan, Sperry, and Bass were in abundance, and most were worn with suits. One older gentleman was spotted wearing a pink OCBD, navy surcingle belt with a Bahamian crest motif, flat-front khakis, and brown-and-white saddle shoes. His companion was wearing a Vineyard Vines checked shirt.

17 October 2007

Not A Gentleman

"I myself am not a gentleman. If I were, I would almost certainly not be writing this book, for one of the marks of a gentleman is that he seldom mentions the question of gentility, whether in application to others or to himself. There are a number of reasons why I am not a gentleman, some of which will become abundantly plain in the pages of this book; but chief among them is that I have no sense of obligation. I am happy to enjoy privilege: I am also prone to evade or even totally to ignore its implicit commitments. This defect would not necessarily disqualify me from being "upper class", but it does mean that I can never be a gentleman, which is a very different thing."

Simon Raven, The English Gentleman (1961)

16 October 2007

Miles Palmer-Wilson

One of my favourite photographs. It is of my mother's brother, Miles. Educated at Eton and Oxford, where he read PPE, Miles trained as a barrister. He gave it all up to travel around the world. By the time Miles settled down, my parents had undergone a divorce. My father, an investment banker, threw himself into a career on Wall Street, whilst my mother split for a drug-infested hippy commune outside San Francisco. I was sent to live with Miles at his house in London and farms in Berkshire and Connecticut. Miles surfed competitively and won the Rondebosch International Surf Invitational held at Jameson Bay in South Africa in 1965. In this photograph he is pictured with his first wife, Jani, the daughter of a prominent Rhodesian Front politician. Miles today divides his time between a house near the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and an estate in Fairfield County, Connecticut, where he spends his days beagling and trout fishing. He is known throughout the East Coast for the cut of his Tweed. I look back on my time with Uncle Miles with appreciation and affectionate regard.

15 October 2007

German Hunting Rifle

A recent photograph taken on safari outside Oyster Bay, near Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Note the khaki Purdey bush shirt and chestnut moleskin trousers from J.L. Powell. In this photo I am pictured using a 6.5x54 Mannlicher-Schoenauer hunting rifle. The long 160 grain bullets used here have a very high sectional density. The frangible soft points provide lightning quick kills on small buck, such as impala or gazelle, and on local ruffians.

10 October 2007

Templer College

Whilst looking through some papers, I found this old photograph of my boarding school, Templer College. I have fond memories of the place. In the photo above, you can see the main building at centre, and attached to it at right is Lancaster House, where I boarded. At the upper right of the picture you can just make out the window of the room where I lived during my third year there. That is the very window from which I made my evening excursions, as president of the Templer College Stegophily Society (TCSS). A quiet, well-behaved student, I was prone to occasional bouts of furtiveness and quiet seething. Still, my solitary yet affable nature engendered a measure of affection in my fellow students, for which I am still grateful. Favourite subjects were History and Mathematics, while French occupied a special place in my adolescent thoughts due to the attractions of the French teacher, Mlle. Delphine. Despite my involvement in what later became known as the Mayonnaise Affair, about which even now I am reluctant to talk openly, and which led to my expulsion from Templer, my years there were amongst the happiest of my life.

V & A Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa

In a sports bar brimming with rugby fans I met a floppy-haired Irishman, Andy, and his South African wife, Catherine. Small, dark, sweet Catherine. Andy came from a good family. From his accent and demeanor I surmised he was public school educated. He owned a landscaping business in Cape Town and had married Catherine, he explained to me, so he could stay in the country. Andy liked to drink, so we got on well. While he explained to me the different beers to be found in Southern Africa, I glanced at his wife and noticed her gazing at him with what can only be described as a look of love in her dark, shining eyes. I wondered if Andy had noticed. His business was doing well, he said, but he was having trouble with some of his black workers who were often drunk or in gaol. Andy and Catherine recently had spent a few months travelling in a van, camping and sight-seeing on the way to Namibia. They brought along a loaded pistol.

09 October 2007

Harbour Island, Bahamas

A recent photo taken at Harbour Island, Bahamas. I am using the railing to steady myself, having just consumed a dozen large G&Ts. Note the single-breasted bespoke linen jacket with peak lapels, navy knit tie from Brooks Brothers, and pocket square. Shortly after this photograph was taken, I passed out in the sand. When I awoke later that evening, I discovered someone had nicked my Persols.

Soft Totalitarianism

As society in the modern West becomes more totalitarian, it will be even harder to make meaningful human connections and live a worthwhile life of the spirit. The trends of the age are against it. Modernity rejects the duality of existence: good/evil, right/wrong, male/female, black/white, etc. The egalitarian impulse seeks to eliminate difference, particularism, diversity. In short, it is at war with human nature, with Man himself. The goal of the modern project is the destruction of every form of tradition and community known to Western man. The ties that bind a man to God, a man to a woman, a man to his family, a man to his people, a man to his neighbour -- all of these must be destroyed. Total war has been declared on nature in her every manifestation. In the end there can be no shelter, no refuge, and we will lie exposed and alone beneath the searching lights.

08 October 2007

Hedge Fund Style

The term 'hedge fund style' is typically used to refer to a hedge fund's investment strategy. Some examples include special situation, macro, long/short, emerging markets, or convertible arb. The hedge funds with which I am involved use a market neutral and PIPE approach. But here I am referring to the sartorial style of hedge fund professionals themselves.

When it comes to clothing, hedge fund professionals are not a terribly creative bunch. From my observations, I note they are fond of oxford cloth button-down shirts (OCBDs), flat-front khakis, and loafers. That's about it. Loafers include Allen-Edmonds, Tod's, Ferragamo, and Gucci. Suits are for bankers, not hedgies, and sports jackets and blazers are reserved for special occasions. Ties? Don't be ridiculous. It is true, some hedge fund executives are drawn to trendier clothing, such as Armani and Boss. These chaps often possess pushy, aggressive personalities and see themselves as mavericks, operating outside the system. Their social insecurities make them eschew more traditional clothing items, especially those associated with understated Ivy League or British styles, in favour of the flashier brands.

I recently met with several hedge funds in San Francisco. While standing outside Tadich Grill waiting for my limo, I spied two gentlemen on the street sporting a classic look. The first gentleman was wearing a 2-button, single-breasted, grey chalk striped suit, pink OCBD dress shirt, blue-ish tie, and chestnut tan tassel loafers by Alden or Brooks Brothers. The other man was wearing a classic 2-button, single-breasted navy suit, white dress shirt, red Brooks Brothers repp tie, and black tassel loafers. A fairly unimaginative look, I know, but somehow the addition of tassel loafers gave it a cavalier appeal. That same morning, walking along Montgomery, I saw a young gentleman wearing a tweed sports jacket, flannels, brown suede brogues, and a trilby. These were not hedge fund professionals. More likely, lawyers or bankers.

07 October 2007

A Definition of Love

"A man falls in love because there is something wrong with him. It is not so much a matter of his health as it is of his mental climate; as, in winter one longs for the spring. He gets so that he can’t stand being alone. He may imagine he wants children, but he doesn’t, at least not as women do. Because once married and with children of his own, he longs to be alone again.

A man who falls in love is a sick man, he has a kind of what used to be called green sickness. Before he’s in love he’s in a weak condition, for which the only prognosis, and he is only too aware of this, is that he will go on living. And, in his invalidism he doesn’t feel he can go on living alone. It is not until after his marriage that he really knows how wrong or sick he has been.

The love one feels is not made for one but made by one. It comes from a lack in oneself. It is a deficiency, and therefore, a certifiable disease.

We are all animals, and therefore, we are continually being attracted. That this attraction should extend to what is called love is a human misfortune cultivated by novelists. It is the horror we feel of ourselves, that is of being alone with ourselves, which draws us to love, but this love should happen only once, and never be repeated, if we have, as we should, learnt our lesson, which is that we are, all and each one of us, always and always alone."

Surviving, Henry Green


“Just don’t delude yourself that you’re safe. Anything can happen. Life is a treacherous quicksand with no guarantee of safety anywhere. We can only try to grab what happiness we can before we are swept off into oblivion.”

The Cardinals, Bessie Head

Windhoek, Namibia

On my way up the southwest coast of Africa I stayed with an English-speaking South African couple living in Windhoek, Namibia. They had fled South Africa in the early 1990s during apartheid. They felt welcome in this country. The land here resembled Arizona or Southern California. They owned a large, gated house in the suburbs. It was a compound. Their neighbourhood was one of dusty streets, big fenced-in villas, and enormous guard dogs, trained to bark at blacks, called Boerbulls . Every morning when I awoke I would explore the library whilst they sipped tea and watched CNN. The conversations proceeded smoothly, until one day I asked about Namibia under Sam Nujoma. I figured the Nujoma regime would go the way of Zimbabwe under Mugabe. They stopped talking to me after that and ignored me for the rest of my stay. Soon afterwards I moved to a German guesthouse in the centre of the city. At night I sat on leather sofas in front of the stone fireplace, sharing beers and Cape wines with local farmers and businessmen. On the walls, there were several mounted heads of various antelope and a framed portrait of General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck. I dozed off to the sound of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf singing The Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss.

05 October 2007


Aloysius at home with Tweed scarf, biscuit tin, and bottle of Moët & Chandon. He looks as if he is just itching to commit acts of extreme naughtiness and debauchery. What do you think?

Long Street, Cape Town, South Africa

Whilst living in Cape Town I befriended a bearded, bristle-headed, bespectacled German. Gunther was head of an advertising agency. He invited me to his office on Long Street to view his collection of books on the American Civil War. He wanted to discuss the merits of linear warfare as applied at Gettysburg. It was clear he was under the impression I was a Union sympathizer. For lunch we met some of his friends for curry at an Indian restaurant down the street. They were educated professionals from well-known Cape families. One of his friends, an academic writing on the Boer War, remarked that he felt he was being followed. He was paranoid about being targeted by the intelligence services. Another man, a banker and SADF veteran, told us that a group of right-wingers were planning a bombing campaign, "just to remind them that we're still here."

Honourable End

"We are born into this time and must bravely follow the path to the destined end. There is no other way. Our duty is to hold on to the lost position, without hope, without rescue, like that Roman soldier whose bones were found in front of a door in Pompeii, who, during the eruption of Vesuvius, died at his post because they forgot to relieve him. That is greatness. That is what it means to be a thoroughbred. The honourable end is the one thing that can not be taken from a man."

Men and Technics, Oswald Spengler

02 October 2007

Various Wines

"I trust that you will forgive my friend. The wines were too various. It was neither the quality nor the quantity that was at fault; it was the mixture. Grasp that and you have the very root of the matter. To understand all is to forgive all."

Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh