25 June 2013

Our Man In Hamilton: An Introduction To Bermuda Style

I am happy to introduce to you here an exclusive contribution to Admiral Cod from a guest style correspondent, who, as usual, knows a lot more about this sort of thing than I do. The subject here is Bermuda style, a longstanding interest of mine. It is increasingly necessary, I think, to remind ourselves of the unique cultural (and sartorial) traditions that exist in our world, and may still be lost. Enjoy. - LBF

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Growing up, I always heard of my father's trips to Bermuda. Anniversaries with Mum, golfing get-aways, and the Newport/Bermuda race brought the island-nation into regular discussions in our home. As a teen, he went with his parents to Hamilton from New York City (his parents had flown on the Bermuda Clipper before he was born) when the fuselage was choked with cigarette smoke and stuffy with heat. I decided that it was my turn, and having never been towed along by my parents, I set out to see the island on my own terms. Thanks to a few friends who knew about my trip, I was given a list of functions and cocktail receptions to which I had already been invited as a guest. It helps having friends like that. 

A short two-hour flight from New York put me in St. George, the north-easterly tip of the island. A $40 (right-hand drive) taxi ride and I was in Hamilton. The British influence can be credited for the landscape. Stonewalls line each twisty road and hedgerows abut the yards around stuccoed cottages. It looks perfectly of the British Isles only with palms and sub-tropical vegetation. Readers of this site have no-doubt noted a fondness for the unique style from Bermuda, and I was skeptical as to the degree to which it was normal. That doubt washed away the moment I set foot into Hamilton. Serious and somber men of all ages earnestly went about their professional pursuits in dark blazers, ties, Bermuda shorts, lightest-weight wool knee-socks and leather dress shoes. The socks are raised to just below the knee and the shorts are made of linen or feather-weight wool or wool/cotton/linen blends with finished bottoms (no seems or hems). Most have a single shallow forward pleat are are dry-clean only. Khaki or shades of tan are more rare than one would think, and locals opt for the colors normally associated with the land and seascape: yellows, red, pinks, turquoise, greens, etc. Bow-ties and neckties appear equally and in softer tones. The colors of the knee socks seem (from what I could tell) to coincide somewhat with the industry in which the gentlemen worked. Finance, management, or reinsurance saw mostly black or dark navy blue socks, slightly off-putting to one's modern American eye. The clothiers and the gallery owners, a few chefs I met, and some restaurateurs wore colored knee-high socks, as did the socially at-leisure.

Shoes ranged from Top-Siders to dress-oxfords all with the ubiquitous tautly-drawn knee socks. I did not observe a trend towards any type of shoe though as the variation seemed no different that anywhere else in the world. Black blazer and red shorts with black socks appeared to be the most formal of the combinations as worn by the photo of Bermuda's 2012 Olympic Team. Once the initial shock of the style subsides, usually after the second Rum Swizzle (the Island's other much better official national drink), you can easily participate. The socks are normally less than $15 and off-the-shelf shorts average about $75. One tier below the finished shorts you can pick up all-cotton versions for about $40. Wearing them right away is simple since no hemming is involved. If you choose, fully bespoke versions are available for much more but they seem to have diminishing returns for the outlay.

Bermuda is fiercely protective of its culture. Rental cars don't exist and ownership and employment are not allowed or handed out to just anyone. Though the shorts and socks may seem like a minor quirk of the island they remain a bellwether or barometer for the preservation of culture against external influence. Unlike other measurements (onion exports aside) it will be the clothing that will give Bermudans the first (or last) reading that they have lost what was once theirs.

- Anonymous


GSL said...

Anon, your dispatch confirms my reveries...if only they accepted political refugees.

Ivar said...

Shorts on a casually but carefully dressed fit man can look good. However, to my mind, they look silly when worm with a coat and tie by an adult. Even the trim young men in LBF's photos can't pull it off.

YBH said...

Anon: I like the 9"... Bermudas.