I have just returned from an appointment with my tailor. It’s my first time. For any chap such a statement surely marks a pivotal point in his existence. I now know what all the fuss is about. I finally appreciate why James Bond would never consider ending one daring mission to save the world and starting another before first driving his Aston Martin to Savile Row to visit his tailor and why Michael Caine’s cheeky cockney Charlie Croker would not have considered embarking on The Italian Job without first updating his wardrobe with a bit of well-fitting Carnaby Street chic.
I’m far from being a Sean Connery or a Michael Caine and I am never going to be in the same sartorial league as a Steve McQueen or a Paul Newman. Yet I feel if I am going to ask a couturier to run me something up I’d like it to be vaguely contemporary with those suit wearing icons rather than more modern sartorial trail-blazers like Romeo Beckham or Harry Styles (both of whom actually made the top 10 in a GQ list of Best-Dressed ‘Men’ last year).
So I had a look for something befitting an Englishman living in a tropical climate. Something stylish, practical, sporty, sexy and rugged. There really was only one answer. Worn by such paragons of fashion as Roger Moore, J.R. Ewing and Prince Charles, the safari suit has, for decades, been the go-to garment for the discerning smart / sports / leisure wear connoisseur.
Lightweight, adaptable and with more pleats, pockets and epaulettes than any outfit surely deserves; the safari suit doesn’t even require a shirt and tie for it to look jaw-droppingly superb. The ensemble is also adaptable. Trousers are just as acceptable as shorts with a safari jacket (as long as the shorts are worn with a long-sock, of course). Thus it was with total self-possession that I entered a tailor’s in Chiang Mai (with a name that would breach Italian copyright law were it anywhere else on the planet) and asked to be measured up for a safari suit.
Being measured for one’s first tailored suit is a rather pleasant affair. Although I was disappointed at not feeling the need to cry out ‘Oooh, steady on you saucy boy’ as the tape measure ran up my inside leg I was impressed by the number of questions asked to ensure the perfect fit. ‘Will sir be wanting to show a little bit of cuff?’ and ‘Trousers. Will the gentleman be wanting a slight flare?’ and ‘What are we thinking about a lining for the jacket? There is no right or wrong decision for this particular style, sir.’ Regrettably I was not asked the question: ‘On which side does Sir dress?’ I would have liked to have had his professional opinion on that one, as I have no idea.
I may have hammed the language up a bit, but like with haircuts, It seems to me the more one discusses the construction before being presented with the final result, the less room there is for dreadful disappointment.
The tape measure experience over, it was time to choose a material. Goodness me there are a lot of options in this department. I’m not terribly good at too much choice and started to panic a little as the rolls of fabric began to pile up. Thankfully I have heard of a textile called linen. Linen sounds like the sort of cloth from which a safari suit might be cut, so when the linen appeared, linen it was.
Now, I am well aware that it could be a bit of a toss-up as to whether I look like the quintessence of class in a tailored safari suit, or a bit of a tit. For you, dear reader, the answer is in the next paragraph. For me it is a deliciously anticipated two days from now.
Right, so two days later there is no suit. There is half-a-suit. That is, some rather well fitting slacks are in existence, but no safari jacket. Something to do with the amount of pockets required being a bit more time consuming to construct than first anticipated. Never mind, it will be finished tomorrow. Thank you for bearing with me.
Oh, bloody hell. It turns out ‘come in tomorrow anytime’ didn’t actually mean ‘anytime’. I have to pop back at the end of the day. Perhaps this is what is meant by developing a relationship with one’s tailor. You really will see him far more often than you anticipated when you first stepped tentatively through his door.
Well, thank you all for your patience. The result is in, and, even though I do say so myself, I look superb. Although the main reason for my purchasing such an exquisite piece of linen is a wedding later this month, I have to admit I would not look out of place sipping gin and tonics at a polo tournament in the Raj, hunting tigers on the back of an elephant in Burma or fighting a large man with metal teeth on top of a train.
Now if I can just find the shoes to go with this splendid outfit.