If you have ever felt inappropriately dressed, or would simply like to raise your sartorial game, “The Perfect Gentleman: The Pursuit of Timeless Elegance and Style in London” ($60, 224 pages), to be published by Thames & Hudson on April 20th, is undoubtedly the book for you. No mere style-guide, this excellent volume, by London-based style writer, broadcaster and curator James Sherwood, maps the history of London’s “heritage houses,” British luxury brands such as John Lobb, Asprey and Turnbull & Asser, renowned for their quality and workmanship, many of them hundreds of years old and still flourishing in London today.
In this book you will find not only fashion, but historical context, with chapters ranging from Edwardian London to the New Elizabethan — meaning modern—age, brought vividly to life with nearly 300 black-and-white and color illustrations. Here, Oscar Wilde rubs (metaphorical) shoulders with the likes of the Duke of Windsor, Cary Grant and Mick Jagger, against a sumptuous backdrop of London’s most elegant men’s shopping streets — Jermyn Street, Bond Street and Savile Row.
With a foreword by that immaculately dressed Englishman, Terence Stamp — the actor with whom half a generation fell in love after his portrayal of the raffish soldier, Sgt. Frank Troy, in the film of Thomas Hardy’s novel, “Far from the Madding Crowd” while the other half fell in love with his co-star, Julie Christie — this delicious book is as educational, practical and eye-opening as it is decorative to have open on your coffee table.
As the book so clearly demonstrates, style isn’t just about what a “gentleman” wears, it’s about what he smokes, writes with (and on,) shoots with and travels with. “The Perfect Gentleman” covers all of the above in depth, with additional notes on what he eats and drinks, where he stays and sleeps, what gifts he gives and even what he drives. What’s more, you don’t need to go to London to take full advantage of what you glean between the covers, since a handy address book at the back gives full details of every venue covered, as well as web addresses for online ordering.
Of course, a true gentleman requires more than a good suit of clothes and a handmade pipe to be “perfect,” and notwithstanding the tongue-in-cheek nature of the book’s title, the one thing Sherwood doesn’t address, and perhaps the most vital question of all, is how does the ”perfect” gentleman behave? “Manners makyth man,” pronounced one of England’s great educators, William of Wykeham, way back in the 14th century, a maxim which is hard to improve upon.
But perhaps this is too deep and too much to ask of what is essentially a very lovely, stylish book, written to elucidate and give pleasure. The real takeaway? It never hurts to be well- dressed.
For more, visit thamesandhudsonusa.com.