Magazine article The Spectator

Fancy Pants

Magazine article The Spectator

Fancy Pants

Article excerpt

I have a problem with violently checked trousers. I love them and yet I am afraid of looking like a roaring middle-aged hooray or an extra from a Ralph Lauren window display if I wear them with a dinner jacket. My favourite is a singularly aggressive pair in black, red and primrose yellow made at what was then Kilgour French & Stanbury.

For all I know this may be the full-dress golfing and bicycling tartan of the Clan MacThruttock; if so, my apologies to the Elder and the Younger of this noble clan, as a Foulkes I have no legitimate claim to their bilious check.

They would be splendid with a dinner jacket. And yet I cannot bring myself to slip them on when the invitation demands black tie.

The thing is that being neither Scots nor a golfer, I have few opportunities to wear such things. Occasionally I wear them with a dark half-lined cashmere blazer and that is about it. However, this does not stop me from adding to my store of checked trousers. As well as what I imagine would now be called my vintage Kilgour pair mentioned above, I also have another gentler pair from Kilgour in blue and violet, a pair from Brooks Bros in New York to introduce a note of preppiness and a couple of slightly hairy tweedy ones from Etro which look great with a solid-coloured tweed jacket.

As merry bands of festive binge drinkers thronging the streets filming each other with their mobile phones for YouTube signal that the end-of-year revelry is upon us, I would dearly love to make my contribution to the seasonal cheer by giving my many pairs of checked trousers an outing, but I am concerned about doing so in a built-up area. Much as lawyers look for legal precedents to bolster their arguments, so I study the sartorial habits of the Duke of Windsor.

Consulting the 1997 catalogue of the sale of his effects I find that he had plenty of checked trousers. However, in winter it would appear that he favoured the full checked evening suit, such as the fabulous green-and-white checked 'Lord of the Isles' number from 1951 or the Rothesay hunting tartan with the shawl collar dating from 1897 that he inherited from his father. George V used to wear it for tea after shooting, which was very chic; I feel it is almost worth accepting an invitation to shoot just to be able to change into something bright for my après-shooting cup of Orange Pekoe. …

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