May 6, 2013 by Ville Raivio
’48, Editor and publisher of The Chap Magazine. [I studied at] grammar School, then Liberation at age 17 with no qualifications whatsoever. I have two children and an ex-spouse. The children are enthusiastic about my style, though my son refuses to wear the brown brogues I bought him. I respect his right to individual expression. My five-year-old daughter is already showing an eccentric streak in her manner and dress, which I applaud. My son once thrashed me at Umbrella Jousting at the Chap Olympics, which I also applauded.
My father likes the whole Chap aesthetic, having grown up in the 1940s. My mother was very keen on the Chap and would read every issue and complain if any of them weren’t amusing enough. My brother is less impressed, for his idea of dressing up is to put on a wig and some flares. As soon as I hit my 30s I realised that I could not continue dressing like a young person. Back then I wore scruffy second hand suits, cravats and Chelsea boots, with occasional flashes of dandyism in the form of Artful Dodger-esque Victoriana. At 35 I decided to sort my wardrobe out so that I would enter middle age with dignity and style, without making a fool of myself, but without giving up on fashion.
That was how The Chap came into being – as a sort of clothing advice pamphlet for myself. Luckily others seemed to share this approach to age and clothing.Its founding was not just about spreading the word about retro style. Humour was also a big part of it; other men’s magazines seemed too dry and factual, with no particular point of view except to sell ad space. The Chap was always meant to have a strong manifesto that infused all the articles, and I hope it still does so. The ten point manifesto may be seen on our web site.
I hope that our content is pretty unique, though since we launched in 1999, a few other men’s retro fashion titles have appeared. The Chap is a bit like a club – there are lots of cosy in-jokes and references, though we also like to display affectionate disdain for some of the readers who send in their photos dressed as “Chaps”, merely to remind everyone that we actually believe in dressing properly or not at all. I recently conducted a reader survey and one of the questions was “Should we get rid of ‘Am I Chap?’” The response was unanimously against, in other words, despite the criticism, readers love that column. Other reasons for reading the Chap are that we have a very broad remit, so will cover everything from Regency rakes to 1960s bounders, and interview people as diverse as Sir Patrick Moore and Nick Cave.
All of [my knowledge of clothing comes] from vintage magazines of the 1930s-40s, books about fashion, eg. Today There are no Gentlemen by Nick Cohn, and watching 1930s, 40s and 50s films. Also from friends and acquaintances and writers on The Chap. My look is unspecific and uncultivated; it seems to evolve naturally according to whim, circumstance, age and climate. I have rarely used tailors except to adjust vintage items. I prefer the heavier fabrics of the 1940s to modern fabrics. I have one suit made by Cad & the Dandy, a copy of an original demob suit; but that was an identical copy. I have a few pieces from Old Town, whose jackets have a nice baggy workmanlike cut. Darcy Clothing provide all my trousers, which are always cut with a fishtail waist and worn with braces. Billy Childish is often someone I go to for requests for specific vintage items: he put me on to William Lennon Shoes, who made me a pair of reproduction First World War army boots. I live in the country, so I need to adapt to the terrain when the weather is bad. I still have all my city wear, which tends to be black suits worn with flashy waistcoats.
We are writing a cook book, Cooking For Chaps, published by Kyle Books in October 2014. This will be a celebration of English country house cuisine of the early 20th century and will feature tips on etiquette and drinking, too. A few people I have met over the years through the Chap have inspired me: Billy Childish, Dave Vanian, Sebastian Horsley, Johnny Vercoutre, Michael Attree, to name but a few. I am still impressed by the fact that exciting new dandy types keep appearing. The Chap was recently joined by a brand new writer, Zack Pinsent, who has just turned 18 and already had over a hundred vintage waistcoats.
[My definition of style is] being true to oneself and using clothes as a form of artistic expression of one’s inner self. Using clothing to decorate the world and make it more interesting. I collect taxidermy and plaster busts, including a recent acquisition of a bust of Lord Byron, whose works I read a lot of, along with many other writers, but recently I have revisited the works of Knut Hamson, a writer I greatly admired when younger. I enjoy watching film noir films of the 1940s as well as Hitchcock and The Boulting Brothers. Musically I cover a lot of ground, being as enthused by the Dammed as I am by Chet Baker.
I wish more men would realise that they do not have to wear jeans every day. In fact they never need to wear jeans. When I was in my late teens, jeans were really hard to find and you had two choices: Levis or Wrangler. Obviously nobody cool wore Wrangler, so that made finding Levis in the right size even more of a challenge. These days every single shop sells jeans, in a bewildering array of (unstylish) styles. It is as if fashion has got stuck on denim and cannot move on. My theory is that young men are afraid that if they stop wearing jeans they will no longer be “cool” and their descent into middle age will have begun. Well, they only have to look around and see how many 50-year-old men are still wearing jeans, hoodies and trainers and not looking remotely cool.
Young men have the perfect opportunity to experiment with new, more flamboyant styles and, fortunately, many of them are doing so. Moustaches are appearing everywhere and they look much better on younger men than older ones. On the other hand, if everyone else dresses in drab, faded colours and scruffy styles, which seem to be the norm, then the few chaps who want to stand out can do so very easily. My simple advice is always: get an interesting pair of shoes, then arrange your whole outfit around those and see where your imagination takes you. Oh, and by interesting shoes, I don’t mean a silly pair of trainers.’
Pictures: © The Chap