Selvedge Run

 The Selvedge Run is held in a restored Berlin brewery.

The Selvedge Run is held in a restored Berlin brewery.

As I queued in line to get onto the plane from a 'please excuse us; we're under construction' Luton airport, I noticed that, peppered amongst the usual businessmen and women, were some very stylish people. Some were immaculately preppy, some looked like 50s rockers, and some had nailed the lumber jack/outdoorsmen look. There were plenty of tattoos, well coiffed hair and beards. Mostly it was understated cool; it was all very considered.

Obviously, everyone was heading to Berlin to visit Selvedge Run. The Selvedge Run is where the Heritage and Craft movement meet in Berlin. It's a trade show for quality menswear and crafted goods, where the great brands like Red Wing Heritage and Filson rub shoulders with smaller up-and-coming brands. Regardless of their size, the exhibitors all believe in authenticity and quality, with craft at the core of their business; hence the line, "Focus on the Good".

 The posters feature people in the heritage community.

The posters feature people in the heritage community.

I was meeting my friend Dirk and some of his friends to visit the show. Dirk is one of those guys who really does know everyone, and connects people with an enthusiastic and easy manner. He's worked with many of the brands, and everyone is happy to see him. 

 The Selvedge Run Crew from left: Dirk, Pierre (Les Motocyclettistes), Stefan (Kentaurus), Jonathan (The Obsessive) and the shot was taken by Sina (Kentaurus)

The Selvedge Run Crew from left: Dirk, Pierre (Les Motocyclettistes), Stefan (Kentaurus), Jonathan (The Obsessive) and the shot was taken by Sina (Kentaurus)

We got to the show late on the Tuesday, but managed to catch up with some of the exhibitors and one of my favourites, Sports D'Epoque who produce vintage cycling and rugby jerseys; they were delighted that I'd visited their shops in Le Marais when I was in Paris last year.

 Vintage rugby shirts from Sport D'Epoque

Vintage rugby shirts from Sport D'Epoque

We met Shane Brandenburg, who's responsible for Exhibitor Relations and also the founder and buyer for Burg & Schild, the coolest clothing shop in Berlin, and one that I had the pleasure of visiting on my last trip to the city. We spent some time with Sébastien Chirpaz of A piece of Chic. He hand silk screen prints some amazing scarves, including a very intricate commemorative limited edition one for BMW Motorrad.

 Sébastien Chirpaz of A Piece of Chic

Sébastien Chirpaz of A Piece of Chic

 Detailed hand silk screen printed scarf for BMW Motorrad

Detailed hand silk screen printed scarf for BMW Motorrad

At the opening night party the beer was flowing, and everyone was meeting up with old friends and making new ones. I bumped into a friend I made on my last trip to Berlin, Kornelius, who runs the creatively curated concept store Soul Objects

 The packed bar at the opening night party

The packed bar at the opening night party

We then all squeezed into Dirk's car for the journey to Clärchens Ballhaus which was one of the last buildings still standing after the allies bombed Berlin. Stepping into it is like stepping back in time; it hasn't been restored, and the scars of its age, from the Nazis to the Stasi, are evident everywhere.

Downstairs is the restaurant dancehall, where they serve large beers and the best schnitzel in Berlin; I'm no expert, but it was exceptional. As we sit down, we notice that the Clutch magazine team and Linda from Son of a Stag are sitting next to us, enjoying the very authentic experience of the dancehall. It's a fantastic atmosphere, with couples of all ages dancing to electronic ballroom style music. However, the really special experience of this place was to be found upstairs, past the bent and buckled bomb survivor of a light fitting.

 Bombed light fitting.

Bombed light fitting.

As we quietly walked up the eerily cold, stone stairs we could hear classical music, then, through large glassed double doors, we entered the war torn splendour of the mirrored ballroom. Here again, couples of all ages were elegantly ballroom dancing. Pierre and I stood in awe; it was a truly wonderful experience and quite surreal.

 Sina & Stefan outside Clärchens Ballhaus

Sina & Stefan outside Clärchens Ballhaus

 Pierre & I outside Clärchens Ballhaus  

Pierre & I outside Clärchens Ballhaus  

As we were having such a great time Dirk decided we needed just one more drink in a very special place. We entered the busy and bustling Paris Bar restaurant; it was heaving. The walls and ceilings were covered in art donated to the restaurant by artists in lieu of payment for their meals, as well as work from artists that felt they should be on the walls too.

The next day we headed back to Selvedge Run.

 Stefan investigating Sports D'Epoque

Stefan investigating Sports D'Epoque

The exhibitor halls were all busy, we went over to the men's file/Clutch magazine stand to say hello to Nick Clements. It's always good to catch up with Nick, as he's been a supporter of The Obsessive from the beginning. Both Nick and Pierre were wearing the same Moleskin Sheriff Breeches by Black Sign

 Myself & Nick Clements: editor of men's file and photographer

Myself & Nick Clements: editor of men's file and photographer

 men's file and Clutch magazines 

men's file and Clutch magazines 

Probably the three key publications for the Heritage phenomenon are men's file/Clutch magazines and the German magazine The Heritage Post. I was lucky enough to be introduced to Uwe Van Afferden, the founder and publisher, who was wearing a fantastic corduroy suit, as well as Annika Tenhaeff, who was running The Heritage Post stand. The magazine is now available in English, and Annika insisted that I have the English edition in English. The Interior Post magazine ia also excellent but only available in German at the moment.

 The Heritage Post from left, English Edition, January edition with Florian Schneider founder of Kraftwerk on the cover, The Interior Post

The Heritage Post from left, English Edition, January edition with Florian Schneider founder of Kraftwerk on the cover, The Interior Post

Selvedge Run have introduced the Makers Yard which is a hall dedicated to non clothing and shoe brands. Here we found artisan Elixier Gin, enjoyed a double espresso from Flying Roasters and fell in love with the hand painted oars from Norquay Co . 

 Norquay Co hand painted oars, so good you just want them.

Norquay Co hand painted oars, so good you just want them.

The stand that caught my attention the most was Noodles Noodles and Noodles Corp. They produce beautifully simple functional furniture from steel and wood. It has a pleasant industrial look to it too. They supplied the show with all the stand furniture. I had a long chat with Christian and Wolfgang about how they make their furniture in Germany from steel and the oils they use to bring out a very distinctive look and feel to the sustainable pine they use. I got a bit obsessive about their kitchen cabinets.

 Wolfgang of Noodles Noodles and Noodles Corp furniture

Wolfgang of Noodles Noodles and Noodles Corp furniture

 Noodles Noodles and Noodles Corp Jailhouse Fuck Bed (Yup, that's what they call it) with a Pendleton blanket 

Noodles Noodles and Noodles Corp Jailhouse Fuck Bed (Yup, that's what they call it) with a Pendleton blanket 

As Pierre, Dirk and myself moved around the halls everyone was extremely friendly and chatty, we moved slowly and happily around all the exhibitors. Pierre is the founder of Rocker Speed Shop in Paris and has just launched his own line of exquisite motorcycling jackets under the brand name Les Motocyclettistes and everyone wanted to talk to him about them. The attention to detail and the quality of the Japanese leather is truly amazing.

 Pierre being photographed in one of his Les Motocyclettistes leather jackets and his Black Sign breeches

Pierre being photographed in one of his Les Motocyclettistes leather jackets and his Black Sign breeches

 Even the logo and artwork for Les Motocyclettistes is excellent.

Even the logo and artwork for Les Motocyclettistes is excellent.

The day flew by and before I knew it, I was literally running for my plane with the wheels of my Rimowa whistling through the departure lounge. Taking my seat on the packed plane, I breathed a sigh of relief and thought about yet another incredible Berlin experience. It was freezing cold outside but I was received with only warmth and friendship. I also love the way the Germans swear in English, they love to swear and because they're German they're good at it, they're funny too.

 A Frenchman, an Englishman and a German walk into a trade show....

A Frenchman, an Englishman and a German walk into a trade show....

Crab Pasta

My paternal grandfather was born in Tottenham, London, but raised in Australia. He had a pretty tough childhood, and would regularly literally have to catch his dinner.

He was a very neat and fastidious man. When I was very young, I sat with him at his dining table, in complete silence, while he showed me how to "clean a crab". He spread an old newspaper on the table and, with just a nutcracker and a pin, slowly and precisely removed every piece of flesh from the exoskeleton of the crab. I thought this was great, and I now perform the same procedure, but with much better tools.

 Crustacean destruction kit

Crustacean destruction kit

The recipe for this pasta sauce is simple, and requires the following ingredients:

One large crab, shallots, garlic, flat leaf parsley, dried chilli flakes, decent white wine, olive oil.

 Large British Crab: ask the fishmonger to prepare the crab, which means to remove the unpleasant inedible parts.

Large British Crab: ask the fishmonger to prepare the crab, which means to remove the unpleasant inedible parts.

The fun part of this recipe is using your tools to remove all the flesh from the crab's body armour. Don't discard any piece of the crab without attempting to extract the meat first; it's surprising how much there actually is, and it's a very relaxing and meditative process.

Then, the boring part of picking the flat leaves from the parsley stems. Once done, finely chop the parsley leaves, dice a couple of shallots and thinly slice the garlic. I use a lot of garlic, probably too much.

 Clockwise: White wine, linguine, dried chilli, garlic, olive oil, flat leaf parsley, shallots, white crab meat, dark crab meat

Clockwise: White wine, linguine, dried chilli, garlic, olive oil, flat leaf parsley, shallots, white crab meat, dark crab meat

To cook, lightly fry the crab meat, chilli and garlic in olive oil. When the shallots are looking translucent, add the white wine and allow the sauce to simmer. Add a handful of the chopped flat leaf parsley. Leave to simmer for a while, allowing the wine to reduce.

Fill your Le Pentole spaghetti set with fresh, cold water, and add a pinch of Maldon sea salt. Bring the water to boil and add linguine: about 10-12 minutes later, it should be al dente. Lift the basket from the pan of boiling water, remove the linguine and place it in the crab sauce, mix it well, and serve with another handful of chopped flat leaf parsley. Drink the rest of the wine, and open another bottle. Buon appetito!

 Serve generous portions in big pasta bowls, with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.

Serve generous portions in big pasta bowls, with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.

Biker Dad

 My brother Sam on the BMW, and me on dad's new Honda CX500, during one of the biker trips to Snetterton.

My brother Sam on the BMW, and me on dad's new Honda CX500, during one of the biker trips to Snetterton.

When I was about eight years old, my Dad came home with a Triumph Tiger 650. It had a blue and white tank, and it thundered along. I would lay in bed, waiting to hear its distinctive engine sound coming up our street, meaning that dad would soon be home.

 Dad's Triumph Tiger 650

Dad's Triumph Tiger 650

It leaked oil, and lived up to the poor build-quality reputation of British bikes from that period. He would ride it all week to and from jobs, and at the weekend, he’d regularly have to strip it down and rebuild it. This is an unimaginable thing to have to do today.

 Dad's Triumph Tiger 650

Dad's Triumph Tiger 650

One day, it was so cold outside that he pushed the bike into the small hall of our terraced, suburban Edwardian house. He spent the day stripping the engine down and rebuilding it; we didn’t have any money to pay a garage to get it mended, and anyway, Dad always fixed stuff.

My little brother and I thought it was great having a motorbike in the house. My mum was less impressed. At last, when he’d finished, he kick-started her (the bike not mum). The whole house shook, and we screamed with delight; so, he revved the engine, and the stained glass in the front door nearly fell out. Mum told him to stop before we all died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

 Dad's Triumph Tiger 650, with aftermarket "cow horn" handle bars.

Dad's Triumph Tiger 650, with aftermarket "cow horn" handle bars.

We always knew that summer was on its way, as dad would remove his well-worn Belstaff Trialmaster, and insist on waxing it on the dining table. The distinctive scent of the strong weatherproofing wax permeated the whole house. I loved that smell.

During the summer, Dad and his mates, including Ray (The Obsessive photographer), would go for long rides, often down to the West Country, or to watch the bike racing at circuits like Snetterton. We would be following in the car, and watching them all having a great time as they rode together.

 Ray on his ex TT Moto Guzzi 750 S3

Ray on his ex TT Moto Guzzi 750 S3

Dad felt guilty giving up on his Triumph and the British motorcycle industry. So it was with some reluctance that he bought a Honda CX500. His biker mates teased him for riding a Japanese bike, their favourite quote being, "Rather eat worms than ride a Honda." Dad would shrug this off with the knowledge that the Honda would never let him down. And it didn't.

Gentleman Racer

 Chassis number: S850672

Chassis number: S850672

Jaguar has always been an obsession of mine. My uncle Derek worked for Henly's in their glamorous glass and marble showroom at 88 Piccadilly. We used to visit him there, and he would let my brother and I climb in and out of the cars, stand on the car lift that took you down to the workshop, and collect the car brochures. I remember sitting in the first XJS, it blew my mind, as we had a Morris Marina Coupé at the time. 

Uncle Derek would always take us, with our cousins, to the Earls Court Motor Show. He'd drive his "Dolly Sprint" (Dolomite Sprint) too fast, and we'd all roll around in the back, or stand on the seats and hang out of the full length Webasto sunroof, waving at people. Because his cars were all new they smelt nice, and he always had a flip-top box of tic tac mints in the car. We loved going out with Uncle Derek–he was fun, he still is; my kids think he's great too.

Uncle Derek loves Jags. If you lived in London and bought a Jag in the 60s through to the early 80s, there's a good chance you bought it from my Uncle Derek. He's now 83 years old, and he can still remember number plates of the cars he sold, and to whom.

 Uncle Derek delivering a MK II 

Uncle Derek delivering a MK II 

 E-Type Coupe 2+2 in the showroom at 88 Piccadilly 

E-Type Coupe 2+2 in the showroom at 88 Piccadilly 

So, when I was invited to be at the unveiling of the Stratstone Lightweight E-Type, I felt like that little boy again, going to see a new Jaguar.

 Miraculously found a parking space for 249 in Mayfair, opposite Stratstone.

Miraculously found a parking space for 249 in Mayfair, opposite Stratstone.

I picked up Andy Hunt-Cooke, who runs the Jaguar business at the Ad Agency Spark 44, and we headed off to Stratstone of Mayfair.

 Thankfully, our names were on the list.

Thankfully, our names were on the list.

 Lightweight E-Type being gunned up Shelsley Hil Climb on its first outing from the factory.

Lightweight E-Type being gunned up Shelsley Hil Climb on its first outing from the factory.

The story of how this Lightweight E-type exists demonstrates the obsessive mentality of the new Land Rover Jaguar's Special Vehicle Operations division. The lightweight story begins in February 1963, when Jaguar intended to build 18 ‘Special GT E-type’ race cars. However, they only built 12 of the 18, delivering them to the Browns Lane competitions department between 1963 and 1964. This gave rise to the infamous ‘Missing Six’.  These missing chassis numbers: 13 to 18, were found in a hand written ledger in 2014. 

 Timeless elegance

Timeless elegance

 Number 15 

Number 15 

 

The modern incarnation of the Lightweight saw Jaguar Classic draw both on the company’s original 1960s tooling and production methods, and its unique, highly experienced engineering and design resources.  Replete with world-leading aluminium body technology and skilled hand craftsmanship, the six-cylinder XK engine with its aluminium block, wide angle aluminium cylinder head and dry sump lubrication (derived from the Le-Mans winning D-type of the 1950s), the 2015 Lightweight E-type is original and very special, as Jaguar Classic won't be making anymore. This is it; they've used all the original eighteen chassis numbers.

 Glorious number 15

Glorious number 15

 Magnificent steering wheel

Magnificent steering wheel

 

The cars are delivered as period competition vehicles, fully compliant with FIA homologation for historic motorsport purposes.  All of the ‘Missing Six’ are built to period-exact dimensions and specifications, ensuring absolute authenticity and a modern-day build to the highest quality standards. The obsessive attention to detail is truly amazing.

 On display at Stratstone Mayfair

On display at Stratstone Mayfair

After a short but pleasantly informative presentation, the car was revealed; and what a beautiful machine it is. It quite literally stuns you when you see it; I felt a little giddy. Once you've recovered from the sheer awe of its presence, you start to see the meticulous detailed work that's created such a wonderful car. You start to point and say, "Oh, look at that bit."

 Triple Weber Carbs

Triple Weber Carbs

 Steel wheels shod, with period correct Dunlop tyres, and three spoke knock offs.

Steel wheels shod, with period correct Dunlop tyres, and three spoke knock offs.

It's such a shame that these cars aren't street legal so that more people could have the opportunity to experience them. Unfortunately, it's believed that the majority of the "Missing Six" are likely to remain missing as they've been snapped up by collectors, possibly never to be seen again.

However, the great thing about this car is that it's going to be seen and driven at events to represent Stratstone and their passion for Jaguar. There's also a possibility that it could be campaigned in historic races, which is what these cars are really all about. We all need to see and hear these cars being driven hard and fast: it's why they were built in the first place. They were built for Gentleman Racers.

 Perfection from every angle

Perfection from every angle

 Gorgeous detail of leather bonnet strap

Gorgeous detail of leather bonnet strap

Here's a short film of the unveiling: you can spot Andy and I being a little too excited in the background.

Here's a Jaguar Heritage film of one of the "Missing Six" in action.

 Bremont special edition watch, with the face based on the tachometer, and Dunlop tyre tread etched onto the crown.

Bremont special edition watch, with the face based on the tachometer, and Dunlop tyre tread etched onto the crown.

 Bremont watch has Jag steering wheel as rotor of automatic winding mechanism, and Jaguar leather strap.

Bremont watch has Jag steering wheel as rotor of automatic winding mechanism, and Jaguar leather strap.

 Book of the build

Book of the build

 Matching luggage from Globetrotter

Matching luggage from Globetrotter

The Obsessive would like to thank the team at Stratstone of Mayfair for inviting us, and a special thank you to the Head of Marketing at Pendragon, Victoria Finn, for answering our endless questions about number 15.

It's a shame that Uncle Derek wasn't able to be at the event, as he would've loved it. I called him to tell him about the evening, and he said, "It's great to have Jag back on top of the world." He also loves Ferraris: once a petrolhead, always a petrolhead.

 Uncle Derek loves Jaguars, but would quite a Ferrari too

Uncle Derek loves Jaguars, but would quite a Ferrari too

Boeuf Bourguign-homme

 The better the ingredients, the better the taste.

The better the ingredients, the better the taste.

This is my British blokey interpretation of the French classic Boeuf Bourguignon. Whenever I cook, I tend to do so in volume, and measure the ingredients by the packet. This recipe is really very simple, but does require a little planning. It'll provide enough for a large dinner party. One-pot cooking is apparently back in fashion too, so you'll be "on trend".

Ingredients:

4 x 0.450 kg Packs of stewing beef, large piece of pork belly, loads of cubetti di pancetta, Toulouse sausages, cup of chicken stock, large bulb garlic, bay leaves, sprigs of thyme, silver onions, olive oil, salt & pepper, bouquet garni, flat leaf parsley, button mushrooms, carrots, potatoes, green beans, double cream, glass of Cognac, decent bottle of French red wine (cheap wine tastes cheap, don't use it.)

In a deep bowl, mix the stewing steak, sprigs of thyme, garlic cloves (skin removed, crushed by flat edge of knife), add a bay leaf, then pour wine over the mix until it covers the meat. Cover the bowl in cling film, and leave in the fridge overnight to marinate.

 Remove pork belly skin using sharp knife, in this case an Opinal No8

Remove pork belly skin using sharp knife, in this case an Opinal No8

The next day, skin and cube the pork belly. Spend what feels like an eternity plucking the flat leaf parsley from its stem, then roughly chop. Chop mushrooms, peel and chop carrots, peel the silver onions. 

Retrieve from the fridge the marinated stewing steak, drain marinade (including the garlic) into a bowl; do not pour this away! Add the stewing steak to a heated, high-sided pan containing olive oil, and fry until brown; then add the chicken stock, followed by the marinade and the Cognac. Add salt and pepper, let it simmer a while, then add it all to either a slow cooker, or your Le Creuset Cocotte.

 French themed clothing, Vétra chore apron over Armor Lux Breton.

French themed clothing, Vétra chore apron over Armor Lux Breton.

Lightly fry the pancetta, pork belly, Toulouse sausages, mushrooms and onions, and then add to the pot. Next, throw in the carrots, and most of the chopped flat leaf parsley. Make the bouquet garni using cooking string to tie together sprigs of thyme, parsley and a bay leaf, and add to pot. Top up with some wine. 

Leave it to cook for a couple of hours on a low heat if you're using the Le Creuset Cocotte, or about eight hours in the slow cooker, checking on it from time to time to give it a manly stir. The house will start to smell lovely.

Peel potatoes and leave in salted water, and top and tail green beans.

 For a fuller French flavour a La Cornue range cooker and Charles Aznavour poster essential

For a fuller French flavour a La Cornue range cooker and Charles Aznavour poster essential

When everyone's arrived and they're enjoying their Champagne, head back to the kitchen and boil the potatoes. Knife test (gently stab potato with sharp knife; if it meets any resistance, they're not cooked) to see if the potatoes are cooked through. When ready, drain the water away and, using your potato ricer (no man should be without one), rice the potatoes into a bowl, adding a generous dollop of double cream, salt and pepper; gently stir together.

Place green beans in boiling water for a couple of minutes: don't over cook, soggy greens are nasty.

Sprinkle chopped flat leaf parsley over served portion, and supply plenty of red wine and bonhomie.

 French themed place setting with Duralex tumbler, Apilco Bistro crockery, and Chambly Bistro cutlery

French themed place setting with Duralex tumbler, Apilco Bistro crockery, and Chambly Bistro cutlery

Photography: Jonathan West

Location: Donnington Barns

Coming soon...

 Objets d'en France

Objets d'en France

We've been busy obsessing here at The Obsessive. We've been pulling together The Obsessive objects of desire and, on reflection, we've realised that the items broadly fall into three overall obsessions.

The first is the continued love of France, and all the wonderful things it produces. The more you roam around and investigate this amazing country, the more it reveals itself in its products. We'll be bringing you objects that represent the ability of the French to produce high quality, well designed, everyday items: French classics that, once bought, you should never need to buy again. It must be said that The Obsessive is following a well-trodden path made by fellow obsessive Francophiles like Sir Terence Conran.

 Fjällräven rucksack & Kuksa

Fjällräven rucksack & Kuksa

The second overall obsession is The Great Outdoors. The Obsessive has always been interested in outdoors kit, but, since the purchase of the Land Rover, this has developed into a full blown obsession. There's some amazing modern technical clothing and kit being produced, as well as an irresistible retro camping trend, in which tried and tested products that are still available exist alongside NOS (New Old Stock) or restored kit. It's all very "campsite cool".

 MOMA ball bearing paperweight. Sven Wingquist's self-aligning ball bearing, made in Sweden by SKF, the original manufacturer.

MOMA ball bearing paperweight. Sven Wingquist's self-aligning ball bearing, made in Sweden by SKF, the original manufacturer.

The third overall obsession is "want it, need it", yet conforms to The Obsessive's considered consumption belief. These obsessive objects of desire range from exquisite, yet functional desk tools, to leather weekend bags, and mid-century Danish ice buckets.

Finally, we'd like to thank Peter Blackman for mentioning us in his blog article Super Curation The View from The Bridge

We hope you enjoy The Obsessive over the coming months as much as we've enjoyed curating it. Please follow us on Facebook, TwitterInstagram and Pinterest. Many thanks.

Going Shooting

Yesterday, I spent the day with The Obsessive’s photographer Ray Massey. We had a pre-production meeting for the next batch of Obsessive Objects of Desire. There’s some great stuff coming from a wide range of categories, including vintage Danish furniture and some wilderness kit for those festival and camping trips we all love, because we all need an axe….

 Camden Park Studios shot by Katrina Campbell

Camden Park Studios shot by Katrina Campbell

Les Vêtements de Travail

Power to the people, and their quality workwear.

 "The Struggle Continues" Poster from the 1968 Paris strikes.

"The Struggle Continues" Poster from the 1968 Paris strikes.

Like so many of us, I’ve integrated the workwear obsession from the ‘90s into my everyday wardrobe, to such an extent that I no longer think of it as workwear. Then it occurred to me, as it often does, that in fact I’ve been pursuing a new obsession for the last couple of years, but hadn’t really noticed. This is because it’s an extension of an existing obsession.

 Vintage, unbranded, Sanforized workshirt from Spitalfields market.

Vintage, unbranded, Sanforized workshirt from Spitalfields market.

It started with the purchase of a reasonably priced, vintage, unbranded French work shirt in Spitalfields market. The faded blue (the French do blue so well) of this old, Sanforized shirt looked and felt great to wear. Then I bought a winter weight Saint James Breton top, followed by an Armorlux summer Breton. 

 Saint James winter weight Breton

Saint James winter weight Breton

 Armorlux summer breton

Armorlux summer breton

I discovered the Arpenteur brand on the Oi Polloi website and, having acquired the classic smock, quickly went on to live in this amazingly comfortable and versatile top. I’ve since met devout smock wearers so obsessed with these garments that they have them made to measure, and are unable to understand why no one wears them anymore. I agree: they're great.

 Arpenteur Smock

Arpenteur Smock

I still hadn't realised that I was in the midst of another obsession. More classically French items from Arpenteur appeared in my wardrobe. Arpenteur have that knack of taking everyday French clothes and modernising them with tailoring, and high quality materials. The result is that you want everything they make. They use cool, illustrated labels and tags that remind me of Hergé's Adventures of Tin Tin. It's all so very French.

 Arpenteur illustrated tags

Arpenteur illustrated tags

The realisation of the obsession finally dawned on me during a family holiday in Paris. We found ourselves in the Le Mont St Michel store situated in Le Marais. This brand has been making workwear for a hundred years, and has developed a timeless, simple, upmarket range of clothing based on these original designs. Their version of the Veste de Travail is perfect for the current trend of casual suiting; it’s also thick enough to wear in Autumn or Spring, without a top coat.

 Le Mont St Michel Veste de Travail

Le Mont St Michel Veste de Travail

 Like your mum did, Le Mont St Michel write your name on the label, just in case you lose it.

Like your mum did, Le Mont St Michel write your name on the label, just in case you lose it.

I get a lot of grief at Christmas: it’s a tough time for my wife and family, as they have to buy me a present. The cry goes up, “What do we buy the man who has everything, and is so pedantically fastidious about everything?"  This is usually followed by, "You’re a nightmare!”

So, on the 23rd of December, I’m with my concerned wife, being marched around the shops of Marylebone High Street in an attempt to find me a Christmas present. The high street is packed with terrified looking men, panic-buying presents for their spouses. I overheard one man ask a surprised shop assistant, "Do you think my wife would like this?"

 Vintage advertising poster

Vintage advertising poster

I suggested a visit to J.Simons in Chiltern St. John Simons greets us as we enter the small shop, and above his head is an original poster for Le Mont St Michel workwear. I enquire if it’s for sale, but alas, it’s not his to sell. 

“If you like French workwear, I’ve just got some Vétra coats in–just sold one to a guy in Norway.”

 Vétra top coat

Vétra top coat

 Vêtra: Fabriqué en France

Vêtra: Fabriqué en France

Vétra essentially means workwear in French, as the brand name is an abbreviation of les vêtements de travail. Vétra was started in Paris in 1927 by Edouard Breenens. He created a full range of men's workwear garments which proved so successful that he had to move the factory out of Paris to the North of France. By 1939, they were making French army uniforms. However, on the 19th of May 1940, following the Nazi occupation of France, and Edouard’s refusal to make German uniforms, he packed up his prized Reece buttonhole machine, and left with his family.

 Edouard's buttonhole machine

Edouard's buttonhole machine

They settled in the small town of Lude, and Edouard set about making uniforms for the French Resistance. When the war was over, Vétra went back to making tough, durable, quality workwear.

After the General Strike of 1968 (sparked by the student uprising in Paris), the trade unions demanded Vétra clothing in their industrial negotiations. Frankly, you can’t get more 'French workwear' than that.

Edouard’s buttonhole machine was finally retired in 2010, having made 895,000,000, buttonholes.

 The red stitching type on the Brand's logo represents the workers of France.

The red stitching type on the Brand's logo represents the workers of France.

I slipped the Vétra coat on, and it instantly felt right. John Simons smiled, as he knew he’d made a sale, and my wife sighed with relief that finally she’d found my Christmas present.

Vétra make a great apron too: perfect for rustling up a Beef Bourguignon.

 Vêtra, still a family run business.

Vêtra, still a family run business.

Men's File/Clutch Launch Party

The pages of the magazine come to life.

 Outside The Real McCoy's

Outside The Real McCoy's

On a cold London evening, it was great to see so many impeccably dressed people turn out at this event, held between three stores on Henrietta St in Covent Garden. The three outlets hosting the occasion were The Real McCoy's, Nigel Cabourn and Edwin

 Inside The Real McCoy's

Inside The Real McCoy's

The party goers' attention to detail in their clothes and look was impressive. Everyone was friendly and happy to be there in their acutely considered clothes. It was a pleasure checking out what everyone was wearing. 

 The Real McCoy's Peacoat in the background is going straight onto The Obsessive's 'to buy' list..

The Real McCoy's Peacoat in the background is going straight onto The Obsessive's 'to buy' list..

 Friend, and fellow obsessive, Andy, enjoying a beer at McCoy's

Friend, and fellow obsessive, Andy, enjoying a beer at McCoy's

I was glad that earlier in the day I'd popped into Andreas Sallas for a fresh Flat Top, as the quality of the male grooming was of an exceptional standard. There were hairstyles from almost every decade up to the '70s. The women all looked glamorous, whether their inspiration was the '30s, or '50s rockabilly.

 Nigel Cabourn store was heaving.

Nigel Cabourn store was heaving.

 Plenty of stylish headwear.

Plenty of stylish headwear.

 Nigel Cabourn store 

Nigel Cabourn store 

After The Real McCoy's, we trundled over to the Nigel Cabourn store, which was heaving. Nevertheless, we managed a quick chat with photographer and the editor-in-chief of Men's File, Nick Clements. Nick is a fellow obsessive, and should be credited for identifying and promoting the revisionist movement. He's been a supporter of The Obsessive since we first met in '09, when I shared the concept; he then kindly asked me to write for the first two editions of Men's File. 

 With Nick Clements 

With Nick Clements 

The Nigel Cabourn store is a dangerous place for an obsessive, as it's tempting to buy everything in sight; in fact, you feel the urge to live your life in the Cabourn style. The clothes are of an exceptional quality in design, material and manufacture. This, of course, is reflected in the price, but every garment is an investment, and is going to last a life time. Old principles, but good ones.

 Wicker glider, Mallory classic jacket and Antarctic Parkas hanging on the wall.

Wicker glider, Mallory classic jacket and Antarctic Parkas hanging on the wall.

 Time to go..

Time to go..

Unfortunately, we didn't manage to get to the Edwin store because, all too soon, it was time to take Andy up to Marylebone station for his train home. After dropping him off, I drove home in the cozy cab of 249 through my beloved North London. Everything was beginning to freeze as the temperature dropped: what a wonderful evening.

Magazine available now: Buy direct from Japan (no import duty!):  www.lightningclutch.com

Magazine available now and the easiest place to buy in UK: www.lewisleathers.com

 

Flat Tops & Hot Rods

"It's like the haircut has been waiting, all this time, to reclaim you for its own"

                                                                                               Sam Campbell

I was a Mod and she was a Rockabilly. She was my first love. She was cool, and really into getting her look just right. She was into vintage clothes way before the word “vintage” became a marketing term.

Because of her, I developed an interest in Rockabilly, and its crazy cousin Psychobilly, championed by the band The Meteors. I even went as far as having a Flat Top (cut by the great Andreas Sallas) but just couldn’t adopt the whole look. I still couldn’t, which is a shame, because I love Hot Rods and the Rockabilly culture that surrounds them. It’s just cool; in fact, the generation that originally created the look also invented the concept of cool. 

Being a petrolhead, I love car films like Two Lane Blacktop and American GraffitiI buy rare film memorabilia from fellow obsessive Andy Inglis, who also deals in his primary obsession of Cadillacs. American Graffiti features a “piss yella” Ford ’32 5 window coupe driven by the character John Milner, which makes me obsess about owning a Hot Rod every time I watch the film.

Some years ago I was lucky enough to be chatting to Ian Callum, and I knew for a fact that he had built a ’32 Coupe with a Ford performance small-block engine. However, out of all the cars in his collection that he discussed, he didn’t mention the coupe. Maybe he didn't want to admit his obsession with Hot Rods? So, I asked. His love for it was instantly obvious: he told me all about the build, and how he loved to drive her. So, if the man who has designed some of the most beautiful cars in the world loves Hot Rods, it can’t be too bad an obsession to have..

 Bonneville Salt Flats 

Bonneville Salt Flats 

 T-Bucket Hot Rod

T-Bucket Hot Rod

The latest generation of builders are creating amazing looking vehicles: the cars appear period-perfect, and the builders have gone to extreme lengths to ensure they’ve got the correct block and carb set-up, even down to the stickers. I spotted an ad on a specialist site the other day, in which the builder claimed to have used WW2 airplane fuel line clamps to dress the motor; that’s dedication to the “look”.

 Racing

Racing

To get the look period-perfect, a whole industry has sprung up to give Hot Rodders what they need. In the new/old world of Rods, the cars are not trailer queens, they’re actually used: their owners drive them to and from events, and in the US, out to the Bonneville Salt Flats to race. Meets often happen at a local Mall car park really early, before the neighbourhood has woken up; and by the time the first shopper arrives, the Rods have trundled home.

 Hot Rod on the Bonneville Salt Flats

Hot Rod on the Bonneville Salt Flats

 Vintage style T-Bucket

Vintage style T-Bucket

The obsession for period-perfect rides and clothes has been enthusiastically embraced in the UK, with weekends like Hemsby and the Vintage Hot Rod Associations racing event on the famous Pendine sands. Hot Rods, and their meticulously dressed owners, always feature at The Goodwood Revival too, and are often captured on film by Nick Clements, the fashion and lifestyle photographer who documents the stylishly attired at the event. Nick is a fellow obsessive, and allowed The Obsessive to use these great shots.

The Rod culture is rich and vibrant, and has grown into a complete way of life for some, with its own music, art, clothes, tattoos, and a healthy interest in burlesque.

 Airstream & T-Bucket

Airstream & T-Bucket

Whilst writing this article, I wondered if Andreas Sallas was still cutting his signature Flat Top: the small, corner-shop barber's is still there. I plucked up the courage and went to see him, finding him just shutting up to head home for lunch. He said he couldn’t cut Flat Tops anymore because he gets a pain in his arm. I told him that he used to cut mine and most of my friends' hair when we were kids. He sighed, told me he’d take some painkillers after his lunch, and that I should come back a little later.

Thirty years had passed since I first sat in Andreas's chair, and climbing back in felt strange, yet familiar. 

 Andreas Sallas: still the Master Flat Top Barber at 70.

Andreas Sallas: still the Master Flat Top Barber at 70.

For a 70 year old man, he moves around the head with speed and grace. Every movement he makes has precise purpose; no effort is wasted. The haircut quickly takes shape. Then, with a steady hand and keen eye, he refines the cut until I have a spirit level-like Flat Top.

He’s not a man of many words, but I could tell he was enjoying cutting my hair. He told me that people would come from all over the UK to get his Flat Top, and there would be hoards of bikers parked outside, waiting to get into his tiny barber's. No more than 20 minutes later, I’m staring at a much older me, with my old haircut: my personal nostalgia.

So, now I’ve got the Flat Top, I just need the Hot Rod.

 Andreas Sallas still the Flat Top master barber

Andreas Sallas still the Flat Top master barber

 Spirit level-flat

Spirit level-flat

Men's File

An exclusive preview for The Obsessive, Issue 13

 Issue 13

Issue 13

"This issue covers the entire spectrum of subjects that might be described as ultra-cool, but not fashionable. It’s what the mainstream calls “authentic” and we call normal." Nick Clements

 Men's File is for women too..

Men's File is for women too..

 Issue 13

Issue 13

 Blue Bird on Pendine sands

Blue Bird on Pendine sands

Covered in issue 13 is the re-running of the Blue Bird at Pendine after 90 years, the Young Guns custom bike studio in Zurich, the Wheels & Waves Festival, Best Dressed at Goodwood, CW Stoneking, Kevin Roland, The “CC” Show in Yokohama, Shinya Kimura’s new Fastest Son for Yamaha, Hot Rod women – the Gasser Girls, and a new take on Greene’s Brighton Rock, to name a just few topics.

As usual, the magazine is beautifully presented, with amazing visuals, and that all important attention to detail.

Available end of December End Dec: Buy direct from Japan (no import duty!):  www.lightningclutch.com

Available from 2nd week January and easiest place to buy in UK: www.lewisleathers.com 

 

 Best Dressed at Goodwood Revival

Best Dressed at Goodwood Revival

 Best dressed at Goodwood Revival

Best dressed at Goodwood Revival

There are also short films that accompany the features in the magazine; they're great to watch, and give you a real sense of the culture that Men's File represents.

Wheels & Waves (Part 1 and 2):

https://vimeo.com/132093313

https://vimeo.com/138923693

Cafe Streamline:

https://vimeo.com/137695368

Blue Bird at Pendine:

https://vimeo.com/135559025

VHRA Pendine:

https://vimeo.com/133903609

The "CC" Show, Yokohama:

https://vimeo.com/137639169

Warp & Weft

“To be truly elegant one should not be noticed”: George Bryan (Beau) Brummell

 George Bryan (Beau) Brummell–engraving from miniature portrait

George Bryan (Beau) Brummell–engraving from miniature portrait

 Beau Brummell created the blueprint for modern menswear

Beau Brummell created the blueprint for modern menswear

The women on my father's side of the family were either tailoresses, or leather workers. They had a sharp eye for detail, and appreciated a well-dressed man. My great-grandmother, Alice Boxall, believed that a man always looked his best in a simple, midnight-blue suit, and a crisp, white shirt. Essentially this understated style was created by Beau Brumell in the late 1700s, and his philosophy of men's fashion has been with us ever since. He was exceptionally fond of starched, white shirt linen.

 Piccadilly Arcade

Piccadilly Arcade

I usually approach Jermyn St via Piccadilly Arcade, at the end of which is Beau’s statue. I give him a nod and bid him good morning, head across the road to have a nose in Hilditch and Key’s window, as I’m fond of their shirts, but decide instead that I’m going to proceed to Turnbull and Asser, on the corner of Jermyn St and Bury St.

 Statue of Beau Brummell by Irena Sedlecká

Statue of Beau Brummell by Irena Sedlecká

 "Morning Beau"

"Morning Beau"

Turnbull & Asser is a fine Edwardian shop; just standing in it feels like you’ve time-travelled to a bygone age of gentlemanly elegance. The shop was built in 1903, and the interior has floor-to-ceiling mahogany shelving, displaying their beautiful shirts, ties, pyjamas, pocket squares, socks, and just about everything a gentleman needs, in a myriad of colours.

 T&A corner of Bury St and Jermyn St 

T&A corner of Bury St and Jermyn St 

 Mr Fish fitting Sean Connery for Dr No. 

Mr Fish fitting Sean Connery for Dr No. 

You become aware that you are standing in history; you’re standing where Sean Connery stood for his 'Dr No' fitting by Mr Fish. It’s believed that F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was a customer himself, based the shirt scene in The Great Gatsby on his experience of Turnbull & Asser. The names of sartorial gentleman from the last 130 years: Chaplin, Picasso, The Beatles, Sinatra, Winston Churchill, to name a few, have all been clients. Prince Charles granted them his first warrant in 1980. Almost every men's fashion book in The Obsessive library references Turnbull & Asser. They continue to be a significant and relevant brand in menswear. This is quite an achievement.

 007 in T&A's classic white shirt with two button turn-back 'cocktail' cuffs

007 in T&A's classic white shirt with two button turn-back 'cocktail' cuffs

 The Obsessive opts for Classic

The Obsessive opts for Classic

 T&A's distinctive cutaway collar with T&A knitted silk tie

T&A's distinctive cutaway collar with T&A knitted silk tie

I’m usually a 16" collar, but need to check, so I descend the wooden staircase to the fitting area. I’m greeted courteously by an immaculate gentleman who, on one glance, suggests a 16½ collar. It fits perfectly. He proceeds to take me through all the different types of shirts: the weave of the cotton, the mother of pearl buttons that are cross-locked stitched with waxed thread; he goes into just the right amount of detail not to confuse, but enthuse you. I opt for their signature 'Classic' plain white, double-cuffed shirt, with the distinctive T&A cutaway collar. The shirts are all proudly made in England, in their Gloucestershire workrooms.

 T&A midnight blue knitted silk tie

T&A midnight blue knitted silk tie

As I step out of the shop into the bustle of Jermyn St, immaculate well dressed men are scuttling to lunch. Much the same way I imagine Beau and his dandies did all those years ago.

Hipster Gin

“I need to be myself, I can’t be no one else, I’m feeling supersonic, give me a gin and tonic”: Oasis

 Hogarth's Gin Lane

Hogarth's Gin Lane

Gin is the scoundrel of spirits. It’s got a bad reputation: not as sophisticated as whisky, or as glamorous as vodka, but we British love it. 

Londoners have a particular penchant for the spirit; so much so that gin was our first drug craze in the early 18th century, when widespread and extreme drunkenness took a grip of the capital. This Gin Craze required legislation in the form of The Gin Act of 1736, which dropped a heavy tax on gin retailers, in an attempt to curb and control production and consumption. This really pissed Londoners off; so they rioted. On the upside, the quality of the gin was substantially improved, as previously most of it had been quite dangerous, and could literally rob you of your sight, hence the expression 'blind drunk'.

Then, the British Army, and middle class on tour in India, started to drink gin and tonic (quinine) to prevent and cure malaria. The cocktail was refreshing, and began to be associated with hot climates. This made gin and tonic a fashionable drink. 

However, over time, gin started to suffer from being the choice of stuffy suburban folk. This negative perception has dominated over the last few decades, lubricating a well oiled slide in sales to vodka. The large drinks companies reduced the ABV of their gins for tax purposes, with accountants muttering that no one would notice. The great ad campaigns stopped. Gin was back in the gutter: it wasn’t cool, and no one wanted to admit to drinking it anymore. Except old people, and young people who aspired to be old; a strange finding from a focus group I attended a long time ago.

 Yerburgh's Jam Jar Gin & Wicked Wolf Exmoor Gin

Yerburgh's Jam Jar Gin & Wicked Wolf Exmoor Gin

Now, there’s a thriving craft gin renaissance going on, people are producing high-quality, artisan, small-batch gin. Friends of The Obsessive have launched their own brands of gin, and they’re going down rather well.

 Dan with Yerburgh's signature cocktail The Polish Vesper. 2 Shots of Jam Jar Gin, 1 shot of Zubrowka, ½ shot of Vermouth preferably Lillet Blanc. 

Dan with Yerburgh's signature cocktail The Polish Vesper. 2 Shots of Jam Jar Gin, 1 shot of Zubrowka, ½ shot of Vermouth preferably Lillet Blanc. 

Yerburgh’s (pronounced Yar-borough) Jam Jar Gin is the creation of the lovely couple, Dan and Faye Thwaites. They have an old kitchen garden in which Faye grows a variety of produce, some of which ends up in their delicious jam. They then decided that they would start experimenting with different gin infusions with fruits and herbs from their garden. They performed their taste experiments in old jam jars. Soon, the house was covered in jars of gin, quietly infusing away.

 Jam Jars full of infusions

Jam Jars full of infusions

Their objective was to create a gin that tasted like the best of a British summer. They worked with experts to develop the taste, and when they’d finally achieved that refreshing taste of raspberries and cream, they turned to crowdfunding to raise the capital to create their business. The Obsessive pledged, and received a gallon of gin in return; which is a lot of gin.

 Faye with flavour scientist, Gema Zaragoza Álvarez

Faye with flavour scientist, Gema Zaragoza Álvarez

Jam Jar Gin is distilled in South London and comes in a classic Mason glass jar, which is tough, durable and re-usable. Jam Jar gin weighs in at a whopping 43% ABV. Its citric bite and long creamy finish won a Global Gin Masters Silver Medal in the super-premium category, just two months after the production of the first batch. As the jar lid label says, "make something bloody marvellous", and they have.

 Tough Mason jar

Tough Mason jar

The other Obsessive gin is Wicked Wolf Exmoor Gin.

 Wicked Wolf Exmoor Gin

Wicked Wolf Exmoor Gin

Pat and Julie sold up their London home and moved west to an old North Devon chapel in need of restoration. Pat grew up enjoying a wealth of Indian aromatic and spiced food; flavours that are a passion for him.

Pat is an industrious bloke: he built a small smokehouse to cure fish, meat, cheese, garlic and nuts that he sold to local hotels, bars and restaurants. Then, his attention turned to infusing vodka, and then onto his favourite spirit, gin. Through trial and error, using family and friends as guinea pigs, he developed a distinctive flavoured gin. When his local landlord said, “I’d buy that and make it the house gin”, Pat decided to "give it a go". So, he bought his own copper still.

 Wicked Wolf's copper still

Wicked Wolf's copper still

“I think we must have been through over 40 botanicals until we arrived at our select 11. Of course juniper & coriander had to make up the base, and the rest came over a period of time; adding small amounts to our base mix in varying quantities, tasting, then adding a bit more or starting all over again, until 2 years and 23 recipes later, we hit our perfect balance.”

 Only 100 litres per batch

Only 100 litres per batch

Wicked Wolf Exmoor Gin uses a combination of 11 traditional and exotic botanicals, producing complex layers of citrus and pepper notes, finely balanced with the distinct flavours of juniper and coriander. Hibiscus and kaffir lime leaves have been artfully entwined with these traditional aromatics.

 G&T as advised: sprig of thyme, ball of ice, wedge of lime and Fever Tree tonic

G&T as advised: sprig of thyme, ball of ice, wedge of lime and Fever Tree tonic

The gin is filtered at every stage of the production process, and pot-distilled in their copper alembic still. It’s lovingly hand-blended, bottled and labelled by Pat and Julie, in exclusive 100 litre batches. The end product of all this hard work is a 42% ABV, smooth, full-bodied and elegant spirit.

 Pat and Julie with their gin, in their now restored Methodist Chapel, built around 1837

Pat and Julie with their gin, in their now restored Methodist Chapel, built around 1837

The Obsessive is a huge fan of both these quite different gins, and the Dutch Courage and entrepreneurial spirit that made them happen.

 

www.jamjargin.com

www.wickedwolfgin.com

Vintage HiFi

“Why did you buy those, where are we going to put them? No, I don’t like them”

This was my long suffering wife’s reaction at my first step into vintage HiFi when I came home with my Quad ESL 57s.

 Vintage Quad

Vintage Quad

 

There’s an old saying that you can judge a man by his haircut, shoes and watch. You can obviously add car, house, boat, wife and more to this list but HiFi is often overlooked as a key indicator of a type of man. Especially in the digital age, where taking the time to sit, listen and appreciate music seems to have disappeared. 

The first time I became aware of HiFi was when my father came home with some enormous boxes from Harrods with the word SONY on the side. He slowly and carefully unpacked the heavy and beautifully made turntable, receiver and speakers, as if they were precious porcelain. It’s difficult to believe that no-one had heard of SONY.  

As a family, we would sit in the living room, drinking tea, listening to bands like The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and The Rolling Stones on Dad's new HiFi. The HiFi enabled you to hear a wonderful depth of sound; it smelt nice too–it must have been all those valves and plastic heating up.

Then there was Ray’s HiFi: he had an eccentric English brand, called Quad. His system had the most amazing, huge, flat speakers called ESL 57s. The name is the abbreviation of Electrostatic Loudspeaker 1957. They were flat because in the pursuit of audio perfection, the chaps at Quad decided to run an electric charge through a large, flat speaker, rather than a cone shaped one (this is obviously a very basic explanation). Quad invented thin electrical equipment as a by product of perfecting sound.

As a young Account Director at Y&R, I met Tim Broadbent, who was one of advertising's greatest planners. Tim was an exceptionally intelligent man, and spent his life being patient with us lesser mortals. He was a fellow obsessive, and we’d spend hours discussing the joys of bespoke suits and fine shoes. He loved his Rolex GMT, and he adored his Quad HiFi, and would eulogise on the benefits of gold cables.

 Bigger than radiators

Bigger than radiators

One night, I came home drunkety drunk-drunk, and found myself on eBay. eBay is a dangerous place for any obsessive, but for a drunk obsessive, it’s the devil incarnate. I have no idea why I typed Quad ESL 57 into the search bar, but to my surprise, a pair appeared. I bid a derisory amount, and went to bed.

The next day, accompanied by my hangover and my father, I headed to deepest Hackney to collect my prize. We arrived at a small Victorian terraced house, where a gentleman audiophile wearing a cardigan opened the door, and, slightly grumpily, welcomed us in. His wife sat smugly at a small table, while the large, flat radiator-like speakers sat in the middle of the living room.

He played a strange CD of sounds to prove that they worked with clarity at different sound levels. My hangover didn’t enjoy this. Then, pointing to his wife, he moaned that he had to sell his beloved speakers because, “She was sick of the sight of them." She smiled, and rolled her eyes.

He went on to complain that I’d pretty much stolen them from him. I asked why he hadn't set a reserve? This angered him further, as he didn’t know that he could. Then, a dastardly grin appeared on his face, and he said, “You do have the correct set up for these? Because they’ll ark and burn out if you use the wrong amplification.” On this note, he handed me the service documents (yes, these speakers have service history, just like a valuable car), and chuckled to himself as he waved goodbye. My hangover felt worse.

 The Quad plaque, including serial number

The Quad plaque, including serial number

 Quad Classic amplifiers: yes, you need two

Quad Classic amplifiers: yes, you need two

 Huge valves on Quad Classic II amps

Huge valves on Quad Classic II amps

It took a small fortune, and a lot of time, to track down a pair of original Quad Classic II amplifiers (the serial numbers must be reasonably close), plus the matching radio and receiver; and then yet more money to get them all restored and serviced by London Sound in Harrow, who did an amazing job, and are audiophiles who exist in a stereo galaxy far, far away. 

 Receiver and Radio (no DAB here)

Receiver and Radio (no DAB here)

I love my ESL 57s, but my wife hates them, and we need to build an extension to house them.

This article is dedicated to a fellow obsessive, Tim Broadbent, 1st October 1953-7th July 2015.

 Tim Broadbent 1st October 1953-7th July 2015

Tim Broadbent 1st October 1953-7th July 2015


Garment Instructions

You’ve got to love a garment that communicates to the wearer.

“We suggest wearing a minimum of 60 times before first wash”: Wallace & Barnes

“Could you survive for 40 days and 40 nights on a piece of tofu the size of this Maharishi washcare label?”: Maharishi

“Dry Clean only. Don’t come crying to us if your mum shrinks it”: Duffer of StGeorge

 Wallace & Barnes Japanese Selvedge Chino

Wallace & Barnes Japanese Selvedge Chino

My relationship with a pair of chinos, or khakis, began when I read ACL’s review of a pair made by J.Crew, under their Wallace & Barnes sub-brand. Wallace & Barnes is J.Crew’s workwear orientated brand, and seemingly where they hide the really good stuff.

 Printed instructions for wear & care

Printed instructions for wear & care

I’ve tried and failed so many times with chinos, always reaching for a pair of jeans in the morning, over whatever the latest style of chino I’d bought. I’ve got a drawer full of the bloody things.

 Triangular back pocket flaps

Triangular back pocket flaps

However, these chinos are different: they’re a match for any expensive, raw denim pair of jeans. They’re made on narrow looms from 11½oz Japanese selvedge cotton: the red selvedge thread visible on the turn up cuff. Like all good workwear, the material is also sanforized, so these chinos are tough and will not shrink; so buy to fit. They’re exceptionally stiff when new, but over time, they soften and mould themselves to your shape. The attention to detail is exceptional, with button fly and triangular back pocket flaps. 

 Selvedge red thread

Selvedge red thread

 More wear in every pair

More wear in every pair

 

Supply of these fine trousers into the UK is limited, which means that a trip to J.Crew Lambs Conduit St is advisable if you’re going to invest in a pair. 

 Don't take them off for a couple of months

Don't take them off for a couple of months

J.Crew on Lambs Conduit St is small and beautifully formed, with J.Crew’s multiple excellent collaborations with other brands available there alongside the best J.Crew has to offer. It’s run by David, who is friendly and knows his menswear, so you can have a good chat about what’s what while you’re there. It’s how shopping should be. 

 David, J.Crew 38 Lambs Conduit St

David, J.Crew 38 Lambs Conduit St

These chinos are expensive, but if you’re a firm believer in Considered Consumption, you’ll soon get over the price. As the label says, "They get better with age," and become so comfortable you’ll reach for them every morning. 

 Do as it says, or you'll keep setting shop alarms off and having to deal with store security.

Do as it says, or you'll keep setting shop alarms off and having to deal with store security.

Another Country

“We’ve gone on holiday by mistake”: Withnail

 

If, like me, you think of the 1986 classic film ‘Withnail And I’ when someone mentions “getting away for a weekend in the country”, then, fear no more, because the members club Soho House has opened its gate in Oxfordshire.  It’s an extraordinary place, and it hasn’t even finished being built yet. The investment in the 100 acre farm in Great Tew must be of the eye-watering variety, but it’s going to be worth every penny. 

 Epic failure to pack lightly for weekend in the country

Epic failure to pack lightly for weekend in the country

We spent a very pleasant Saturday evening there with our friends the Molloys. It’s exactly the experience that you want to have when you go to the country: you can wear all those chunky jumpers, Barbours and Hunter boots that you bought over the years, in the hope that you might have an excuse to wear them one day. 

The facilities are amazing; but just sitting with a drink by the huge outdoor roaring fires is satisfying enough, before you head off for something to eat in one of the excellent restaurants. Anyone who doesn’t benefit from either having a family seat in the country, or friends that have made the move out of town, can now go and enjoy the country whilst feeling totally at home, and not worrying about leaving the gate open.

Soho Farmhouse is in an area of quite outstanding beauty, with towns like Burford and Upper Slaughter close by, and of course the great Blenheim Palace less than 14 miles away in Woodstock. The Cotswold stone gives every building a comforting uniformity and aesthetic in a way that complements the surrounding countryside: a red brick building really sticks out like a sore thumb up here. There are modern interesting houses too, the best ones adhering to the natural materials and palette of the Cotswolds.

 249 outside Trinity Barns

249 outside Trinity Barns

The Obsessive’s great friends and supporters, the Molloys, moved their entire extended family to this area on the Oxfordshire-Gloucestershire border, from various locations in London. They’ve restored Trinity Barns (see Livingetc Dec 2015) to become an idyllic oasis away from the madding crowd, but close enough to all the places to go, like Soho Farmhouse, and Daylesford: an essential destination if you need to do some sophisticated shopping.

 Entrance to Daylesford

Entrance to Daylesford

 Greeted by vegetables at Daylesford

Greeted by vegetables at Daylesford

Daylesford is the organic farm owned by the Bamford family, and it’s one of those places where it’s just lovely to spend time. The food–particularly the selection of vegetables and cheese– is wonderful, and the quality of the meat is simply outstanding. The butcher’s deserves a special mention, as the meat comes from an organic abattoir that is one of the last non-Halal abattoirs in the country; which means that if animal welfare and good husbandry are important to you, you know you’re safe buying there. 

 Morning coffee stop at Daylesford

Morning coffee stop at Daylesford


Everything is organic: it’s a foodie paradise. The non-food goods at Daylesford are all of a high quality, but understated and thoughtful. The staff are excellent too.

 249 trundling through a ford

249 trundling through a ford

 Autumnal light in the Cotswold lanes

Autumnal light in the Cotswold lanes

A trip to the country also meant an opportunity to take 249 on a road trip to its natural habitat. Jane Molloy’s partner, Jonathan West, is a photographer, and agreed to shoot 249 for The Obsessive. What a weekend of shooting it turned out to be, the warmest ever since records began. The autumnal light was magnificent as we trundled happily around lanes and fields, taking shots of 249. 

 Jonah & Jolly

Jonah & Jolly

 Entrance to Donnington Manor

Entrance to Donnington Manor

Neighbours of the Molloys, Henry and Kat, allowed us to meander all over their estate, which gave 249 the chance to perform some exceedingly mild off-roading and get a little muddy, whilst enjoying some beautiful views from the manor house.

 Very mild off roading

Very mild off roading

 View from the house

View from the house

All in all, a truly outstanding weekend in the country, and nothing to fear for a Londoner–so, go and visit an exceptionally beautiful part of England.

 On the farm

On the farm

 

The Obsessive asked Jane Molloy what a weekend in the country should include, when visiting this corner of England:

A good walk: The Heart of England Way goes through the Cotswolds and past Trinity Barns.

A cream tea: Lords of the Manor hotel in Upper Slaughter, which is perhaps the most picturesque of Cotswold villages.

A delicious dinner: The Swan Inn at Swinbrook is owned by the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire’s estate. She was the last of the Mitford sisters (they all grew up nearby) all of whom are buried in the churchyard, just along from the inn.

Shopping for antiques in Burford: Burford was named as one of the seven top places to live in Europe. 

Sunday lunch - The Wild Rabbit, which is owned by Lady Bamford, makes a very good Sunday roast and the rooms there are excellent too.

The Molloys’ Trinity Barns include one that you can stay in, and are all are available for location shoots.

Stay at Donnington Manor with Henry and Kat.

 Jolly

Jolly

The Hardest Working Boot

From the moment I pulled on my first pair in The Duffer of St George, D’Arblay St, I’ve loved Red Wings, and have been wearing them ever since. 

It was that workwear fashion-craze of the nineties that brought us not just Red Wing, but also Carhartt. I still have my original pair of boots, but manage to find excuses to buy different variants of the 875. 

 The boots that started it all...

The boots that started it all...

Until recently, Red Wings were quite difficult to buy; so when in the early noughties I found myself in Portland, Oregon, I was determined to buy a pair. Even in the US they were fairly elusive, as back then, they were just a workwear boot. 

 Commando (Vibram) sole for tougher terrain.

Commando (Vibram) sole for tougher terrain.

I did some research (pre-internet) and located a Red Wing store in the middle of nowhere; Russell Davies drove me all the way out there. It was in a small, off the beaten track, open-air mall that comprised fried food emporiums and cheap leisurewear outlets. 

At the end of a row of stores was the tiny little Red Wing outlet. As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by a very “momsy” woman, whose first words to us were, “You English guys! Why are you always in here buying these boots? Suppose you want the 875s, the steel workers' boot; you know they wear them tight, honey?” 

 Re-soled at the Newburgh St store

Re-soled at the Newburgh St store

Thankfully it’s not so hard to get a pair of Red Wings on your feet these days, as Red Wing have opened a store in Newburgh St, which also offers a repairs service. Newburgh St is just around the corner from D'Arblay St, where I bought my first pair. 

 They get better with age.

They get better with age.

Coffee Machine Madness

Ever found yourself doing 147mph down the M11?

I’ve loved coffee from the moment I had my first milky bowlful as a child. In the ’80s, The Dome in Hampstead introduced me to Espresso. Those little powerful hits of coffee are all I’ll drink. I’ve had a Pavoni machine for years and it’s wonderful; I use it every day. It needed a service and I asked my Italian friend Alex Silva (his father's first job in the UK was as a coffee machine serviceman before becoming a restaurateur) if he knew of anyone; he recommended Dr Espresso. So, I started to follow him on Facebook. This guy restores old Espresso machines to an exceptionally high standard. The machines are Italian industrial works of art. 

Looking at all the wonderful machines made me feel like it was time for a bit of an upgrade on the old Pavoni, so I started searching for something new. Trundling around the internet threw up plenty of machines, mostly from failed coffee shops or pubs that had hoped that serving coffee might save them. This was quite sad; the machines looked cold and lonely.

Then, like a glorious brass angel, The Elektra Belle Epoque appeared on my screen. All my minimalist, form and function aesthetics vanished and were replaced with a desire to own such a glorious machine. It was somewhere in Essex, and needed a home. I won the auction (I was the only bidder), and headed off to deepest Essex to collect it from a man called Dan.

After getting lost a couple of times, I finally arrived on the small, neat housing estate, with black cabs parked in the driveways. Dan appeared from around the side of the house. He was an Eastern European gentleman, who spoke excellent English. He invited me in and, sitting there on the counter, in all her glory, was the Elektra. Dan had set her up to prove that everything was working and to demonstrate how to use her. After my initial shock at the size of her, I fell totally in love with her; she was definitely from The Beautiful Era.

 Dan with the Elektra 

Dan with the Elektra 

Dan ran through the fairly straightforward operating instructions, then we got on to making some espresso. The first couple of cups weren’t up to his exacting standards, and as he worked on producing a coffee that he approved of, he explained how this machine had come from one of the coffee shops he had owned in Italy, and how he wanted to open another in Covent Garden; he couldn’t believe how much people in London would pay for great coffee.

He then explained that he bought Caffè Carbonelli beans because they’re wood-flame roasted. He ground the beans in an Elektra grinder, which wasn’t for sale (much to my annoyance). I listened, and learned. Finally, after several attempts, the espresso in the tiny pre-warmed cup had the exact crema he desired, and he presented it to me. I confessed to liking a little sugar in my espresso. He looked slightly upset, then said he had something better than sugar. He produced an earthenware jar. It was date molasses from India, which he bought in bulk from a supplier in the East End. He scraped a teaspoon of the dark, sticky stuff out of the jar and into my Espresso. “You know it’ll dissolve the crema, don’t you?” he said.

The taste was full and strong with a punch. In moments, every fibre of my body was buzzing; I felt a little high.

 Caffe Carbonelli beans

Caffe Carbonelli beans

Whilst we discussed our love of coffee, we managed to drink at least another seven of these glorious little cups of pleasure. 

Finally, we loaded the Elektra into the back of the car; he even gave me a new earthenware jar of molasses from his stock. With much brotherly hugging and farewells, I left the neat little housing estate, totally off my tits on coffee. I was rushing. I was driving a 399BHP Stuttgart behemoth under the influence of the brass and copper coffee goddess in the boot (trunk).

The M11 is a lovely road to drive fast down, and the Essex constabulary know this. Thankfully I realised that I was travelling at a prison sentence speed, and slowed down. It was a really tough thing to do: when you’re flying on coffee, the national speed limit feels slow, and rather dull.

 The Electra in it's new home.

The Electra in it's new home.

I got home and unloaded the Elektra. My wife sighed, “Bloody hell, that’s big. Oh God, it's like those speakers you bought..” 

I took the dog for a long walk.

A Gentleman's Adventure

“You and this car are so English.”

 

IMG_3946.JPG

 

Text from Mark Adams: “Mate, do you fancy bringing in the Champagne harvest at my friend’s vineyard? We’ll stay with the family–full room and board. It’ll be great; we’ll get to be proper ‘Frenchies’ for a week.”

The foolish, romantic adman in me fell in love with this idea; so I packed up 249 and headed to France. My Land Rover Defender is number 249 of 385 UK 50th Anniversary Special Editions, and since buying it, I’d been seeking an adventure. As one of the mums at Beatrice’s school said, “You’re having a proper midlife crisis.” I’ve always done things at an early age..

I collected Mark and we trundled off. The Defender has a V8 engine, an automatic gearbox with ratios for off-roading and she’s wearing knobbly tyres: we made slow but happy progress across France. Nearly four hours after le grand départ, we arrived at La Cave aux Coquillages, Fleury-la-Rivière, Champagne-Ardenne: the home of the Legrand family. Patrice, the father, is a keen archaeologist and has been excavating the hill behind the house for years. It’s really impressive stuff; he’s created a 200m tunnel revealing an abundance of fossilised shells and creatures that once inhabited the warm sea that covered the region. It’s this rich, chalky soil that gives Champagne its distinctive taste.

 Classic French tree lined road into Fleury-la-Rivière

Classic French tree lined road into Fleury-la-Rivière


 Unbranded, naked Champagne on arrival

Unbranded, naked Champagne on arrival

We were greeted by Thibault (pronounced ‘Teebo’) with an unbranded, naked bottle of Champagne; it tasted wonderful. As we sat in the courtyard with the afternoon sun on our faces, drinking their cold, fresh-tasting Champagne, I was immensely pleased that I’d come along for the adventure. That evening, we sat with the family: Patrice, Anne and Thibault, at their kitchen table. It was all so French, I felt as if I was in a film or an ‘O’ level text book.

As a youth I’d found myself in the top set of French at school; something that was profoundly uncool to me. I deliberately flunked it, resulting in the only school report I can remember:        “It has remained a mystery to both Jonathan and myself as to how he came to be in this set.”

With Mark’s and my poor French and the family’s lack of English, we relied on the help of Google Translate to get by. We agreed to come down for breakfast at 6am and to leave at 06:30 to drive 249 to meet the other pickers. 

 

 Morning mist sitting in the valley

Morning mist sitting in the valley

After a short night’s sleep we set off, following Patrice down through small villages and along narrow roads across vineyards. The roads hugged the side of the valley, and in the pre-dawn light we could see the mist sitting below us. It was breathtakingly beautiful. We arrived at the Legrand family compound in Vendrières to meet the other pickers. We were a motley crew of French, Spanish and two Englishman. The most obvious difference was that all the pickers except one (François) were literally half our age, if not younger. Thibault divided the pickers into groups and allocated vehicles for transportation to the various vineyards. So, four young French women climbed into the back of the Defender. Over the next eight days, they would become residents of 249.

 French girls take up residency in 249

French girls take up residency in 249

 

We arrived at the first vineyard at 07:30. Thibault issued cutters and buckets and assigned us in pairs to a row of vines. Vines are harvested with a picker on each side. To gather the grapes you have to either crouch, bend over or crawl. It’s back-breaking work. Once you’ve filled your bucket (which happens surprisingly quickly), you transfer it to a large box, which holds 45kg of grapes. When the boxes were full, Thibault and Mathias would collect them up on porter-like trolleys, sometimes with four boxes (180 kg) stacked on top of each other. Then all the boxes were piled onto the ageing Nissan pick-up and taken off to the co-operative press. All the grapes are pressed within hours of being harvested. The grapes go through the extraction process three times, with the first press (the cuvée) being the best. Most Champagnes are a blend of first and second press.

 Patrice & Thibault Legrand

Patrice & Thibault Legrand

 10:00 much needed coffee breaks with fresh bread and pâté

10:00 much needed coffee breaks with fresh bread and pâté

 249 parked by vineyard 

249 parked by vineyard 

Around 10:00 we would all stop picking and head back to the cars for coffee, fresh baguette and pâté or cheese. This was a wonderful part of the day; the scene couldn’t have been more French. I even used my Opinal No8 penknife to hack off lumps of bread and Brie.

 View from hillside vineyard

View from hillside vineyard


 Cold Beer

Cold Beer

The first couple of days were hot and sunny and we enjoyed glorious views. At the end of each day, we’d head home in 249 and stop at the bar next to the bridge at the entrance to Fleury-la-Rivière for a well-earned, cold beer. One day as we were sitting there, we heard a motorbike screaming along the tree-lined road running adjacently. The bike soon came into sight: the young rider standing on the rear pegs, pulling a wheelie. He waved at us as he passed. No one cared, the gendarmes weren’t chasing him to give him an ASBO; it was just one of those surreal French moments. 

Every evening we’d go home exhausted, with back-ache and legs that hurt so much we could barely walk. We all ate dinner together and discussed the yield from the day’s harvest: the different types of grapes; the volume and quality of the press. 

 45kg boxes of Pinot Noir grapes

45kg boxes of Pinot Noir grapes

 Pinot Noir grapes

Pinot Noir grapes

Then, on day four, it started to rain and rain and rain.  The usually jovial spirit of the Spanish vanished and all we could hear from them was their deep voices grumbling. The French went quiet. Mark and I, being English and quite used to rain, just carried on chatting as we picked. We didn’t pick any faster, mind you.

 Waterproof coat drying off on 249

Waterproof coat drying off on 249

 

The rain just kept coming in waves; you could see the clouds approaching us from miles away down the valley. The ground became muddy and sticky. The vans were slipping and sliding around the fields, struggling for grip. 249 however, handled all this with aplomb; 249 was in her element: these conditions were exactly what she’d been designed for. Everyone began to sit in, on, or lean against 249; she became shelter from the rain and somewhere to rest your coffee or hang your waterproofs on during the much-needed coffee breaks. The rain continued for days and the vineyards seemed to be endless, but we pressed on; we were all in it together and a real camaraderie had developed. 

 249 as coffee table

249 as coffee table

 

All the grapes in the region need to be picked within the same ten day period so there were teams of pickers in all the vineyards. When a team has finished all its vineyards, the pickers go a little crazy, hooting their horns through the villages and generally making a lot of noise. Everyone comes to the roadside or opens their windows to cheer the pickers and to thank them for their hard work and dedication.

On our last day, the rain was torrential, turning the roads into streams. The wind picked up, making it chilly too. We huddled by 249, drinking our coffee and eating our bread and pâté as the rain streamed off the peaks of our caps. We had one last field to complete. All of a sudden the rain stopped, the sun came out; the valley looked gorgeous. Out of nowhere, a Eurofighter made a pass over our heads and down the valley. We all discarded our waterproofs and set to work. The Spanish were back to their happy selves, the French were chatting and joking. We had finally finished. 

We all headed back to the vans and to 249. We made a hell of a racket on our way back to Vendrières, and as our joyous caravan drove through the village hooting our horns, the villagers all came out to wave and shout congratulations to us. It was amazing. Mark and I even felt a little French as we did the English thing of shaking each other’s hand and saying, “Well done, mate.”

That night we all partied hard; some a little harder than others.

 Legrand Latour pickers 2015

Legrand Latour pickers 2015

 

The next day Mark and I became tourists and drove 249 around the Route de Champagne that runs all over the region. We headed over to the Distillerie Guillon in Louvois, where they produce a Champagne Whiskey which they call L’Esprit du Malt. The place is quite hard to find and looks like an abandoned estate when you arrive. But, ring the bell and the old gates swing open. We were greeted warmly, but with some surprise by a young woman. She showed us around the rather Heath Robinson-esque distillery, which uses an old cement mixer to mash, and shipping containers as storage for the old Champagne barrels full of the ageing spirit. The water comes from the estate’s own natural spring, which means the water comes through that special Champagne soil. After some tasting, we naturally bought a few bottles to take home.

 Guillon delivery truck slowly becoming a part of the forrest

Guillon delivery truck slowly becoming a part of the forrest

 Cement mixer lorry adapted to mash 

Cement mixer lorry adapted to mash 

 The Guillon selection of L'Esprit du Malt

The Guillon selection of L'Esprit du Malt

 

We had our last dinner with the Legrand family; which was wonderful as usual.  By now we were no longer strangers to their table and we realised how settled into their life we had become. Thibault explained that they had to pay us: we told him we did it for the experience and that we were by far the slowest pickers. However, the family would not be dissuaded, so we agreed to be paid in cases of their exquisite Champagne Legrand Latour. Their Champagne has a light freshness to it that I’ve never experienced before and is now obviously my favourite Champagne.

 Last dinner at the Legrand's kitchen table

Last dinner at the Legrand's kitchen table

 Beautifully restored buildings of  La Cave aux Coquillages

Beautifully restored buildings of La Cave aux Coquillages

 La famille Legrand et moi

La famille Legrand et moi

 Mark, 249 and me

Mark, 249 and me

 

The next day we loaded 249 full-to-bursting with cheese, pâté, Parfait Jars, Duralex glasses and, of course, Champagne, and headed home: 249 didn’t miss a beat.

 Waiting to board our train at Calais

Waiting to board our train at Calais

 

I don’t think you ever really understand a brand or a product until you’ve experienced it in its natural environment or used it for the purpose for which it was designed. I now have a deep understanding and love of the Land Rover brand and the Defender, especially 249.

 Legrand Latour Champagne safely home in UK

Legrand Latour Champagne safely home in UK



Mod a way of life

 Peter Campbell on his GS 160  (circa 1964)

Peter Campbell on his GS 160  (circa 1964)

“I only found out the other day that that 'mod thing' was about the whole look, not just about scooters–thank God for that eh?” 

Frazer Jellyman, lovely Brummie biker bloke

To a born and bred biker or 'rocker', why anyone would want a scooter is just incomprehensible. But, in a way, what the lovely Frazer had only just found out, is that “mod” is really a way of life. It’s almost a belief or a religion for the urban working class. 

Mod as a “way” has been developing since the early “modernists” of the late 50s: the tailored suits and Cuban heels on young men was a serious departure from their fathers' way of dressing. The slightly younger generation, known as 'the baby boomers', then really got a hold of the modernist thing and turned it into “mod”; it was still all about the look and tailored suits, but also a softer, more Italian way of dressing.

Mod is a way of life: it has its way and it has its own ideas, and it's a predominantly male, working-class thing. Mod is not just about a fashion trend captured by the media and frozen in time to be forever harking back to the 60s pop nonsense that gets regurgitated by nostalgia programmes on the telly. At the core of mod is a pursuit of the aesthetic: the bella figura is everything, but it's really an appreciation of style, and an optimistic, if sometimes angry, view of the way things should or ought to be. Once you believe in this aesthetic way of life, it never really leaves you. 

Mod is its name; it's about being in the now, being well, er... modern. Obviously its style and tone have changed over the years but cut, simplicity and quality are still its guiding principles. Mod has moved from the modernists of the late 50s, early 60s, with their box cut suits and Cuban heels, then the mods of '64 with tailored mohair suits cut “bum freezer” style so their jackets didn't crease on their Vespas. This style is also aggressively young, as an older man cannot ever be thin enough to wear suits cut in this style. 

This “baby boomer” generation really accelerated mod and moved into Levi's, Hush Puppies, Fred Perrys, button-down shirts and soft knitwear. This generation broadened the style and music, listening to American Soul and home-grown bands like The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Who. They had neat haircuts without grease (my dad still won't use anything in his hair) and most importantly there was a lot of them. They didn't really see themselves as mods because that's just what they wore and what they did. They were urban. The US Army M65 Fishtail Parka was in abundance in the early 60s and available cheaply from Army Surplus stores. The mods adopted it for purely practical reasons: they were cheap and warm to ride your scooter in and, most importantly, the M65 protected the precious tailored suit. It was the suit that made the mod, not his parka.

Not only did the mod have bespoke suits, but often wore hand-made shoes: Dad said you could tell where a mod came from by the way his shoes were made, because the young men would use their local cobbler. Dad and his mates all wore shoes made by Solli and swears he only had one last...

 Janet Campbell

Janet Campbell

Rockers represented almost everything the mod was against: Brylcreemed, greasy hair often styled into a quiff which was 50s American rock 'n' roll. This to the mods was the hangover from the war generation, and looked ridiculous to them with their new views and way of living. 

As ever, we can look back and see that the British rockers were quite different from anything America had; the “Café Racers”, or “Ton Up Boys” were just as an important working-class youth culture, but by the 60s, it was passé. Rockers were also more suburban than the mod urban cool. The problem with youths having a punch up on a bank holiday weekend is that it gives the press something to promote and sell papers. This media hype has left an historical over-emphasis on these minor skirmishes and the mod versus rocker myth lives on. The mods didn't go to Brighton to beat up rockers: they went there for a break from city living, promenade along the front in their finery, go to night clubs to dance and hopefully have sex. They were young, wealthy and on holiday. 

 Janet & Peter Campbell (centre couple) St Leonards '64

Janet & Peter Campbell (centre couple) St Leonards '64

Mod then drifted out to the suburbs, and the next generation started to add mirrors and lights to their scooters (Lambrettas also became acceptable due to longer stroke and bigger bore engines which could tackle suburbia and beyond). 

Then there was a bit of a lull in “mod”. Just as everyone wondered what they were going to do after “punk”, The Who released Quadrophenia, and it kicked off a mod revolution for what were effectively the baby boomers' babies! In every comprehensive school across the land there were legions of parka-clad kids, identifying with a youth trend their parents had started. This new generation was younger and listened to The Jam while they waited to be old enough to ride a scooter. I'm one of those mods or 'revisionists', as I've noticed them now referred to.  This generation, mixed with skinheads and rude boys, found Northern Soul and adopted it, then drifted into 'scooterists' and the great Scooter Rallies of the 80s.

Mod got lost for a while as “casual” came and went, then “acid house” flattened everything in its wake of bass. I’m aware I'm being a massive generalist when describing the chronology of youth cults.

Paul Weller had given up on The Style Council, but out of the blue, mod reappeared in Brit Pop: Blur and Oasis reinterpreted Mod, and all of a sudden it was cool again. Weller finally launched his excellent solo comeback album and us old mods breathed a sigh of relief that mod was still relevant. 

But now, oh wow! - looks like mod is back and it means business. Weller is the man to record with, the Gallagher brothers have adopted mod. Then there's Miles Kane's debut album 'Colour of the Trap', which is a brilliant repackaging of mod. Then, if all of that wasn't enough, Bradley Wiggins: a mod that has kept the faith won the 2012 Tour de France  planting mod right back into our hearts and its European aesthetic origins.

My eldest daughter Florence is seventeen and she's currently wearing DM loafers, Levi's and a Fred Perry (borrowed from her brother) and her mother's old Sage Green MA1. She looks very cool and dare I say it a little bit mod, like her father, grandfather and grandmother before her.

This mod thing will never die, and it's certainly not just about the scooter.