Q: Your Lordship (or is it “Your Lordliness”?):
Does the rule regarding wearing light fabrics and colors only after
Memorial Day still apply? Or am I just being a fuddy-duddy?
Beekman Place, New York
A: My Darling Lightweight,
There is a reason why Vivaldi composed The Four Seasons, giving musical expression to the seasons . . . “When Spring appears in splendour.” Whether violin concerti or one’s attire, there is many a metaphor for the individual seasons. As we all well know (particularly those like Yours Truly who serves as an advisor ex officio to the New York Philharmonic, among other cultural totems), Vivaldi had the viola section evoke a barking dog during his Rite of Spring.
Sadly, we no longer reside in the mores—nor music—of the 18th century (although a Netflix binge of Barry Lyndon will quickly make you wish you were. Ah, if only we were all forever bathed in such candlelit chiaroscuro as that of the great Kubrick . . . ).
But I digress. His Lordship hereby declares that his Fifth Avenue fiefdom show some latitude in regard to when to break out the khaki suit or floral headdress. In today’s environment, we mustn’t ignore that environmental phenomenon commonly referred to as global warming (Note to Manners’ Personal Secretary: Pen Note to Al Gore Re: His Request for The Manners’ Detroit Diet ‘Eat My Words’ so he can fit into his 265 dollar Everest Isles swim trunks by June. My goodness, how that man can bloat overnight! The vice presidency truly isn’t worth more than a bucket of spit . . . LBJ’s choice of words. Not mine).
Live a little. Adjust accordingly to the fickle ways of the weather. Don’t go jaunting down the avenue in something akin to your croquet outfit (and with Pimm’s in hand). And, yes, the lighter hues—for both He and She—are now perfectly permissible prior to Memorial Day.
While on the subject of a befitting fit for more temperate climates, I also proclaim (trumpet roll, please, Teddy the Mutt . . .) that each and every gentleman take it upon himself to don a short sleeve shirt under his suit during sultry summer days in the city. Do away with this silly (non-) sense of shame about not wearing your divine, bespoke Albini French cuff shirt and Hermès cuff links. Let us not forget the fundamentals: An undershirt is mandatory. Not just during the chill of winter, but also during the Dantesque heat of a July afternoon. Who among us wants to witness rivulets of sweat streaming beneath your shirt? (Just as there is good reason why the Colonial English chose to imbibe hot tea: It conversely cools you down. An undershirt will do wonders. And some piping hot tea is a far better choice than toting some silly drink by the name of Zero Water or the like).
Ladies, take heed. The same edict applies to you (less the undershirt, of course). Flaunt thy legs, O Fair Ones (within reason: We wouldn’t want you denied entrance to the Colony Club). Bare thy arms. To hell with whether they are perfectly toned. We of the “manner” born take delight in imperfection. Consistency is indeed the hobgoblin of human life (apologies to Monsieur Thoreau).
Q: To the Kind Attention of the Honorable Lord of the Manner:
I recently split from my wife of some twenty-five years. The ensuing parting of the ways of our mutual friends was almost as difficult as giving up the various Dubuffets my dearly departed grandmum left me (Well, not really. My wife’s co-opting of my precious persimmon wood drivers is far too painful to explain). My question: What is it with this catchall word “amicable” that seems to rule denizens of the Upper East Side in regard to how they approach a newly separated couple? It certainly wasn’t included in the 300-page document that I served her with (courtesy of Shearman & Sterling’s Best and Brightest!). To think: I’m a pariah at Piping Rock. And I pay her goddamn dues!
The “Amicable” One
The Bachelor Suite, The Lowell Hotel
New York, New York
A: Dear He-Who-Is-Now-Relegated-to-the-Driving-Range,
Tsk, tsk, tsk. Why must even the most sophisticated Americans abide by such trivial rules of play when it comes to postmarital messiness?
And when I say “Americans,” I do not use the term in jest. It is a sad day when civilized society allows itself to succumb to such silly standards such as ignoring one ex-spouse while embracing the other. Caveat: Let it be understood that we are speaking in the broadest of terms: e.g., the most heinous of misbehavior such as, say, infidelity, which dates back further in history than prostitution, our most aged of professions. Spousal murder via a spoonful of arsenic is not included in the below counsel. (Sorry, Claus. Then again, my good friend and backgammon adversary Mr. von Bülow has since wisely alighted across the pond.)
I challenge you to poll those European friends whom you and your ex-beloved once shared as great pals while you were together. You will discover that they are infinitely more sensible when it comes to such ridiculous rivalries and so-called “rules of play” regarding talking to one ex or the other. A properly raised European shuns such behavior (besides, European couples, particularly of the aristocratic bent, all have affairs—and, in the case of the husband, not necessarily with a woman). They address you both equally following your day in court. They invite you both to dinner parties in an equitable way, just as they would have when you were a delightful twosome (even if you were throwing Fabergé eggs at one another when behind closed doors).
For our American readers, ’tis true: the phrase “amicable” is an unfortunate reality. But the term is a farce. If one’s friends hear that the two of you are now “amicable,” only then do they take it upon themselves not to shun one of you. Needless to say, more often than not, it is the wife who by that time has won the so-called PR Game, thanks to the mouthpieces of her girlfriends and gay friends (the majority of whom are vastly unhappy in their own lives and hence serve up the most incendiary advice). And while you find yourself playing Tic-Tac-Toe against oneself in your temporary pied-a-terre, that suite at the Lowell, your wife puts on her best “victim” face at a dinner party down the block.
What nonsense! What couple is ever truly “amicable” following a parting of the ways? It is time for such behavior among society to cease and desist and they treat each of you the same. And, if not, stop with this unsaid rule that friends cannot speak to both of you until you hear from one of the two parties concerned that you are now “amicable.” If there is one thing His Manners cannot abide by is petty propriety.
Besides, you’re not getting any younger.
Q: Dear “Lord” of the Rings,
Is it effete for a man to wear a ring? And, if not, what do you consider the “right” ring?
A: My Dear Ring-a-Ding-Ding,
Don’t fret. Manners is not going to wring your neck. These are Fast Times. Your earnest query is au courant and of the moment.
First and foremost: It is you—not some accessory—who exemplifies who you are. Whoever that may be: whether a former Yale gridiron star or a stellar soprano and Whiffenpoof. You are the star. Not your style. Style comes from within, not vice versa.
Let’s first dispense with that age-old trope, the gentleman’s wedding ring. A simple gold band suffices nicely. And, yes, if your fiancée is donning a ring, so should you. I suspect your profound question has more to do with rings of a different circle. Take the pinkie ring, for example. In the States, it is less common than abroad. But when done correctly, it should be a source of pride. Whether your family crest or your university seal, if you believe in what you’re wearing, you’ll do just fine. But, please, never falsely flaunt your lineage or schooling. And when slipping on a ring with a stone, stay as diminutive as possible. Do try to avoid those mammoth so-called jewels in the case of the collegiate ring. Sooner than later you’ll find yourself the object of a good stoning.
Illustration by Gary Hovland.