Monday, February 9, 2009

That's What's Really Good: The Chap

You might be asking "What's The Chap, H-man?"

"The Chap takes a wry look at the modern world through the steamed-up monocle of a more refined age, occasionally getting its sock suspenders into a twist at the unspeakable vulgarity of the twenty-first century.

Since 1999, the Chap has been championing the rights of that increasingly marginalised and discredited species of Englishman - the gentleman. The Chap believes that a society without courteous behaviour and proper headwear is a society on the brink of moral and sartorial collapse, and it seeks to reinstate such outmoded but indispensable gestures as hat doffing, giving up one's seat to a lady and regularly using a trouser press."

I first encountered The Chap in London, England. It was the autumn of 2005. As a champion of global culture, I enrolled at the School of Oriental and African Studies to see what this whole "colonialism" thing everyone at Wesleyan was so crazy about was. It was myself and Alex Magnin, who is something of an American chap himself. Alex is now devoted to marketing towards the upper echelons of our American chap society with Martini Life. Upon first look The Chap may come off as something like a magazine, but be clear it is not. The Chap is a lifestyle. I can't provide a finer introduction to The Chap than their Manifesto:

"Society has become sick with some nameless malady of the soul. We have become the playthings of corporations intent on converting our world into a gargantuan shopping precinct. Pleasantness and civility are being discarded as the worthless ephemera of a bygone age - an age when men doffed their hats to the ladies, and small children could be counted upon to mind one's Jack Russell while one took a mild and bitter in the local hostelry.

Instead, we live in a world where children are huge hooded creatures lurking in the shadows; the local hostelry has been taken over by a large chain that specialises in chilled lager, whose principal function is to aggravate the nervous system. Needless to say, the Jack Russell is no longer there upon one's return.

The Chap proposes to take a stand against this culture of vulgarity. We must show our children that the things worth fighting for are not the latest plastic plimsolls but a shiny pair of brogues. We must wean them off their alcopops and teach them how to mix martinis. Let the young not be ashamed of their flabby paunches, which they try to hide in their nylon tracksuits - we shall show them how a well-tailored suit can disguise the most ruined of bodies. Finally, let us capitalise on youth's love of peculiar argot Ð only replace their pidgin ghetto-speak with fruity bons mots and dry witticisms.

It is time for Chaps and Chapettes from all walks of life to stand up and be counted. But fear not, ye languid and ye plain idle: ours is a revolution based not on getting up early and exerting oneself - but a revolution that can be achieved by a single raised eyebrow over a monocle; the ordering of a glass of port in All Bar One; the wearing of a particularly fetching cardigan upon a visit to one's bookmaker. In other words: a revolution of panache. We shall bewilder the masses with seams in our trousers that could cut paper, trilbies angled so rakishly that traffic comes to a standstill; and by refusing the bland, watery substances that are foisted upon us by faceless corporations, we shall bring the establishment to its knees, begging for sartorial advice and a nip from our hip flasks."


Alex says "The Chap Manifesto is a central tenet of my life. A gentleman filters all of life through a lovely and sociable manner. Also, day cravats, trilby with a tilt, and tipping generously."

Maybe this Chap Manifesto is better suited for white folk as I don't know what day cravats, trilby, or tipping are. I'm kidding, I know what a day cravat is. I googled it. It's neckwear for the gentleman.

Although I may have spoken too soon. Peep this article on India's Facial Hair Cutbacks. In addition to the swate picture below, they also touch upon India's massive influence on feminine Britain's masculinity....

"India's legendary moustaches are disappearing as India enters the clean-shaven digital age. The traditional Indian belief that facial hair is a sign of virility is being replaced by fears of a moustache or beard making a young man look older, or even being slightly itchy. Well-known Indian cricket players no longer have facial hair, while Bollywood actors have opted instead for "designer" stubble.

During the days of the Raj, Indian moustaches had a profound effect on British facial hair. The British Army, with their naked upper lips, had difficulty maintaining authority among their Indian counterparts, who saw their lack of plumage as a lack of manliness. Once British officers began cultivating facial hair, the trend spread quickly through the army and then into the civilian population.

Indian facial hair has consistently hit the headlines, from the world's longest beard (five feet from tip to tip) to the world's longest industrial tribunal involving a moustache (see The Chap, issue 38). The police force in India recently relaxed the rule requiring all officers to sport a bushy moustache. The only profession where a moustache is still mandatory is among doormen of five-star hotels. "

I miss my mustache.

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