Will asked me to describe how the Englishman transplanted to Brasil dresses and, as background, if you discount the whole nine yards of road in front of our house we live on the beach in a Sleepy Hollow, fifty miles to the north east of Rio de Janiero, in the Region of The Lakes.
The house is just within the Tropic of Capricorn, which means that I spend most of the year either naked in bed or in ´no-name´ shirts, shorts and simple, strapped sandals (a prime example of the saying “The cobbler´s bairn are aye the worst shod” - but let this remain our secret). To the extent that there is any local social expectation as to dress, it is just such an outfit, and there is great freedom to be found in this.
That said, I confess that when, a little while ago, we ventured into the Cidade Maravilhosa (The Marvelous City is the nickname for Rio) with a neighbour, I still felt conditioned by my thirty years of brisk London living to dress as I would to visit any of the world´s great cities; that is to say, I went as shown in the photograph.
I am wearing a mid-weight worsted navy and grey pinstripe suit; a separate vest in grey wool; a poplin shirt, woven silk tie, a pair of navy calf and off-white nubuck, toe- cap Oxford co-respondent (spectator) shoes and a Panama hat. I bought the hat around 1984, when Herbert Johnson still had an independent existence in a high, light and airy shop in Bond Street, which still resonated with its fame as a hatter to the haut ton, following patronage by Bertie, Prince of Wales and his set, various crowned heads of Europe, and blue bloods from the USA and elsewhere. I don´t think that (unless I lost it), I should ever replace this hat: being a firm believer that old clothes, like old friends; old books; old wine, and well-loved places bring us special comforts that only time and familiarity can reliably bring us.
The suit is mid-weight because there is air conditioning in vehicles and buildings in Rio; most of the things that are said about flimsy cloth are true, and light-weight suits do not make old friends.
I would not wear co-respondent shoes if I were doing business in Rio and, on this particular visit I was not.
The buttonhole is a frangipani flower from a tree in our garden and the pearl pin I had made a long time ago.
Rio has a reputation for being a ‘dangerous’ place and the standard advice to tourists is to ‘dress down’. However (apart from the fact that we are no longer tourists), another way of approaching this is to say that muggers tend to target pasty-faced, camera-strapped, lost-looking tourists (known to Rio muggers as filet mignon!) wearing sneakers and bum-bags; rather than sun-burnt, striding men in city suits.
-Text and photo by Nicholas Storey