Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Winston Churchill was my boyhood hero, on the grounds that as an adult I would live a life of accomplishment while being free to disdain exercise, smoke cigars and lead an extravagant existence that was well beyond my means. Worthwhile goals indeed and I have been fortunate to achieve the latter three if not the first. Churchill Style: The Art Of Being Winston Churchill by Barry Singer (Abrams Image, ISBN: 0-8109-9643-X) offers the reader a look at how a master did it.
Unlike the volumes upon volumes that have been written about Churchill's public history, Churchill Style focuses on his personal life, including, as Michael Korda writes in the forward, his "preferred shirts, cigars, brandy, champagne, shoes and all the other things that meant so much to him." It is illustrated with sixty photographs, many of them rarely seen, and includes my personal favorite on the cover: Churchill sitting out doors at home, cigar in hand and wearing one of his siren suits. He lacks only a snifter of cognac.
Churchill was a polymath: voracious reader and expert Shakespearean, Impressionist-style landscape painter, Nobel prize-for-literature-winning author, decorated soldier, and, according to a letter written by his long suffering wife Clementine, wearer of underwear that was “very finely woven silk (pale pink) … from the Army and Navy stores and (which) cost the eyes out of his head.” His shoes were bespoke and his clothing tailored by, as legend and a copy of an unpaid bill from E. Tautz that includes charges as much as six years old would have it, whichever of his Savile Row firms he did not owe money. This was a man for whom only the best would suffice, who laid bricks at home dressed in a homburg hat and a vested suit. The story of his style is well worth while.