It never ceases to astound me what variety mankind is capable of; case in point: the wry, sly Chap magazine, dedicated to being a proper fellow.
As a bi-monthly British magazine, The Chap celebrates “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.”
It’s the “proper headwear” that should tell you exactly what kind of monocle through which The Chap views its world. “Chief chap” Gustav Temple refers to their philosophy as “anarcho-dandyism.” Suggesting that if you’re doffing your hat to a lady in 1950, you may be a dandy — but if you do it in 2009, you’re practically an anarchist. What ho indeed.
What makes a chap? Consider a few bullets from the Chap Manifesto:
1. THOU SHALT ALWAYS WEAR TWEED. No other fabric says so defiantly: I am a man of panache, savoir-faire and devil-may-care, and I will not be served Continental lager beer under any circumstances.
2 THOU SHALT NEVER NOT SMOKE. Health and Safety “executives” and jobsworth medical practitioners keep trying to convince us that smoking is bad for the lungs/heart/skin/eyebrows, but we all know that smoking a bent apple billiard full of rich Cavendish tobacco raises one’s general sense of well-being to levels unimaginable by the aforementioned spoilsports.
And consider this saged advice on “de nimes,” or denim as we less chap-like might say:
4 THOU SHALT NEVER, EVER, WEAR PANTALOONS DE NIMES. When you have progressed beyond fondling girls in the back seats of cinemas, you can stop wearing jeans. Wear fabrics appropriate to your age, and, who knows, you might even get a quick fumble in your box at the opera.
Quite so. It’s this sort of pragmatism that led the magazine’s annual sporting event, the Chap Olympiad, to a sponsorship by Hendrick’s gin in 2006 and 2007. A typical Olympiad features events like the Martini Relay (in which teams must concoct the perfect dry martini “with the enormous handicap of having no butler to assist them”) and the Tug of Hair, a tug-of-war enacted on a man’s moustache (proper for its waxing if not its length: 20 feet). The YouTube videos are the modern update of Monty Python’s “Upper Class Twit of the Year” skit — still, the Olympiad is fact more absurd because it is more realistic.
It isn’t all sport and stiff upper lips for the British gentlemen, by the way. As rule No. 4 of the manifesto suggests, being a gentlemanly chap doesn’t preclude a bit of bawdy business when appropriate. Take for example this ribald photo essay from a recent Chap, “Britches and Hoes”:
If you were expecting a bit more skin, you may be more of a bloke than a chap, and perhaps you should start your own magazine accordingly.