Monday, 31 January 2011

Chappy types: hip-flasked shaped pegs that don't fit in any hole.

On Sunday found myself in Soho, I am beginning to live up to the title of this blog again. Torquil and I were interviewed by a charming French journalist on, inevitably, chappism. It is amazing how actually being asked a straight question about something concentrates the mind: especially as I am inclined to be a bit ‘wooly’ in the way my conversation moves as regular readers of this blog will know.  ‘Chappism’ itself is really just a vague term anyway.

Interviewed in the French House.
The interview did provide a chance to clarify a few things so I thought I’d mention them here. One was the idea that some people get that it is full of  fogey types with right wing leanings, Yes there are a few, a very few and if they can back up their beliefs and don’t combine them with racism, homophobia, sexism or a sense of superiority they are as welcome as the other extreme. Of course the likelihood is that any one racist, sexist or homophobic will very rapidly realize they have fallen in with entirely the wrong crowd within about 15 seconds of entering any event.

Faux aristocratic pretension is another problem. Again I have no problem with this as long as it is a reference to the eccentric, above petty pretensions, nonsensical side of things rather than an effort to feel superior to others. I’m irritated by excessive ‘what- hos’ and ‘old-chaps’ a little, but that is my problem. But I have no time with those who turn up just gagging to fulfill their preconceptions about people behaving like Margaret Rutherford or Terry Thomas.  Especially when prancing about being an edgy wanabee working class type is the order of the day. Posh hating for the sake of it is ….well, just plain old up-tight retro middle class behaviour. It's not the seventies anymore.

I have more problems with the faux radical/working class or those that feel they have to indentify with one mind set. The urbanites of Norf London are particularly guilty of this. Being from mean streets and having in my extended family people who have suffered appalling upbringings and set backs I know that kind of person does not feel the need to spend their life verbalizing it and indentifying it. If someone is rude about state schooling or council estates I'll get narked, but I get this more from other groups than anyone at a Chap event.  If you grow up in care, have run from a dangerous country in the dead of night or have battled with gender/addiction issues it does not have to delineate you whole life or mean you have to spend it in a (dis)comfort zone. If you are annoyed because an electrician or builder is wearing tweed and using terms such as 'pip,pip!' there is a scary element of real prejudice in that. We should be able to annex any accent, linguistic tic or physical habit we want. Unless you feel that working class people should only behave in an erm working class way. Or, even worse, we should all fit into some acceptable pattern of liberal (not really effing liberal) London inspired form of acceptable behaviour?


The people at ‘chappist’ events seem both more tolerant and diverse than those found in many more established straight forwardly retro events. The price for that is people you may not agree with or seemingly have much in common with will be present but this left wing firebrand would take that over a bunch of Guardian reading right-on brain deads any day. There is a difference between treating people as humans  equally and decently and expecting conformity.  Thinking about it with the journalist I concluded that there was a distinct leaning to the left sprinkled with a  lot of anarchism and libertarianism but it was tricky to state it even that strongly.   

The journalist also prompted me to consider what the Chap magazine had to offer to women as despite being quite masculine it has a decent female readership.  My conclusion is that it appeals to retro fans but those of an independent cast.  The humour and absurdist occult stuff appeals to all genders, and in fact the rag itself is paradoxically endearingly un pc whilst being entirely inclusive.  The contrast between praising proper tea, good manners and well made clothes whilst being completely disinterested in conventional morality is appealing from a modern feminist point of view.

Also, and here I have to say I know a lot of wonderful vintage women who adore cats, knitting and baking  (or they'll kill me and you don't mess with the vintage mafia!) those popular ‘vintage’ pastimes leave me personally cold.  The Chap magazine fortunately doesn’t bother with these, when it did publish a ‘chapette’ section it was too far in this vein and not as appealing to the lady reader. as the normal edition, which does have the estimable Fleur de Guerre's contribution. So if I were forced to describe a so called chapette what would she be like?:

1) Independent.
2) Curious
3) Tolerant
4) Unconventional

Thats it, nothing more specific. Because again diversity and difference are more a feature than any solidarity.  I think with the current trendiness of all things vintage, the success of so called Chap events and themed things has taken a lot of people by surprise and it can be resented.  Some can be critical, quite a few affect that ‘I am so bored with it all’ attitude which is the stock in trade of the kind of urban trendy I have already taken a pop at. But the people who write the magazine and the close knit group around it are amongst the most interesting people I know. Yes they can be show offs but I like show offs, many don't. Interestingly I have met people who moan about the chaps but adore their flamboyant gay chums. Weird inverted prejudice going on there, seems to be set rules about who can be flamboyant.  Not if you are female, straight, working-class
and so forth.


My favourite people are pretentious and flamboyant, but they are great fun, you can stick your little cliques, and fashionable urban habits where the sun don’t shine.  Most trendy London minorities are arses….  You might find the Chap magazine doesn’t appeal, fair enough nothing wrong with that per se.  But in any case generally if someone is actually rude about them I know I am facing a bore. And you know what we Sohoites think of bores….

I was a bit wrecked and couldn’t face the full vintage turn out, no hat and my best white gloves were a bit grubby. I did wear my Tara Starlet Peggy dress for the first time which is a very practical frock and matched the general ambience of the French House on a Sunday lunchtime. Shame there weren't any olives tho.

 Minn xxx

4 comments:

Katie Chutzpah said...

*walks in wearing a feather headdress and vintage kimono while dismissing any illusion to be bohemian.* I so hate show offs.

LandGirl1980 said...

"...that it appeals to retro fans but those of an independent cast."

Hit it on the head for me. I have never been to a Chap event or read the magazine - but from what I know of it - this is what stuck out.

Top post :)

Agent Zig Zag said...

Interesting take on the chappist movement. But you are of course correct as ever.

Aurora said...

Just a minute... you say most London cliques are arses, then go on to say that anyone who is rude about the Chap-ist movement is a bore...? Ahhhrmmmm.....

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