Sunday, 5 October 2014

Sherlock Holmes silent classic uncovered in Paris vault

Sherlock Holmes silent classic uncovered in Paris vault

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A couple of months ago the British Film Institute issued one of its occasional calls for us all to be on the look-out for its top 75 "Most Wanted" lost films - titles from the dawn of moving pictures right up to the 1970s that have seemingly vanished from archives, film libraries and national collections around the world.  In this particular instance it was a request for everyone to turn "Great Detective" and keep their eyes peeled for a copy - or a clue to a copy - of the first ever film adaptation of a Sherlock Holmes story.

A Study in Scarlet, the initial Holmes story that introduces us to "the world's only consulting detective" and his trusty friend Dr Watson, was adapted into a film in 1914 by a British concern called the Samuelson Film Manufacturing Company - a name long since forgotten among the many businesses that attempted to get involved in the new and lucrative moving picture business at the turn of the last century.  James Bragington, who worked at Samuelson's (but not actually as an actor!), was chosen for his resemblance to Holmes (as described in the books) and by all accounts made a remarkably good fist of it - aided by some on-the-job training and the slightly florid acting style demanded by silent movies of that era.  Filming took place at locations including Cheddar Gorge.  The director, George Pearson, would go on to make 1923's Love, Life and Laughter, another previously lost film whose rediscovery earlier this year was also featured on this blog.

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James Bragington as Sherlock Holmes
Despite positive reviews and showings at picture houses around the country, the first film version of A Study in Scarlet has since slipped into obscurity and been considered lost for decades.  Sadly a separate American production of the same story made and released almost concurrently with the British version, plus Samuelson's own 1916 follow-up The Valley of Fear, are also considered lost.  A fourth 1910s Sherlock Holmes film, simply called Sherlock Holmes, also made in 1916 by the American Essanay Film Manufacturing Company (best known for producing Charlie Chaplin films during 1915) and starring William Gillette - who had become the quintessential stage Holmes following the successful tours of his theatrical amalgamation of various stories and upon which the film was based - similarly was long thought lost by film and Holmes experts.

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A Study in Scarlet (1914)

Cinémathèque Française discovers 1916 Sherlock Holmes film

Until now, that is, with the wonderful news of the discovery of a French-subtitled copy of the Gillette film in the archives of the Cinémathèque Française in Paris.  Once more giving hope in the search for the other 75 most wanted lost films, Sherlock Holmes had been mislabelled before it was consigned to Cinémathèque Française's shelves decades ago - a mistake that has only now come to light.  With luck many more previously lost films may be rediscovered in like manner - incorrect labelling and private collections still being the most promising sources.

This find is doubly important not only for adding to and increasing our knowledge of the early years of Sherlock Holmes on film (prior to the great Basil Rathbone) but also because it is the only moving picture William Gillette ever did.  We will now, therefore, be able to see for the first time in one hundred years his performance - widely lauded at the time, even by Conan Doyle himself - as the Great Detective and one generally considered to be generation-defining.  It will be interesting to finally be able to compare him to Rathbone, Peter Cushing and Jeremy Brett.

Cinémathèque Française, in collaboration with the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, are currently undertaking what sounds like a thorough restoration of the fragile negatives - hopefully in time for a premiere at the former's own film festival in Paris during January 2015.  Then, who knows, perhaps the BFI will get involved and oblige us with a limited release in the UK - perhaps even a DVD.  I'm really hoping we get to see it somehow!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Revived British marque Atalanta reveals new car



Revived British marque Atalanta reveals new car

Well, I feel I should apologise again for letting two weeks go by between posts but I don't want it to become a standard opening so let's just say that a post every fortnight will be the norm on Eclectic Ephemera for the foreseeable future, eh?  But seriously, I really do hope before too much longer to get things settled enough to do one post a week minimum (news permitting!).

For the subject of this latest news to feature on my blog we must go back a couple of years when the story first broke of a new attempt to bring back a long-forgotten British sports car from the 1930s - the Atalanta.

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The Atalanta name was first introduced in December of 1936, appearing on a technically-advanced 2-seater called the Sports Tourer and built in a factory in Staines, Middlesex from early in 1937.  Successes in various rallies, hill-climbs and track events around the country - as well as an entry in the 1938 Le Mans 24 Hours - quickly proved the cars' worth and plans were well underway to offer other body styles including saloons and coupés, as well as a Ford-sourced V12 engine to join the 1.5- and 2-litre four cylinder powerplants available at launch.  Alas in September of 1939, with 21 cars built and delivered, the Second World War began and put paid to the idea of any further cars.  Six years later, when the dust had settled, Atalanta had been forgotten.

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New Atalanta launched

Until 2012 that is, when - 75 years after the first Atalanta left the factory - British entrepreneur Martyn Corfield announced plans to introduce a 21st century update of the original 1937 Sports Tourer model.  Based on surviving drawings and designs but sympathetically updated with modern technology the new Atalanta is nevertheless so similar to the few remaining 1930s examples that some parts are even interchangeable!  However this 2014 model features a new 2½-litre Ford engine (suitably enough!) with all the usual modern technology, including a 5-speed gearbox and disc brakes.  The construction process also features - in part - up-to-date processes including 3D printing of certain components, yet still allied to the more traditional handmade coachbuilding techniques.  I can certainly see the use of 3D printing (a concept I still struggle to get my head around!) become a common thing in these types of projects and maybe even in other spheres of vintage reproduction/revival - imagine being able to 3D print an historic component or object that previously we might have thought was unable to be reconstructed.

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I am naturally thrilled to see this project reach fruition and wish Mr Corfield and the new Atalanta company every success.  They are being rightly sensible in aiming for no more than 20 cars a year in terms of production and even then only after the word has been spread and enough interest garnered.  Should that happen more cars will almost certainly be on the cards, including other designs from Atalanta's original line-up including a drophead coupé.

The Atalanta takes its place alongside a recent flurry of "modern revival" cars - including 6 continuation-run Lightweight E-types and an updated MkII saloon to be built by Jaguar, a new Bristol with 1950s styling and newcomer Evanta Motors' Barchetta - which gives this blogger great hopes of a new golden age of classic British sports cars and the joy of seeing some classic pre- and post-war designs return.

Monday, 8 September 2014

At peace... and quiet

Evenin' all, and apologies for the two weeks of radio silence. I'm well aware I promised a post a week at the least and I must admit I'm beginning to get a bit frustrated that I can't find the time to write something at the weekend.  However I am but one man and there are only so many hours in the day; hopefully things will start to fall into place and a posting pattern will start to work out before too long.  Of course, it helps if I have interesting news of a vintage flavour to blog about...

Speaking of starting work my endeavours in that department continue to go well, much to my delight after so many years of health and employment struggles.  The downside, of course, is that I get to spend less here and on other blogs but this new place has a very generous IT policy so once I've settled right down and got my six months "probation" behind me you might even find the odd post appearing at lunchtime(!).

I had planned to do a post around about my birthday on the 19th August featuring the usual present haul and jollity but sadly this wasn't to be.  Presents (and, indeed, my birthday itself really) became the last thing on my mind because heartbreakingly my grandmother - my last surviving grandparent, an ever-present part of all the family's lives for generations and the last direct link to an era I find so enthralling - passed away peacefully in hospital on the 21st at the age of 87 after gamely fighting for three weeks against pneumonia (not to mention a litany of other ailments built up over the years), as stoically as she had always done against adversity throughout her life.  So you can imagine we as a family were preoccupied with that over anything else.  I hope to do a proper commemorative post about Nan in the near future, since she was a young woman in the 1940s & '50s; there are pictures of her in those times that I had never seen before that I know many of you will appreciate and that I'd like to show you.  Here's a taster (badly copied here I'm afraid, a scan of a scan but it will appear again better later on):


I hope to return to happier things with the publication of the next couple of posts, which should feature certain aspects of belated and potential birthday presents.  Not to mention a celebration of my Nan's [early] life in 1940s London.

Thanks for sticking with me here at Eclectic Ephemera during this transitional period and rest assured, I'm going nowhere and still enjoying reading all your blogs!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Nicholas Parsons starts a one man crusade to bring back the cravat

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Nicholas Parsons starts a one man crusade to bring back the cravat

Considered by some (wrong-headed) people as something of a "naff" personality, Nicholas Parsons - best known on these shores for fronting the long-running B.B.C. Radio 4 comedy panel quiz Just A Minute for nearly 50 years since its creation in 1967 and for presenting the British version of the game show Sale Of The Century during the '70s and '80s - initially might not seem the best chap to lead a resurgent charge in cravat-wearing. 

But that would be to underestimate the sublime Mr Parsons who, at a frankly amazing 90 years old, is showing no signs of slowing down and certainly could teach the younger generations a thing or three about dressing well.  His comments at this year's Edinburgh Festival regarding the cravat (or ascot to our North American cousins) versus the open-necked shirt are a masterfully accurate summation of all that is wrong with the modern man's "smart casual" look and how it could easily be rectified by the splendid little length of neckcloth that was all the rage in the 1930s, '40s & '50s and can trace its origins back to 17th century Croatian mercenaries.

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Mr Parsons is spot on when he questions the "attractiveness", or lack thereof, of an open shirt with a suit and the fact that a fellow's bulging Adam's apple is not necessarily what one wants to see walking down the road towards them.  He is the very man to start the revival of this noble yet casual form of neckwear and I can assure him that his "one man crusade" has in fact many followers and that, yes, there are chaps out there who definitely share his point of view.  I for one have made no secret of my love of cravats; I certainly don't want to subject the general public to my scrawny neck, nor that same neck to a cold-inducing stiff breeze.  I would not for one moment say that I have a weak throat/chest, but I have certainly found in the past that an open shirt in anything but the hottest weather has invariably led to a cold.  (The latest example being not three weeks ago when starting my new job, which as I mentioned operates a "no tie unless receiving a client" dress code, where I went open-necked for the first 10 days and then promptly caught a snorter of a cold.)  With this new work rule I have found myself turning to my [limited] selection of cravats more and more, with a view to adding some new ones to my wardrobe with some recent birthday money.

Even Superman wears a cravat!
Friend and fellow blogger G.M. Norton recently wrote a review of one of the U.K.'s newest and most talked-about purveyor of cravats, Cravat Club.  I can do no better than point you in the direction of his post (even the Beeb quote him!), having not had any experience of their products yet - something I hope to rectify soon!

Online shops that sell cravats are few and far between in this blogger's experience but other than the aforementioned emporium I can only suggest two or three others.  If you want to go down the traditional route and wear proper vintage cravats then that well-known provider of original men's fashions from the 1920s onwards, Savvy Row, has a jolly decent selection of rayon examples from the '50s and '60s - in a wonderful array of colours and patterns - for very reasonable prices.

1950s/60s Vintage Red/Gold Paisley pattern
rayon cravat, £12 + p&p @ Savvy Row
Modern examples that rival those on offer at the Cravat Club can be found courtesy of Swagger & Swoon - in a bewildering number of styles, some quite psychedelic if that's your bag!

Another online store with a fine selection of cravats is Woods of Shropshire.  Although not quite as wide a range as the others and with more than a couple of wedding-style "scrunchies" in the mix, there's a fair choice of patterns at a more than fair price.

Darcy Clothing, of whom I have had some previous experience albeit not in the neckwear department, also have a small range of cravats - mainly in the ubiquitous polka dot style, although there is nothing wrong with that!  As befitting a company that also supplies costumes to period dramas they also have one or two from the 18th century if channelling the spirit of Beau Brummell is your ultimate aim!

Quest For Fire Yellow Fine Silk cravat,
£34.99 (free delivery) @ Swagger & Swoon
The one company with whose product I have had repeated first-hand experience of - from whom all my cravats have so far come, in fact - is (somewhat misleadingly) Tom Sawyer Waistcoats.  As their name implies they largely provide that other splendid item of gentleman's clothing, the waistcoat (mainly the wedding variety), however they do have a small but excellent cravat department.  One aspect of their cravats that I particularly like is that a number of them are made of 100% cotton.  Now while the cravat is traditionally supposed to be made of silk or similar - and the cooling properties of those fabrics are, as Norton says, one of the major plus points for wearing them in summer - this could easily lead to a ruinous dry cleaning bill.  Unlike other neckties, cravats are of course designed to be worn next to the skin and sadly no amount of silk will prevent a chap from perspiring if the ambient conditions call for it.  With a cotton cravat at least I can pop it in the washing machine after a few wears, safe in the knowledge that after a once-over with the iron it will be as good as new and ready to wear again.  The prices are also much more conducive to more frequent, regular purchases than would be the case with silk ones.  Tom Sawyer's Richmond Check, of which I own an example, has a particular 1930s vibe about it I feel and is excellent quality for cotton.

Richmond Check cotton day cravat, £16.99 (+p&p) @ Tom Sawer Waistcoats

So, provided one knows where to look (something I hope I've helped you with today!), there's really nothing to stop any tie-phobic johnnies wishing to add a bit of colour and panache to their otherwise unattractive shirt and suit joining Nicholas Parsons, G.M. Norton and myself (plus I'm sure many others - make yourselves known gentlemen!).  I've even thought of a great hashtag whatsit to help spread the word - #bringbackcravats.  Come on chaps, you know it makes sense!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Historic Lancasters' tandem flight takes place in Lincolnshire



Historic Lancasters' tandem flight takes place in Lincolnshire

Well here I am again, having survived a second week at the Temple of Mammon (I'd love to write this blog as a full-time job but would struggle to make it pay, I'm afraid!), with the exciting vintage news of the moment - the arrival of the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum's Avro Lancaster in Britain!  The only other airworthy example in the world after the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's City Of Lincoln, C-GVRA Vera (or FM213, the Mynarski Memorial Lancaster) has joined its sister in the UK for a month-long series of displays - the first time two Lancasters will have been in the air together for over 50 years.

As reported earlier in the year Vera was flown across the Atlantic Ocean in stages before landing at RAF Coningsby, the home of the BBMF and its Lanc.  Having undergone various post-flight checks and practice formations, it has now begun being displayed around the country in the company of the British example

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Following a departure display for the press at Coningsby (with the planned flyover of Lincoln Cathedral on the 13th sadly postponed because of bad weather) the Lancs spent this weekend at Airbourne, the Eastbourne International Airshow in Sussex, plus several other displays around the south-east.  Over the next month they will appear at various events around the country, including Duxford, Shoreham and Goodwood - plus two special invitation-only events at Humberside International Airport in Kirmington, Lincolnshire.  I'm also delighted to note that, as I'd hoped, the pair will go to the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre where a third powered Lancaster - Just Jane - is based and perform a fly-past while Jane does a taxi run.  What an image that will be, I'm sure!

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A full list of the planned displays is available on the CWHM's website - I hope there's one near you?  Clacton's probably my nearest, although it's on a weekday so I'm unlikely to make it ;(.  Perhaps Duxford, we shall have to see.  Or I could just camp out in my parents' garden since the flippin' things flew over them yesterday(!), no doubt on the way back from one of the Kent shows.

At any rate, the press is rightly making a big thing out of this once-in-a-lifetime event and there is bound to be more coverage as the month goes on.  It really is quite an amazing sight to see these two four-engined monsters in the air together, made all the more poignant by the thought of how much they represent - the 125,000 pilots who flew in RAF Bomber Command during World War Two and the 55,000 who did not return, plus the 7,300 Avro Lancasters that were built between 1942 and 1945 of which only 17 survive today.  It is a fitting homage to all these men and machines that these two aircraft should fly together again, as the veterans' comments prove.  I hope in their appearances around the country they will inspire and enthral onlookers and remind each generation of the sacrifices their vanished comrades made, and that this will not be the last time two or more Lancasters are seen in the air together at one time.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Now at work, rest and play

Golly gosh, I'd forgotten just how time-consuming a full working week can be!  Still, here we are again, what?  The first week of a new job is under my belt and now I've got some time to sit down and write a few lines of this and that - all that has been leading up to this week just gone.

The week previous - that is, two weeks ago now - I spent some time nosing around my local branches of Debenhams, Marks & Spencer and BHS hoping to score some bargain items for m'wardrobe in the summer sales.  I was not disappointed, either, as Debenhams' sale was in full swing (they don't seem to call it the Blue Cross Sale any more, unless they're saving that for Christmas/January?) and I picked up two smashing pairs of cotton trousers that will go well with the majority of my jackets for a casual summer look.  Most importantly, Debenhams' men's trousers go up to a 34" inside leg - perfect for the long of limb such as myself!

Maine New England Navy twill chinos, £12 from £20 at Debenhams
(**sold out**)

The navy blue is a nice, muted colour - giving off an almost workmanlike vibe - but the terracotta twill is my absolute favourite, adding a welcome and different dash of colour to my outfits.

Maine New England Terracotta twill chinos, £10 from £20 at
Debenhams

Marks and BHS had less on offer (and M&S wonders why its year-on-year clothing sales keep taking a battering - definitely a "could do better" on the men's clothing selection, at least) but I was still able to score this beautiful "Autograph" knitted silk tie for a frankly unbelievable £4 (it was actually still marked up at £7.50 on the ticket - I do like pleasant surprises!).

It actually goes quite well with the terracotta trews, don't you think?  It's wonderful to the touch, of course, and knots well too - something that's not always a given with knitted ties, I've found.

Saturday last found me in Rayleigh for the town's first ever Antique & Vintage Street Market, run by the same people who put on the local Runnymede Vintage, Antique and Retro Fairs that I have been to many times in the past and enjoyed, as has been mentioned on this very blog.  Alas I can't see this street market becoming a regular one as it was really very poorly done with barely half a dozen stalls in the high street (which had not been closed as I was expecting), largely selling stuff that would have better been described as bric-a-brac.  There were supposedly more stalls around the corner outside the local auction house (Stacey's, occasional star of Antiques Road Trip and Bargain Hunt) but we - mother, sister and I - we so disappointed we didn't bother with that but instead hit the charity shops.  There I was able to pick up a nice T.M. Lewin shirt for £3.50 and an interesting CD for £1.

Twenty-four songs from The Radio Rhythm Club, a name I'd never come across before but actually that of a B.B.C. programme broadcast during the Second World War.  The Radio Rhythm Sextet was led by a young Welsh clarinetist called Harry Parry(!) who greatly admired American bandleader Benny Goodman, to the point where he emulated him with his own group of top British instrumentalists of the time.  Sadly Harry Parry died in 1956 at the age of 44; The Radio Rhythm Club and Sextet seem to have been lost to the mists of time, since I can't seem to find out much about them.  The Benny Goodman influence is obvious (but just with a soupçon of British smoothness) and it maybe this overt similarity, plus changing musical tastes after the war, that ensured The Radio Rhythm's obscurity.

Still, after all that, I'm glad I bought the CD as it certainly does bubble along.  I do like the Benny Goodman sound anyway and was only recently thinking about finding some more 1940s music, so this ticks the boxes.  Have a Boogi to this:



What else has happened?  Oh yes, I marked the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War on the 4th August with a single candle and the "lights out" motif, as did most of the country I think.  The B.B.C.'s coverage was rather good, I thought - slightly reserved rather than overdone and all the better for it.

This was the same candle that I burned (we were all given one) at my granddad's
funeral back in 1997. 
I'd never lit it since but it somehow seemed right to use it on the anniversary of WW1

Well, that's all for now, I think.  There's going to be a bit of disorder around here for a little while longer as I continue to settle back into a 5-day working week and get comfortable in the new job but as long as I can post at least once every weekend I'll be happy - and hopefully you, my readers, will be too!  I've already got posts planned featuring the two surviving Lancaster bombers flying together for the first time in 50 years, plus a 61-year-old woman driving a 110-year-old car across Australia!  In the meantime I do still enjoy reading your blogs when I get the chance - usually now a special treat after work! - and I hope you'll continue to stick with mine during this transition.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Keeping cool in the 30s

Serving me well on my 30th birthday last year
While I (and, I suspect, many others) have been enduring the heat of a glorious British summer as this country continues to swelter in temperatures consistently in the high twenties (centigrade) - and sometimes uncomfortably into the 30s - I find my mind turning to more casual, lightweight vintage fashions for the chap.

My go-to wardrobe staple in warmer weather is my trusty and well-worn brown linen suit, purchased from Primark (as a two-piece; alas neither of my local branches had the waistcoat in stock!) and which has served me well for what must be coming up to eight years now.  Paired with a linen or cotton shirt, a cravat, brown leather shoes and Panama hat, such an ensemble has helped to keep me cool through various summers while giving me a semblance of vintage style in what have been some lean times.

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The light-coloured, lightweight suit has long been the standard outfit for gentlemen during the hotter months and such a look is still my ultimate goal - although with my lemonade budget it may yet be some time before I reach it!  Fortunately, as has been noted before, menswear has by and large changed little over 100 years so it is still possible to approximate a certain decade's look using some high street items.  For example, I have several pairs of cream cotton trousers (chinos, as they are known today) acquired over the years that I like to mix with the linen jacket, or a navy blue single-breasted blazer - the latter of which is one of my favourite current outfits.  Again in the longer term I would dearly love a proper brass-buttoned double-breasted number as sported by Bertie Wooster and Captain Hastings.


Further inspiration for ideal summer wear is drawn from my Pinterest board Gentlemanly Attire, where light suits and Twenties & Thirties styles are dotted throughout.

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A spiffing illustration of a couple of Jazz Age summer suits, double- and single-breasted with peak lapels, finished off with some topping hats and - of course! - co-respondent shoes.  Here's an actual example from 1931, too:

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Brioni S/S '12
As I've mentioned before the only problem with white, cream or off-white suits - at least in my experience in Britain - is the danger of being likened to Michael Jackson, Martin Bell or The Man From Del Monte by those who haven't been exposed to their wider use and for whom standard summer attire consists of shorts and flip-flops.  Still, that hasn't put me off and nor should it you.

The peak of today's white-suited sartorialism comes courtesy of high-end names like Brioni and Polo by Ralph Lauren - clothing that I fear will forever remain aspirational to the likes of me(!):

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Ralph Lauren S/S '13
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Ralph Lauren S/S '12

Of course white isn't the only cool, summer colour.  Linen doesn't always have to be white, cream or beige.  Blues and browns look just as good.

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Lightweight clothing is, after all, more about the weight of the fabric than the colour and even a suit in a lighter wool fabric - say, 8oz or so - can have cooling properties. 

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Boating blazers are another summer option that can come in a bewildering array of colours.  Some tend to be more gaudy than others so it can be a matter of personal taste what colours you prefer, if any. 

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Jasper Conran navy college stripe blazer
£49.50 @ Debenhams
Jasper Conran navy narrow stripe blazer
£29.70 @ Debenhams (currently sold out)












One of the best places I have found for decent boating blazers in recent years is Debenhams, whose Jasper Conran concession usually has a couple of styles each year.  Their current stock includes two rather fetching blues and I can attest to their quality, having tried couple on in my local branch last weekend.  Alas sizes are limited and my humble purse cannot quite stretch even to sale prices, so I've yet to own one of these beauties.

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Finally I want to touch upon the more casual vintage summer look - an area that I freely admit to having little knowledge of.  In the back of my mind I feel sure I have seen pictures at some time of men in the 1930s (including Noël Coward, Fred Astaire et al.) wearing open-necked short-sleeved shirts while at the beach or on holiday.  Yet my most recent researches can throw up precious little imagery or information beyond the usual sporting [tennis] wear, such as that in my 1940s Fashion Sourcebook.  Certainly this is an aspect of vintage menswear that deserves further investigation, as it would be nice to get a more casual Thirties look before I wilt in the next heatwave.

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On the subject of tennis shirts, my parting offering comes courtesy of Miss Rayne's Vintage Chic blog, which I have followed for some time and which Google happened to throw up as a result during my searching.  This knitted tennis shirt from the 1930s looks a pip, doesn't it?  I've tried getting mater to have a bash at it but she remains firmly unconvinced, not least because we can't work out from the pattern whether the needle size is correct, which needles to cast on with and what wool to use - any suggestions?

There, then, are my thoughts and desires on what the vintage-loving chap can wear to survive global warming.  As it's forecast to remain warm for at least another month (and in the long term get warmer still if climate change scientists are to be believed) I hope to be able to employ some of these smashing styles.  I'd love to know what you think, and what you're doing to keep cool!  Anyone for Pimms?!

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