No country for old gentlemen: the death of formal attire



It was the comedian Groucho Marx who famously said "I'd never want to be a member of any club that would have me".

These words will be ringing in the ears of one Londoner just now. Businessman and PR consultant Peter Bingle has been banned from one of the capital's most exclusive establishments for six months after incurring the wrath of the owners.

His offence? Not, as you might imagine, picking a fight or complaining about the table service. No, his crime was to arrive in a suit and tie.

Mr Bingle, a man of smart tastes and even smarter income, was barred from Soho House after the management decided that his over-formal attire was unsuitable for their image. The club is a favourite haunt of media movers and shakers, and the last thing it needed was patrons scaring off the fashionistas.

"The club openly discourages the wearing of suits and ties as we are a club for the creative industries and like being a relaxed environment," said a Soho House spokesman.

What a world. Once upon a time a smart appearance was considered essential if you wanted to be taken seriously in the UK. One of the first things I was taught as a child was how to polish my shoes, and when I came to London in the 1970s it was still common to witness thousands of bowler-hatted businessmen scurrying across London Bridge on the way to work. Umbrellas neatly folded, fob watches gleaming beneath the traditional pinstripe suit, theirs was the traditional image of the city gent, and woe betide any employee who dared stray from this code.

Nowadays the only bowler hat you're likely to see on the streets of the capital will be worn by street buskers or someone on their way to a Laurel and Hardy convention.

And it's not just in the business world that times are changing. The veteran actor Sir Donald Sinden once told me of an occasion, just after the war, when he turned up for the read-through of a new production at the Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-on-Avon only to be sent home again for not having shaved.

Nowadays, a six o'clock shadow is positively de rigueur if you want to be taken seriously in the arts. Scruffy, it seems, is the new chic. Patched jeans, a faded T-shirt and a tumbled out of bed hairstyle: these suggest that you're so successful that you don't have to try too hard.

Such seismic cultural shifts are not merely confined to matters sartorial. While watching the recent Test match at Lord's I got into conversation with a fellow actor, and one of Britain's most prolific, and wealthy, voice-over artistes. Colin has made a tidy living over many years from dubbing commentaries for BBC documentaries. Yet when I met him he seemed downcast.

"My agency have just told me they think my voice is too posh to be of much use now," he muttered bitterly over his cup of tea. According to him, his middle-class suburban tones, ones that have graced countless TV shows for two decades, are no longer considered representative of cool Britannia. "No longer edgy enough", the agency said,

The absurdity of this reasoning was only heightened when they explained they'd still be happy to use him, "as long as the documentaries were for the overseas market only".

Such shifting cultural mores seem destined to provide a king-size headache for the organisers of next year's London Olympics. With the opening ceremony less than a year away, what image should a host nation portray in the 21st century? Beefeaters and bowlers, or hoodies and high-fives? With an expected global TV audience running into billions, it's important we dress appropriately for the occasion.

Luckily a saviour is at hand. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, London's current mayor, has made an art form out of being able to combine every conceivable fashion statement in the same outfit.

Described by his supporters as representing "global chic", and by his detractors as dressing like a bag of muck tied up with string, his appearance for the handover of the torch at the finish of the Beijing Olympics back in 2008 amalgamated everything in one spectacular fusion: jacket unbuttoned, a Marks & Spencer shirt, a tie from China, a pair of shoes from Church's and with his trademark shock of straw- blond hair looking as if he'd just wandered in from a morning spent working on the farm.

As long as he's involved in the ceremony come July 27, we can be assured that Britain will be depicted in all its modern, shambolic glory.

Michael Simkins is a writer and actor based in London

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Name: DarDoc
Based: Abu Dhabi
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Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
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Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

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The Afghan connection

The influx of talented young Afghan players to UAE cricket could have a big impact on the fortunes of both countries. Here are three Emirates-based players to watch out for.

Hassan Khan Eisakhil
Mohammed Nabi is still proving his worth at the top level but there is another reason he is raging against the idea of retirement. If the allrounder hangs on a little bit longer, he might be able to play in the same team as his son, Hassan Khan. The family live in Ajman and train in Sharjah.

Masood Gurbaz
The opening batter, who trains at Sharjah Cricket Academy, is another player who is a part of a famous family. His brother, Rahmanullah, was an IPL winner with Kolkata Knight Riders, and opens the batting with distinction for Afghanistan.

Omid Rahman
The fast bowler became a pioneer earlier this year when he became the first Afghan to represent the UAE. He showed great promise in doing so, too, playing a key role in the senior team’s qualification for the Asia Cup in Muscat recently.

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
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COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

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Director: Nayla Al Khaja

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Founders: Walid and Karim Dib

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Employees: Nine

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Director: Rajesh A Krishnan

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Pakistanis at the ILT20

The new UAE league has been boosted this season by the arrival of five Pakistanis, who were not released to play last year.

Shaheen Afridi (Desert Vipers)
Set for at least four matches, having arrived from New Zealand where he captained Pakistan in a series loss.

Shadab Khan (Desert Vipers)
The leg-spin bowling allrounder missed the tour of New Zealand after injuring an ankle when stepping on a ball.

Azam Khan (Desert Vipers)
Powerhouse wicketkeeper played three games for Pakistan on tour in New Zealand. He was the first Pakistani recruited to the ILT20.

Mohammed Amir (Desert Vipers)
Has made himself unavailable for national duty, meaning he will be available for the entire ILT20 campaign.

Imad Wasim (Abu Dhabi Knight Riders)
The left-handed allrounder, 35, retired from international cricket in November and was subsequently recruited by the Knight Riders.

EMIRATES'S REVISED A350 DEPLOYMENT SCHEDULE

Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates


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