Saturday 5 October 2019 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Saturday. 5/10/2019

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Opinion / Andrew Tuck

Fancy some forgiveness pants?

Slippers. I don’t want to throw a red sock into the white wash of our morning conversation but be honest: what do you think of them? Please don’t tell me I am the only outlier on this one. Slippers fall into the same category as tea drinkers and clocks that tick too loudly: they are about not going out, not having fun, staying in to watch TV and time being lost when you could be tearing the town up. As you will have gathered, I don’t own a pair but I have noticed that most of my contemporaries – people who lead seemingly interesting lives – have succumbed over the years. Even my partner has some (from Trunk, nonetheless) but it’s not something we have managed to talk about. I fear he’ll be looking at catalogues for retirement homes next.

This may seem harsh, even a little irrational. But you have to defend some sartorial barricades or suddenly you’re going to work in sweatpants and sliders. Am I sounding a little “the lady doth protest too much”? (Look at me go: Shakespeare and slipper-shaming and we are only in paragraph two.) Well, you’re right. I admit it: I have allowed the defences to be breached.

Two weeks ago I was in New York. A little tired, I wandered into the James Perse shop on Church Street in Tribeca. Now, for the uninitiated, I’ll explain: James Perse makes logo-free clothes in basic, simple colours and very nice materials. It’s a whole world of quiet luxury and its T-shirts are addictive. The JP habit started when Tyler Brûlé (yes, that fella) lured me into an LA outpost of the brand when we were visiting our bureau in the city. But my stern advice to you is to stay away, because those T-shirts are a gateway purchase and soon you’ll be selling off your family’s assets to fund your habit. But I was hot and they had air-conditioning and a good sales assistant (yes you, Hassan) – really, I didn’t stand a chance.

Next thing I knew, I’d bought a pair of corduroy trousers. Grey.

Back in London I took them to the tailor next to Monocle for reconstructive surgery; when you are officially 5ft 9in (that’s 175cm) there’s always an acreage of trouser leg that needs removing to shorten your purchase to a less-comedic length. Indeed there’s usually enough material chopped off to get a little jacket made for my dog – and a matching bonnet too.

The part I haven’t revealed is that the trousers have a sort of stretchy fabric and drawstring waistband; no belt required. I wore them for the first time on Monday. It’s Friday as I type this and they are back on again – five days in a row. And I have to agree that, genetically, they are a close relative of the grey sweatpant (Darwin would see the evolutionary arc at play).

Not only am I effectively wearing sweatpants to the office but they fall into a concerning category of clothing that my mother would have called “forgiving”. These are clothes that don’t give you a bear hug if you dip into the breadbasket or strain at the buttons when you decide to have the tiramisu after all. They are forgiving of your dietary waywardness.

Is this my future? Our future? Stretch fabrics and slippers in the office? You may scoff but some of our best luxury brands are making a fortune from selling mules that are just leather versions of a hotel slipper. Shoe brand Allbirds is flourishing by offering men footwear that’s basically a slipper with laces. And on the trouser front, stretchy drawstring strides are definitely having a moment – they are everywhere. There’s a company called L’Estrange London that’s bombarding Instagram with The 24 Trouser (“a transitional pant”); there are brands pushing “technical pants” and “all-day pants” too. Maybe there’s room for some “forgiveness pants” one day?

For men, dressing for work has changed at an extraordinary pace in Europe and the US; we unpack the topic in The Entrepreneurs, our new magazine spinoff from our hit business podcast. Twenty years ago, working on a newspaper, I wore a suit most days. I still dress up if I am giving a talk or heading to, say, an embassy shindig. But otherwise it’s a jacket, trousers and shirt combination. It’s all up for grabs in the footwear stakes though: I might wear a brogue or a pair of New Balance.

Even so, on the trouser issue, I am going to try to be vigilant. I have promised myself that there will be no repeat of this behaviour. It was a silly misadventure. And under no circumstances will I enter a slipper shop. If I do, it’s game over.

How we live / Japan

Filthy behaviour

On rainy days in Europe and North America, children have long knelt in gardens or parks and shaped wodges of plashy earth into mud pies (writes Josh Fehnert). In Japan though, the messy madness of shaping soil isn’t merely a way to while away a wet hour: it’s a craft with a long history.

The resulting dorodango, or “mud dumplings”, would make rather fetching paperweights; they are spheres of dirt polished to a shine. They’re also the subject of a new book published by Laurence King aimed at recasting the craft to help stressed-out city folk in search of a mindful release (the 128-page book suggests a less-than-simple multiple-step process to polished-ball perfection). “What a refined take on the mud pie,” I thought to myself. But do children or adults actually make these marvellously melded orbs?

“They were big when I was eight,” a Japanese colleague tells me. “But we weren’t allowed to take them into the classroom so we had to hide them,” he adds with a grin. “I’d find the best and shiniest ones, then smash them.” He’s always been a bit of a ballbreaker. So much for that dewy-eyed view of a more civilised and mindful childhood in Japan…

The Look 01 / London

Chauffeured chic

There’s a way of dressing for women that says: you know what, I am wealthy, I have a driver and the closest I ever get to public transport is the front of a commercial plane (and I am only there when the jet is being serviced). It’s a look we’ll call “chauffeured chic” and its adherents dress safe in the knowledge that they will spend their day exiting straight from car to venue and back again. If you are an advocate of chauffeured chic, you can wear white trousers that skim the floor (even in winter), remain wedded to flimsy, tottering high heels (even when the rain is descending in torrents) and, without fear of being robbed, sport jewellery on your wrist that, if sold, could prop up a small nation for the foreseeable. You can even look a little outré, foolish even, because there will be no hoi polloi around to snigger.

There are many tribes – German collectors, Balenciaga-trainered gallerists, big-specs money boys – who descend on the Frieze art fair (especially for the opening day, which was on Wednesday) but it’s surely one of the largest annual gatherings of chauffeured chic. It pulls in the wealthy with gusto and, because there are no seasons in its bright, white, perfect-temperature tents, you can wear a pink feather-festooned coat or pussy-bow shirt. It’s also a world where faces remain taut whatever their age; poor gallerists find it hard to discern whether some people are shocked or pleased at the price they’ve just quoted.

Yes, there are amazing artistic and cultural shifts to investigate at Frieze but don’t worry if you get caught up looking at the crowds – everyone is at it. The event continues until Sunday so, if you fancy trying to pull off the look, perhaps get your mum to drop you off at the entrance.

The faster lane / Tyler Brûlé

Grappling with technology

By now you probably know that I’m not the most teched-up staffer at Team Monocle. In fact I endure much teasing on the rough-and-tumble playground that is the editorial floor at Midori House. Creative director Richard Spencer Powell never misses an opportunity to take a dig at my photo skills (excellent, I might add) or the abilities of my BlackBerry. When editor Andrew and Design editor Nolan have run out of material to use against executive editor Josh, they might ask if I know what an app is and whether my phone is capable of accommodating them. “Would you even know where to find them?” I heard one of them cruelly ask as I retreated to my corner office one Friday afternoon.

For the record I do know what an app is and I believe I have four of them: SBB for train and tram tickets and timetables; Swiss for more schedules; Miles & More for keeping track of air miles; and Alertswiss for bulletins about avalanches, angry cattle, train delays of more than two minutes and other security risks. Since BlackBerry did away with its BBM instant-messaging service I also use Line. But I’m not sure if that’s so much an app as a distinct communication channel that happens to require an icon on my screen. Perhaps you have a view on that?

Personal technology aside, my colleagues also have to endure my oddball theories about technology. It’s already well documented that I’m not a great believer in social media and have long regarded various brands as not just silly distractions but also serious threats to media outlets such as our own. I’ve never quite understood why so many big, established media companies spent so much time pushing the conversation – and their hard-won audiences – away from their own outlets (BBC, New York Times, CNN et al) and on to platforms that turned out to be their competitors. Is anyone surprised that many of these same outlets are now scratching their heads and wondering why so much of their digital advertising base has been eroded?

Not me. Though Monocle could certainly be more famous and this newsletter could reach hundreds of millions more people than it currently does (please click here and share with friends and colleagues) I feel it makes more sense to spread good journalism among trusted sources than just blasting it out into the ether.

Want to hear my latest theory about overinflated brands and their true intentions? Have you been giving much thought to the Netflix business model and what it’s there for? Same goes for all those food-delivery brands. Are they there to fill our screens with good content and our tummies with burritos and pad thai? Are they a force for good? Or are they city killers – elaborate experiments designed to keep everyone in place and off the street?

As you go about your Saturday and start planning your evening, perhaps it’s worth pausing for a moment to question whether it’s such a good idea to shut yourself in rather than getting out and being part of the city, town or village you call home. At a time when so many of us bemoan the collapse of our neighbourhoods and the lack of community, we might want to ask how much we’re helping by not supporting local businesses after darkness falls.

The interrogator / Edition 32

Mishal Husain

London-based journalist Mishal Husain is one of the most recognisable voices in British newscasting. She’s been a presenter on Today, BBC Radio 4’s flagship morning news programme, since 2013, as well as presenting the news on BBC One. Her latest book, The Skills, was published in paperback in January. Here she reveals her (very) early-morning media routine.

What news source do you wake up to? If I am due to be on air then nothing – the alarm goes off at 03.10. I’ll have a quick check on any breaking news and then watch the previous night’s BBC News at Ten while I’m getting dressed. On an off-air morning I’ll tune into Today and imagine everything that’s happening behind the scenes.

Coffee, tea or something pressed to go with headlines? Cappuccino from the machine at the new Broadcasting House on my way to my desk.

Something from the FM dial or Spotify for your tunes? I listen much more to people talking than to tunes. My loss.

What’s that you’re humming in the shower? “Crossroads” by Don McLean, after hearing him the other day on a wonderful BBC series called Mastertapes.

Papers delivered or a trip to the kiosk? Online through the week and physical papers for more leisurely reading at the weekend.

Five magazines for your weekend sofa-side stack?FT Magazine, Vanity Fair, The Week, The Economist and Monocle.

Are you a subscriber or more of a newsstand browser? Subscriber! I have a long list of must-reads for work.

Bookshop for a drizzly Saturday afternoon? Word on the Water, which is on a canal boat at King’s Cross in London.

Sofa or cinema in the evening? Probably sofa. And lots of movies at home during awards season as I am a member of Bafta [British Academy of Film and Television Arts].

What’s the best thing you’ve watched of late and why?The Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime – about a world where Germany and Japan won the war – and a BBC documentary series on Margaret Thatcher.

Sunday brunch routine? Earl Grey tea, eggs and, as I am coeliac, gluten-free bread. Luckily the options available are getting better.

Do you still make an appointment to watch the nightly news? Yes and I hope others do too, or I might be out of a job…

A favourite newsreader perhaps? She is a legend, not a newsreader: Lyse Doucet [the BBC’s chief international correspondent].

What's on the airwaves before drifting off? On the night before an early shift it’s Channel 4 News and then a scroll through Twitter. I’m never going to be able to do the “no screen time before bed” thing.

Culture / Watch / Listen / Visit

In the spotlight

‘Judy’, Rupert Goold. There are many accounts of the troubled tale of Judy Garland but few manage to shed much light on the woman behind the legend without slipping into camp clichés. Judy, starring Renée Zellweger as a late-career Garland, is one such rarity. There are scoundrels aplenty in director Goold’s biopic but he wisely keeps the spotlight on his star, while carefully balancing the serious with the spectacle.

‘Forever/Whatever’, Holiday Sidewinder. Holiday Sidewinder’s brilliant moniker (her real name, it transpires) does half the work of making this Aussie indie-pop singer instantly glamorous; breathless singing, 1980s disco beats and platinum blonde hair does the rest. This debut album comes after a string of brilliant vintage-sounding singles about sexual empowerment and eschewing predictable happily-ever-afters.

180 The Strand. Frieze is in town so virtually all galleries in London are debuting exhibitions this weekend. Beyond the customary hop around Mayfair, the show at 180 The Strand is another Frieze-week staple that’s always among the most interesting. London’s United Visual Artists have collaborated with US musician Bernie Krause to create mesmerising audio installations that deliver a powerful and emotional environmental lesson.

Outpost news / Martha’s Vineyard

The ripe stuff

Martha’s Vineyard – a small island off Cape Cod, Massachusetts – has about 16,000 residents, chocolate-box vistas and a peaceful way of life that draws droves of artists and authors in search of a bucolic retreat. “It’s somewhat intimidating as an editor with that sort of readership,” says George Brennan, who edits the Martha’s Vineyard Times, of the writers who are his clientele. “You have to be on your game with grammar and spelling.” Covering a thriving arts community, food and drink, business and local politics, Brennan has been editing the Thursday weekly for the past two-and-a-half-years. He offers his choice picks from the Martha’s Vineyard grapevine.

What’s the big story this week? One of our elementary schools is almost 100 years old and dates back to a time when lead paint was used; it has been known to be toxic since the 1980s. Large quantities of it have been found throughout the school and some of the students have been moved to a more modern building while the paint is removed.

What’s your favourite image? Darkness into Vineyard Light is an annual sunrise vigil for Suicide Awareness Month, where lots of people wake up to see the dawn at 06.00 – so hats off to our photographer for the early rise. He got an amazing shot of these silhouettes walking along the beach.

Your favourite headline? We were having major difficulties getting the ferries operating recently, which is the main way for anyone to reach us. So when the [neighbouring] Nantucket island ferry went down as well, we went for a Jaws reference: “Just when you thought Nantucket was safe”.

What’s your down-page treat? We don’t have fast food on the island – it’s not allowed. But when we heard that KFC had come up with a chicken burger with two doughnuts as the bun, we decided to make our own. We sent two reporters to a doughnut shop and then to a restaurant, which we asked to fry some chicken. We’re not afraid of having a little fun.

What’s the next big event? The Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, which runs for four or five weeks; we’re in the middle of it now. People are competing to catch the biggest fish in several different categories. They give away incredible prizes: you could win anything from a fishing rod to a boat. And there are so many, it seems like everyone’s a winner.

Eat / Hilda

Tasteful tweaks

Long lauded for its hefty portions, creamy desserts and the wondrous wine that accompanies it, Hungarian food – in all its paprika-spiked, goulash-splashed glory – is undergoing an artful rethink in the capital (writes Josh Fehnert). Hilda is a Budapest bistro in a building that dates from 1840 and was designed by Jozsef Hild of St Stephen’s Basilica fame. It’s also a surefire winner for anything from a breezy breakfast to dinner and drinks (although it closes at 23.00 so arrive in time to enjoy it).

The interior design – including Zsolnay tiles, actual songbirds in a gilded cage, a tiger (made of limestone) atop the door and a vast mosaic of a woman holding a roast chicken – is offbeat, but all hangs together well. If the weather allows, grab a table under the awning outside and try either the rich Mangalica pork chop or rotisserie chicken, before a rewarding exploration of the cocktail menu.

For more of Budapest’s best bits, check out our city guide in the October issue of the magazine.

Modern etiquette / Edition 26

I've just recognised a celebrity – can I say hello?

“Never meet your heroes,” goes the maxim but the circumstances are all important. Social media has made some share-happy celebrities seem like extras in our own lives. It can seem as if we know them but remember: we don’t really. These pillars of pop culture are people too: the sort with insecurities, idiosyncrasies and a limited amount of patience for being told how clever, crass or creative they are every time they step beyond the safety of their front door. If you happen to spot that novelist you adore while you’re out hiking in the countryside then it might well be your chance to have a chinwag; if you spot your favourite comedian walking their kids to school or navigating traffic then maybe hold off on the over-familiar introductions. Do meet your heroes, do say “hello” – just remember not to judge them if the don’t want to hear your life story as much as you want to know theirs.

M24 / Monocle on Design

Form, function and the future

We visit the Mingeikan – the Japan Folk Crafts Museum – to speak to its director-designer Naoto Fukasawa, who has used Japan’s Mingei crafts movement to inform his globally renowned products. Plus: we look at design’s future and the role of artificial intelligence with Daisuke Ishii, Sony’s chief art director, discussing the brand’s “Affinity in Autonomy” installation.


sign in to monocle

new to monocle?

Subscriptions start from £120.

Subscribe now





Monocle Radio

00:00 01:00