Saturday. 13/8/2022

Monocle Weekend
Edition: Saturday

Sea breeze

We report from the frontline of the short-shorts wars and Serena Williams announces her retirement from tennis… or does she? Elsewhere, there’s Persian orange blossom ice cream and an impounded superyacht – so just your usual Saturday morning then. Before all of that, Andrew Tuck checks in from Mallorca.

Opener / Andrew Tuck

Happy accident

I met the wrong person for drinks in Mallorca. I messaged a contact I know through Monocle who lives in Palma but who, for various lazy reasons, I just have not seen in some two years. His name is Juan. We texted back and forth for a couple of days, agreeing to meet in a bar that has a sunny terrace and is not far from where I live when I’m on the island. At the appointed meeting time I started scanning the people who were arriving, hoping to spot my drink date in the crowd. Just then a man appeared in front of me with a big smile and, perhaps detecting my baffled expression, said, “Hello Andrew, it’s Juan. Great to see you.”

Now, the fellow that I was expecting is tall; this person was not. He was also perhaps 10 years older than the Juan I was anticipating having a drink with. I fumbled for an opening sentence that would not give the game away. “How are you?” I said with alarming enthusiasm. Meanwhile, my brain was trying to make sense of the situation, like a crazed old-school telephone operator attempting to connect 1,000 calls. Could this be my Juan? Had he somehow shrunk in the intervening years? I wondered whether there was an excuse that would allow me to make a hasty escape (“Damn, I’ve just remembered that I left the paella on the hob.”) because my chat was becoming dangerously vague (“So warm today, don’t you think?”). But when I said, “Remind me where you are living now,” suddenly cogs clicked into place. “Still in the building next to you,” came the cloud-clearing response.

Last year, on the day that we moved into our base in Palma, I had been shoving a pile of cardboard into the recycling unit when a man completing the same operation stepped forward and offered me his craft knife. We chatted for a few minutes and, in a weird twist, it transpired that we had met fleetingly many years before when Monocle had a pop-up shop in Palma. He had then given me his phone number in case he could ever be of help and I hastily put his contact in my phone under the title, “Juan”. And a year later I had messaged the wrong Juan.

Regaining my composure, we got talking about work – he’s a designer – the island, his family. By the time we were ready to leave, plans had been made to meet again in the autumn and go on a modest hike to a mountain restaurant run by his friends. Really, it couldn’t have gone better.

I’ve met a lot of people on this trip. When you work as a journalist, especially for a company like Monocle, work and social lives mix in ways that are mostly OK. After last week’s column about the journey to Spain, I had a few emails from people asking whether we could meet up and then others who follow me on Instagram saw my Palma posts and asked the same. And I made time, knowing that you will always learn something interesting. So thanks to Valentin for showing me around his meeting place for entrepreneurs in an old palace; Alessandro and Moy for sharing their move-to-Mallorca experiences; and photographer Anthony for picking up the tab at Rita’s. They all appear in my contacts now – all with surnames.

Illustration: Mathieu De Muizon

But the fun is almost over: it’s time to drive back to London, starting with the car ferry to Barcelona, then heading up through France. We came this route so that Macy the hound could accompany us. And I think she’s had a good time: Spanish restaurants are happy to have a dog sleeping on their cool stone floors and we found a beach where dogs are allowed to swim. But the drive has also been an adventure for us, somehow making the distance seem more meaningful than when you just jump on a plane. And even the simple car ferry has added a greater sense of arriving and leaving. Departing Mallorca is tough. It’s not perfect and has plenty of things to cope with but it’s still a magical mix of city and countryside, mountains and beaches, upscale and modest. Perhaps a few too many Juans? Yes, but I can cope with that.

The Look / Short shorts

Cut above the rest

In 1957, rock’n’roll band The Royal Teens debuted their evergreen earworm of a sartorial song with the lyrics, “Who wears short shorts?” (writes Tomos Lewis). Well, if this summer is anything to go by, the answer appears to be, “everyone”. Inseams are inching upwards and shorts – both regular and those you can swim in – are getting shorter. Not by much – just a few centimetres – but just enough to expose a hard truth: in recent years men’s shorts have become too long.

The shift has been subtle. Sports and swim shorts have become staples of men’s summer outfits, beyond the running, tennis, hiking, gym and beach trips that they were designed for. A slew of labels have responded with their own, shorter designs: Saturdays NYC, Bather, Corridor, La Paz and Timo (pictured) have fine options in a plethora of fabrics.

Image: Pelle Crepin

It’s yet another example of the yo-yoing nature of the length of men’s shorts. The Bermuda short, said to have been devised in 1914, involved hemming the army-issue trousers of British soldiers to three inches (8cm) above the knee. Few blushes were spared in the 1970s and early 1980s, when men’s inseams crept further up the thigh – a look popularised by stars such as Harrison Ford and John Travolta. The 1990s and early 2000s, however, saw some shorts get so long that you would have been hard pressed to feel the breeze on your ankles.

So, in short, how short is short for a pair of shorts? Aim for an inseam of between 13cm and 18cm. Any shorter, and you might feel as though you work at a 1970s car wash; any longer and you might as well be wearing trousers.

How we live / Serena Williams’s retirement

Open ending

Tennis fans can now be almost certain that the forthcoming US Open will offer the last chance to see one of the sport’s great players in action, after Serena Williams suggested that she would retire at its conclusion (writes Lewis Huxley). Except she won’t be “retiring”; in an essay published in Vogue (naturally), Williams wrote that she would be “evolving away from tennis”. As though her extraordinary on-court achievements are not enough, Williams, it seems, is now intent on proving Charles Darwin wrong about the pace of human development and is on her way to becoming a superior being in her own lifetime – like when Peter Parker became Spider-Man.

Image: Alamy

This unnecessary coining of a new phrase draws unavoidable comparison to Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow’s announcement that they were not “divorcing” but “consciously uncoupling”, accompanied by a nauseatingly idyllic picture of the pair smiling in a sun-drenched meadow. The suggestion – divorce is bad but we’re not doing that – was that this was the celebrity separation that pioneered the amicable split. Or perhaps, more cynically, their PR team had found a way to guarantee both search-engine hits and column inches.

Williams’s competitive nature also suggests that she sees “retirement” as an acceptance of defeat. In recent years she has fallen agonisingly short of equalling Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles. Hanging up the racket having won 23 would, of course, be unthinkable to those mere mortals, such as me, for whom that figure represents only a barely achievable first-serve percentage. But for Williams, there is perhaps a sense of unfinished business, hence the insistence that she is avoiding “retirement” and, to coin a phrase, preparing for “the Serevolution”.

Monocle Concierge / Your questions answered

Nordic notes

The Monocle Concierge had a lot of fun unfurling their map and dusting off their compass for this week’s question. As ever, keep all your esoteric travel queries coming in by clicking here.

Dear Concierge,

I’m planning a hiking trip around Copenhagen to Stockholm and then Oslo. Any recommendations for trails and accommodation?

Yang Fodor, UK

Image: Thomas Ekstrom

Dear Yang,

You’ve chosen the right place: Scandinavia is one of the world’s best regions for ambitious hikes. In fact, in Sweden and Norway you have the right to roam freely across the land. So long as you keep a respectful distance from private property, the allemansrätten (roughly translated as “every man’s right”) lets you trace your own trails.

And while the region’s natural wonders allow for some respite from urban life, Scandinavia’s compact capitals provide a wealth of cultural and gastronomic offerings. Copenhagen has seen the stylish and the good descend for its now world-renowned fashion week over the past few days (see Wardrobe Update, below). If you’re visiting the city this autumn, we recommend a trip to Copenhagen Contemporary, a former welding facility turned art gallery. For a pick-me-up, the nearby Lille Bakery makes some of the city’s best cardamom-spiced treats. A half-hour train ride from Copenhagen’s centre will take you to Skjoldungernes Land, a national park rich in nature and history. Among the forest and fjords is Roskilde Cathedral, the medieval burial place of Danish kings and queens.

Over in Stockholm, get a sense of the country’s unrivalled appreciation for good design by spending a night at boutique hotel Ett Hem. Then hop on a ferry to Sandhamn, an island in the Stockholm archipelago. There are no cars there, which makes it the perfect place for a serene hike among the pine trees. Pick up a traditional Swedish waffle at Café Strindbergsgården and watch the boats go by.

In Oslo you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to hiking. Forests, lakes and hills make up some two thirds of the city, with thousands of kilometres of marked trails easily accessible via public transport. Two great starting points are Frognerseteren and Sognsvann metro stations – 38 and 16 minutes, respectively, from the city centre. Membership of the Norwegian Trekking Association (dntoslo.no) allows you to use 38 unmanned log cabins dotted around the forests, accessible with the association’s universal key. Annual membership is €75 and a bed in a cabin is €29.

Alternatively, you can pitch your tent or hang your hammock anywhere you please. Want a bit more luxury? Stay at the manned Kobberhaughytta, an 8km hike from Frognerseteren metro station and enjoy traditional Norwegian food as well as its sauna. Back in Oslo, indulge in a refreshing drink among rare mid-century finds at bar-cum-antique-shop Fuglen. And if you’re after a fuelling brunch the following morning, head to Liebling, a pared-back cafe offering classic Scandi fare, before a stroll down the colourful streets of the vibrant Grünerløkka neighbourhood. Happy hiking!

Summer House Hunter / Europe

Extended stays

For those outside the EU – UK citizens included – having a second home in a sunny European country can pose problems with visa restrictions, meaning that summers might have to be shortened for people hoping to linger longer than the typically allocated three months out of every six. This makes the opportunity to circumnavigate these rules with a “golden visa” all the more golden and a doubly smart investment for Brits, Americans and people from the Middle East seeking to park some money in an appreciable asset abroad (particularly because the euro is fairly weak at present). With this in mind, Summer House Hunter has selected some European countries that reward inward investments with residency.

Image: Sotheby's

For a cool €1m you can pick up the idyllic Idole villa on the relaxed Greek island of Kythnos, a laid-back, picturesque place three hours by ferry from Athens (though you only need to spend €250,000 to acquire the visa). Appreciators of island life on a more moderate budget might want to look at less expensive options on Portugal’s subtropical Madeira, where a beer can cost just €1. And for the €500,000 property investment that is required for a Portuguese golden visa, you can scoop up a very nice apartment with a big balcony and views of the Atlantic.

Finally, while Estonia might seem a surprising place to purchase a sunny retreat, the Scandinavians who regularly summer there will surely vouch for its pristine beaches and attractive and affordable hospitality scene. While obtaining a property won’t get you a visa on its own, the nation’s Major Investor scheme means you can put €1m behind an established business in this start-up-rich nation to secure residency. This will give you the opportunity to secure a cosy coastal cottage such as this one (pictured) on Abruka island, which has its own floating sauna on the water nearby.

Wardrobe Update / Copenhagen Fashion Week

Hitting the mark

Copenhagen might be best known for its design scene but fashion is quickly catching up. The city’s biannual fashion week is turning into a vibrant creative platform, offering plenty of inspiration on how to get dressed.

During the latest round of spring/summer shows, which took place this week, some of the most prominent fashion labels from across Scandinavia presented their new collections. There was a common vision of easy sophistication among many of the brands on display. Staying true to their love of the outdoors, Scandi designers blended technical fabrics with more classic wardrobe staples; their aim is to design clothing that can take you from cycling around town to a board meeting then a dip in the river at the end of the day.

Image: Helle Moos

Oslo-based Holzweiler’s show (pictured) included crisp, featherlight trench coats made using upcycled parachutes. Up-and-coming Danish design collective Sunflower, meanwhile, offered their own twist on classic menswear styles; a jacket made using a sturdy Japanese jacquard fabric, used mostly for interiors, was a highlight.

Scandinavian designers share a passion for innovative fabrics and craft with their Japanese counterparts, which is partly why a host of Japanese brands made their way to Copenhagen this season. Retailer Beams presented a curation of some of the country’s best names at the Copenhagen International Fashion Fair. Names to keep on your radar include Aton, for its raw linen shirts and botanical-dyed T-shirts; Kaptain Sunshine for the impeccable fit of its drop-shoulder jackets; and Ayame, an eyewear label known for its ultralight, vintage-inspired frames.

In 2022, these brands are seeking new growth opportunities beyond their home market and will soon become more readily available across Europe. That’s good news for any discerning fashion customer in the region.

Scoop of the week / Mashti Malone’s

Cold comfort

When the sun’s up, it’s important to know where the nearest ice cream parlour is – just in case you want to cool down. Scoop of the Week goes one better: revealing our correspondents’ favourite spots for chilled goods. This week, Monocle’s US editor Christopher Lord takes a trip to Mashti Malone’s in Los Angeles.

Few ice cream parlours can claim that their soft stuff is “2,500 years in the making”. Even if that is a slight exaggeration – a reference to the thicker, Persian-style dessert it serves – Mashti Malone’s is certainly a time-honoured Los Angeles institution. It was founded in 1980 by Mashti Shirvani who left Iran during the 1979 Islamic Revolution. He started with the shop on Le Brea Avenue, where his business still stands. At the time it was an Irish-run parlour called Mugsy Malone’s – to save money, Mashti simply changed the first name on the sign and kept the shamrock.

Image: Mashti Malone's

For his Iranian and Armenian clientele, the line-up is a taste of home: rosewater sorbet with iced faloodeh noodles, orange blossom and even one made from Persian cucumbers. For the less adventurous, there’s always the classic rocky road, while the delicious date ice cream is my go-to. Shirvani makes these concoctions himself in the back room of the La Brea outpost and says that his ice cream is always natural and free from artificial sweeteners, and that he only uses the best saffron. He’s also never shed the entrepreneurial zeal that brought him to the US: a third shop is due to open soon in Silver Lake. Waistlines be warned.
1525 N La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles 90028

What Am I Bid? / ‘Axioma’

Changing course

The 72-metre-long yacht Axioma was once named Red Square (writes Andrew Mueller). You might perceive right there some kind of clue as to the reasons for its sudden availability. Axioma (pictured) was until very recently the pride and joy of Russian billionaire Dmitry Pumpyansky, former proprietor of steel-pipe manufacturer TMK. Pumpyansky was sanctioned by the UK and the US in March, shortly after his good friend Vladimir Putin ordered Russian forces across Ukraine’s borders. As a consequence, Axioma was impounded in Gibraltar.

There is some suggestion that between a currently depressed superyacht market and the shadow cast by its previous owner, Axioma may be had for a (relative) steal – certainly less than its reported market value of $75m (€73m). Even leaving aside its picturesque provenance, Axioma is quite a craft. Distinguished by its turquoise hull, it was built by Turkish shipyard Dunya and has been afloat since 2013. It boasts exterior styling by Monaco-based designer Sterling Scott and an interior by the late Alberto Pinto. Among the features are an infinity pool, a cinema, and, of course, the helipad necessary to get on and off without dampening one’s zebra-skin deck shoes or whatever the friends of wealthy oligarchs wear when idling aboard one of these things.
hrpauctions.com

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