Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Dare To Be Different

A city is a place in which you can remake yourself anew. People come to New London to start afresh and be the people they always wanted to be. The city's society is an ever-shifting collection of characters acting out roles written in the color of desire.

Many people think Whalehead King is a fop, a clothes horse, an overdressed peacock, a pretty boy, or a Gentleman's Quarterly model. He is a dandy rake, but there is one person who exceeds his passion for old-fashioned style assembled with modern panache. This gentleman is referred to as The Baron. Whalehead King has only sighted this sanppy chap twice before today, and all the encounters were years apart.

The first time was in 1998, when Mr. King and a date were enjoying the symphony at the Garde Theater. The Baron escorted a lady to the last row in the loge. Mr. King was wearing a four-button, bespoke suit of black sharkskin with a royal windowpane pattern. He had on a lime shirt with black cufflinks in the shape of motor scooters. His Turkish silk tie was in a perfect half-windsor with a deep dimple centered square under the knot. The Baron was dressed in a silk and velvet, swallow-tail tuxedo, a watch chain draped over his cumberbund. He had a crisp, white bow tie around his neck and a monocle over his left eye. His companion floated by in a ruffled gown with a bustle behind her corsetted waist.

In 2002, Whalehead King was in the antiques store where Olympic Sporting Goods used to be. He was leaving just as The Baron was entering. It was a Sunday morning and Mr. King was wearing his walking-about togs, fashionable and smart looking, but not any more elegant than George Clarke. The Baron also wasn't not formal, but he was wearing tea colored jodhpurs, and a white, two-hundred count, Egyptian cotton shirt. He carried a walking stick capped with silver on each end. The Baron has a long goatee and wears his hair like Lord Byron. Mr. King had to turn and marvel at this creation he had just passed. The Baron studied a Louis the XVI combination chair and magazine rack without looking at anything else.

Whalehead King saw The Baron again today, in 2007. During this encounter, The Baron was a symphony in gray tweed and knit. His slacks and his jacket were subtly different weaves of houndstooth. His motoring cap was cut large without a snap on its bill. The Baron was wearing a cream, woolen, cable sweater and a nubby, slate scarf over his shoulder. He was wearing white, cotton gloves that buttoned at the wrist.

Now, Whalehead King isn't dressed like a slouch during this sighting. Mr. King is decked out in his Romanian cashmere topcoat over a worsted, double-breasted, midnight blue suit with ecru pinstriping. His English tab shirt is cantaloupe, its cuffs secured with Connectiuct quarters and his tie is a constellation of sparkly crimson dots set in utlramarine. He is wearing a dark vest of paisley brocade. His pocket square blooms from his breast pocket like a daffodil. His fedora has been freshly brushed and blocked.

Mr. King can only stare at The Baron and admire this confection striding down the street, uncaring that it is out of place. Whalehead King has no natural adversaries in New London, but there can be only one best dressed man in the Whaling City. Most people think it is Whalehead King. He demurs. He thinks the title belongs to The Baron, a gentleman with whom he has never exchanged words, but whose style he admires. A tip of the fedora to this sartorial maestro.

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