Harry Mount

The Young Fogey: an elegy

Harry Mount mourns the extinction of young men who wore four-piece tweed suits, including ‘westkits’, and loved the old Prayer Book

They’re playing rap music in the jewellery department at Christie’s South Kensington. In T.M. Lewin, the Jermyn Street shirtmakers, you can dip into a fridge by the cufflinks counter and have a frozen mini-Mars while you are leafing through the chocolate corduroy jackets.

But who is left to mourn these things? In the old days, the Young Fogey, the character invented by Alan Watkins on these pages in 1984, would have been in the vanguard of the protesters, shrieking and whinnying away about the desecration of his haunts. He is silent …because he is no more.

Twenty years after his creation, the Young Fogey has pedalled off into the sunset on his sit-up-and-beg butcher’s bike, broad-brim fedora firmly on head, wicker basket strapped to the handlebars by leather and brass ties.

He hasn’t actually died. The two archetypes of the Young Fogey mentioned by Mr Watkins – the journalist and novelist A.N. Wilson, and Dr John Casey, Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge – were only in their thirties at the time, and so are now in their fifties and in rude health. But there is no one following in their footsteps and they have abandoned the whimsical attitudes that once defined them.

The grown-up Young Fogey – now, typically, in a position of power, as are Mr Wilson and Dr Casey – will live in some style, but he’ll no longer be interested in style. You might not even notice him in a crowd. Goodbye, braces with old-fashioned fasteners and trouser waistbands strapped perilously close to the nipple line. Farewell, frockcoats cut for long-dead Victorians. No more the endless pairs of black brogues. Hello, suit of modern cut. Hello, moccasins. Hello, loafers.

The term ‘fogey’ dates from the 18th century, and is related to the slang word ‘fogram’, of unknown origin, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

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