On my latest London trip I read an entertaining memoir, A Short Walk Down Fleet Street (2000) by Alan Watkins (1933-2010), renowned journalist at several papers and magazines on Fleet Street in London. In the 1980s Alan Watkins popularized the phrases “the chattering classes”, “men in suits”, and “young fogey”.
The Young Fogey
In terms of style the young fogey sets himself apart from a sloan ranger and a preppy, two other labels from the 1980s. The dress of young fogeys is classic wear as well, yet slightly more old-fashioned. Moreover, the young fogey will be more interested in history, architechture and other cultural fields than a sloan rangers or a preppy.
Alan Watkins introduced the young fogey in a column called the Diary published in The Spectator on 19 May 1984.
“This is the end of my stint on the Diary. It is always agreeable to write for the Spectator, turn up at its offices or meet its contributors or staff on licensed premises. But it does tend to attract a class of person that can be called the Young Fogey. I owe the term to Mr Terence Kilmartin, though he may not be its inventor. I have nothing against the Young Fogey. He is libertarian but not liberal. He is conservative but has no time for Mrs Margaret Thatcher and considers Mr Neil Kinnock the most personally attractive of the present party leaders. He is a scholar of Evelyn Waugh. He tends to be coolly religious, either RC or C of E. He dislikes modern architecture. He makes a great fuss about the old Prayer Book, grammar, syntax and punctuation. He laments the difficulty of purchasing good bread, Cheddar cheese, kippers and sausages — though not beer, because the cause of good beer has been taken over by boring men with beards from the Campaign for Real Ale. He enjoys walking and travelling by train. He thinks The Times is not what it was and prefers the Daily Telegraph. He likes the Observer (particularly Dr C.C. O’Brien) more than the Sunday Times, which stands for most things the young Fogey detests. Mr A.N. Wilson is a Young Fogey. So is Dr John Casey [Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and a prolific freelance journalist]. So, now I come to count them, are most of my friends. I am something of a Middle-aged Fogey myself. I shall have to watch it. The causes are mostly good but can become tedious to others if pressed too often and too hard,” Alan Watkins wrote in the Diary.
“Everyone went mad. The fierce Veronica Wadley, even then a power in middle-market journalism, declared that for the moment she was interested only in articles about Young Fogeys. I was asked to write a book about them, to be called The Official Young Fogey Handbook. Naturally I declined, though those who claimed to have my best interests at heart told me I was mistaken,” he comments in A Short Walk Down Fleet Street on the introduction of the young fogey in 1984.
“Several people thought it would discompose me to learn that the phrase had first been used by Dornford Yates in 1928. To me this did not matter in the least. If I had stolen the phrase from anyone, it was from Terry Kilmartin, who had used it of John Casey,” he elaborates.
He spoiled the effect by wearing brown shoes
In A Short Walk Down Fleet Street Alan Watkins describes people, he has met on his way, often specifying their clothes. His observation are quite instructive, if you are interested in traditional British dressing style, which I suppose most readers are.
“Just before the end of this comfortable spell, a wing-commander came from London to ask us where we wanted to be posted. I remember him clearly. He was wearing a check sports coat, cavalry twill trousers (much in vogue in the 1950s), a yellow cardigan, a mauve silk tie and suede boots.” On his youth at RAF.
“He was then only 40 but seemed quite old — or perhaps merely formidable. He was tall, heavily built and in his shirtsleeves. His shirts were always white or light blue with, usually, a dark blue knitted tie and a dark blue suit. With the variation of a black tie instead of a blue one, this was the uniform adopted by young Max Aitken and by Lord Beaverbrook himself, though the latter sometimes spoiled the effect by wearing brown shoes.” On politician and press baron Max Aitkin, 2nd Baronet, and his father, Lord Beaverbrook.
“Perhaps the best illustration of idleness on the Mirror in the 1960s was Roland (“Roly”) Hurman, the industrial correspondent. Hurman had a gingerish moustache and dressed in a dark blue, double-breasted, brass-buttoned blazer, a check shirt, a striped tie which laid claim to some association or other, and cavalry twill trousers.” On journalist Roland Hurman.
“He looked like a Lancashire comedian but was funnier. He lived in a flat in Eaton Square, London S.W.1 with his pretty and engaging Lebanese wife Diane, whom he said he would still have married even if she had not been as rich as she was. Inside the flat, he spent most of his time in a silk dressing-gown. When visitors asked, as they sometimes did, whether he was unwell, he would reply that he was perfectly all right, thank you very much, but saw no reason to change into a suit or anything else …” On Harold Lever, Baron Lever of Manchester, and barrister and Labour Party politician.
Further reading: Peter Oborne on Alan Watkins in The Guardian (2015).