“How to be Chap” – Book review

Gustav Temple is a driven man. A man dedicated to a quite single-minded mission. Since 1999 he has been tirelessly promoting the Chap lifestyle through his magazine, The Chap. There was a first inkling of a book in 2011, the quite jokey “Am I Chap?”, but it took until 2016 for his magnum opus to be unleashed. “How to be Chap” is the book you should have asked for for Xmas, but due to my tardiness in reviewing it you’ll have to place the order yourself. Because, yes, it is that marvellous and you must have it.

Firstly though, what the heck is this “Chap” business all about? I tried to come up with a snappy and short definition, which would in essence be a distilled version of the 270 pages of this full-sized double-breasted beast of a book, but failed. A less snappy summary would be to say that it involves vintage sartorial cues, a gentlemanly behaviour and a hedonistic lifestyle, a love of cricket and disdain of every other sport, an appreciation of the finer points of life and in general Doing Things Properly.

I think maybe the Chap Manifesto gives a good insight in to the rules of Chapism:

  1. Thou shalt always wear tweed.
  2. Thou shalt never not smoke.
  3. Thou shalt always be courteous to everyone.
  4. Thou shalt never, ever wear pantaloons de Nimes
  5. Thou shalt always doff one’s hat.
  6. Thou shalt never fasten the lowest button on the waistcoat.
  7. Thou shalt always speak properly.
  8. Thou shalt never wear plimsolls when not doing sport.
  9. Thou shalt always worship at the trouser press.
  10. Thou shalt always cultivate interesting facial hair.

Sounds like an ideal for living, in most respects, right? I can’t personally condone the smoking part and I do enjoy a nice pair of pantaloons de Nimes, but the rest aligns nicely with my feelings of both sartorialism and behaviour.

This being a proper book though, of both colourful illustrations and copious verbiage, there is very much more to be found, both in depth and breadth. A historical review of the transition from gentleman to chap, how the chap fits into modern culture, notable chaps and chapettes (both current and historical), etiquette, the siege of Saville Row, clothes, tweeds, accessories, shoes, and even what motorised vehicles would be appropriate.

And all with a wonderful sense of humour, which in all likelihood is one of the most important aspects of being a Chap. Or indeed a Chapette.

I’ve enjoyed this book tremendously and keep finding new points of interest. Highly recommended!

Published by Gestalten and available now.

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