The North. It’s a fascinating place. We have thriving centres for fashion, the arts and music in our great Northern cities, a rich and varied history from ancient Roman walls to the birth of the Industrial Revolution, our produce graces the country’s finest restaurant tables, and by all accounts we’re a fairly friendly lot too but without the great sprawling conurbations found in the South, city and country are much closer together.
In my role as an urban cigar merchant in Newcastle upon Tyne, and as someone who resides in rural Northumberland I get to meet a great many splendid town and country gentlemen; and much like Northern attitudes towards wealth and affluence, and I believe the Northern “take” on gentlemanly behaviour is a muted, self deprecating one. There is a distinct modesty, an economy of movement if you will, that marks the Northern Gentleman as being a subtly different variant of the breed.
We tend not to conduct ourselves in a certain way in order to be seen to be doing so, rather than it simply wouldn’t occur to us to act in any other way. Away from the sprawling metropolis and the vagaries of fashion, out in the provinces traditional forms of conduct have stubbornly survived unchanged, albeit in tiny pockets, much like the red squirrel!
The wearing of tweed is an interesting example to illustrate my point. This most gentlemanly of fabrics is currently enjoying a popular revival on Britain’s high streets, and I’m very pleased to see its’ return, but it never really went away ‘oop North. It is hardwearing and weather resistant, whilst still being breathable, practical qualities in a climate where you can experience at least three seasons in one afternoon. As an added benefit you get to look rather smart whilst keeping warm, and it’s eminently preferable to stepping out appearing like you’re about to make an attempt on the North face of the Eiger!
Take a look down any fair sized high street in any city, town or village and I guarantee you will see a dapper chap in his 60’s, 70’s or 80’s bedecked in tweed jacket, moleskin waistcoat and corduroy trousers, perfectly knotted tie, pocket square in place, his brogues polished to a military sheen and without so much as a hint of irony. You can face anything the Northern climate can throw at you dressed like that, and you’ll do it with style and panache. That does however mean that we often break the cardinal rule of wearing brown in town, but I’m sure you can forgive us that minor indiscretion.
Not that your typical Northern town or city is some nostalgic trip to yesteryear. That is one popular myth that I am more than happy to explode (we have iphones and everything!) merely that the shorter commutes, the marginally more relaxed pace of life, means we are far more amenable to taking time out for those little everyday courtesies that mark the difference between a man and a Gentleman.