Saturday, 16 January 2010

A nod and a wink to the monocle

If you do a search on Google for monocles you will be told in no uncertain terms that the monocle is back.

“Monocles to be sold on high street
Monocles, last in fashion during the era of PG Wodehouse, are making a comeback.”

At I have been selling them for the past 5 years and can indeed confirm that the proliferation of monocle wearers is a very real phenomenon (unlike the users of pince nez).

We can trace the original decline of the monocle in the early to mid 20th century to one of two causes.

Firstly the monocle took a public relations hit in Great Britain just post WWI due to its close association with the enemy High Command. Caricatures were used in the press of the day to ridicule and demonise the Hun who was invariably wearing a monocle to symbolise arrogance and haughtiness. You’d have thought that a lesson would have been learned, but, come WWII they were at it again!

Secondly and perhaps more importantly was the demise of the waist-coated suit which by the 1940’s was well on the way out with the advent of double breasted suits. The increased wear by men of casual clothing and the popularity of pullovers and the ubiquitous sleeveless pullover (soon to be known as the TANK TOP Aghh!!) sounded the final death knell of the monocle as the waistcoat pocket was its true home. Un-housed and left to roam it quickly went the way of its companion the fob watch.

So why the increased demand for this rudimentary optical device that with improved refraction techniques and contact lenses should really have gone the way of the dodo?

I would suggest that firstly they are the perfect device to carry when a lens is required to aid short periods of reading i.e. the menu at your favourite bistro, as they are small, light and easily carried.

Secondly with the increase in popularity of historical re-enactment and lifestyle, nothing shouts "Dandy" or "Cad" like a monocle!




  1. Sir,

    A “TANK TOP” is a gun emplacement or turret that sits on the body of an armoured military vehicle, typically driven over caterpillar tracks.

    It is not and never (again) will be, God help us, an article of clothing. My only defence is that Mummy made me. It was that or an unknown often extended period locked in the cupboard under the stairs.

    I am now of an age where I am free to choose my clothes and dress myself. My wardrobe is free of military hardware but I am pleased to say that I own and enjoy the benefit of a selection of “sleeveless jumpers” and “sleeveless cardigans”.

    My personal physician does, however, warn me that it may still be some years before I will be able to sleep without the light on.

    I do wish to continue in following your marvellous postings and to allow me to do so without risk of damaging my ongoing recovery I ask that you only use correct and appropriate clothing terminology.


    B Hooper Esq.

  2. Sir.
    I do believe that the tank top was named after the “tank suit” often sported upon the beaches of these sceptered isles by sporting gentlemen when exiting their bathing machines.

    As you sound to be the sort of chap to whom this would be an anathema, being unable to leave the comfort of the home fire without multiple layers of Aran knit , you are excused.

    May I suggest a rough rub down with “Sloanes family Liniment” and bracing walk on Cromer pier.

    In good faith
    D. Man