“I like London in the rain”, so sang Blossom Dearie in 1970, perfectly capturing every available cliché.
But, while I enjoy the changing seasons of England and the many variations it affords me in my wardrobe choices – I do not like the rain. Ironically, I like to carry a good umbrella and I appreciate the elegance of a solid-shafted whangee, but umbrellas can be a hassle and even a mild threat in a busy urban environment. You are also left with a wet umbrella when you step inside, and, despite the weather in the UK, few offices, shops or trains offer facilities for wet umbrellas! I have also never mastered the art of a good furl (wrapping the cover tightly around the shaft) and although it was once the norm for a gentleman to return his stick to be professionally re-wound by the makers in due course, it is a tad extravagant today.
A good raincoat is essential in London but the classic beige will soon turn ‘sludgey-grey’ with all the capital’s joyful soot and pollution. Dark blue is a far more practical shade in an urban setting – as is a detachable lining to help prevent overheating when running between meetings and Tube carriages. A good hat is ideal for a light shower but, like umbrellas, I have a terrible knack for losing them!
Wet pavements can be a challenge to your good shoes but, as Crockett & Jones will tell you, they are made to be worn. I am a little precious with new shoes but once properly worn in, I will wear them in inclement conditions. A good polish and shoe cream will protect them and a brush and fresh water will remove salt stains, but I am surprised that we do not take more advantage of the excellent C&J “storm welt” shoes in London.
These shoes have an upturned welt (as opposed to a flat welt found on dress shoes) which is essentially an extra 'flap' of leather that protects the feather line between the sole and the upper. Although these styles sometimes have a traditional country aesthetic, they are appropriate in all but the most formal of settings. The Brecon in Black Calf would combine elegantly with suits of charcoal or blue in traditional cloths, and also has the advantage of a Dainite rubber sole. (Do not confuse these rubber soles with the cheap stick-on variety).
From a style perspective, the new Pembroke models in cordovan are the perfect brogues to combine with mid-century styling of soft-shouldered tailored jackets and flannel trousers. Cordovan leather is particularly robust and ages well and actually looks better after it has been lived in a little, anyway.
For business casual outfits, add gravitas to your dressed-down look by wearing a pair of Chelsea XI boots with your corduroys or brushed cotton chinos. The rubber commando soles from Vibram are actually quite on-trend, so you will have the advantage of looking fashionable as well as comfortable.
So, even if London in the rain really isn’t much fun, a pair of C&J storm-welted shoes might just raise your spirits when it is pouring down outside. Blossom would doubtless approve.