I could hardly let it pass without offering some missive, given our name’s sake. At the very least offering my five pence worth. I have lost count of how many times I have been sent this inflammatory article, but regardless, I shall do my level best to set the record straight.
Now, I should probably point out at this juncture the origins of our house’s name. In addition, perhaps it would be pertinent to reiterate the origins of this erstwhile turn of phrase.
“Never Brown in Town”, it is generally understood, refers to the colour of one’s cloth. That is, the colour of your tweeds, which, were you a member of the British aristocracy, you would have worn whilst on your country estate but never into the City. Vis a vis, this was also the view taken on one’s footwear when venturing into the city i.e. no brown shoes with one’s black or grey suit. Navy suits were not a consideration back then and ergo, it should come as no surprise that brown shoes were not worn; if ever there were two colours where a common ground were difficult to find it would be black and brown. Not impossible mind.
Now, if you did not own an estate, nor live in the countryside, it is unlikely that you would have owned tweeds – you were likely to have own led but one suit for the working week and Sunday Best. The problem, I would imagine, occurred when the nouveau riche got their hands on the accoutrement of the aristocracy and start playing the game without having being educated in etiquette and the foibles which accompany them. For example, the unfastening of a jacket or waistcoat’s bottom button. Mere foibles passed down from monarchy to court, which we still adhere to today.
Where I myself fell foul of the code of the school yard, was offering sartorial advice to a visitor to our shores, who had taken a job in the City and was proposing to wear a blue suit and brown shoes. I was asked to set this chap straight by his friend, a contemporary and admirer of my work at a former house. But when I suggested that it all hinged on the particular shade of a pair of brown shoes and the shade of blue of his suit, I fell from grace rather rapidly..!
Such was the furore surrounding my sartorial advice, that I remarked to Saffron Darby mid-way through what was to become a rather protracted debate, that should we ever decide to set-up shop ourselves, that we might consider consider calling it ‘Brown in Town’.. My own personal motto in life is, Never Say Never.
Whilst I completely agree with dressing for the job which you want and not the one which you have, if the job you desire is bound by an unspoken, or otherwise, code of the school yard, then play by the rules. However, if you are prone to revealing your own personal style, then maybe the job which you want is not for you. However, if you are convicted of both, then you will find a way of dressing to impress without breaking any codes and remaining true to yourself.
Of course, I am responding to the cry of Brown in Town’s patrons who work in the City and know how to play the game, but who have the last laugh by having their clothes tailored. Ergo, they choose their cloth and their shoes, which are black I hasten to add.
When we give advice to our customers whether or not brown shoes might be suitable footwear for their new suit, they are more often than not grooms. In some cases, they might be men who are either required to wear a suit for work, or those who take great pleasure in wearing a suit for work, whether they are required or not. Either way, they are typically not contending with the thorny issue of discrimination.
For let us not forget what this article is actually about; discrimination. Which, for all of our advances, still looms large. It did then, it does now. And if you think you are going to stop it by wearing brown shoes, you are wrong. If you are the aristocracy, the old rear guard, or could care less about what you wear or, rather, would prefer not to draw too much attention to yourself; wear only black shoes in the City.
For everyone else, there is Brown in Town.