If you checked in with Irving Berlin around 1927, he would insist that you mingle with the Rockefellers only with a cane in your glove as you slip into the ritz. These days, the once-proud cane is no longer a fashion accessory signaling wealth and more of a bogus assignment for Pimp of the Year contestants or cosplayers at Comic-Con.
Still, the author of a comprehensive new dossier on trekking poles suggests they could return to the hands of the stylish. In A visual history of trekking poles and canes, Anthony Moss divides the devices between useful and decorative, while emphasizing that the cane as a stylish status symbol will not be faded into history forever.
Calling his book “the definitive guide to (perhaps) the world’s first fashion accessory,” Moss identifies the mid-19th century as the height of the golden age of the cane in the United States and the United Kingdom. -United.
“From around 1850, a man was considered undressed if he did not carry a cane,” says Moss. “In the Art Nouveau era of 1890-1915, there was a social fashion guideline that dictated that a rustic, knotty wood cane with a leather braid should be worn in the morning, but not used. after 10 a.m. “
According to Moss, the rules of the turn of the previous century on trekking poles got complicated. The gentleman’s peers would question his taste if he showed this rustic cane during the working day. The busy fashion horse would switch to a day cane for business. If a man wanted to be fashion conscious he would “carry” a pistol grip cane with an ivory button. Finally, a theater cane “with a fine and simple ivory knob” would be appropriate for the evening.
Of course, in an era before PETA, none of this was good news for elephants or their tusks. If a man wanted to show off some finesse in style, he could involve an unhappy rhino and win the “ultimate prize” for the rare and expensive horn-handled cane.
“During this period, sculpted heads, circles or opera handles (L-shaped) were passed,” Moss adds. “However, a classic model is still in fashion: the crutch, which can be held firmly or hung on the arm to light a cigarette.”
The author identifies 1915 as the year when the walking stick gradually stopped literally hitting bricks and started hitting bricks culturally.
“The automobile age of 1915 canceled the daily walk in which a cane was usually worn, and the umbrella became king,” he explains. “Although the 1920s were still the age of the walking stick – until the start of World War II – the world was changing. “
Moss claims that a fashion subculture that keeps the cane alive is a continuation of 17th century dandyism, championed over decades by people like Noël Coward, Andy Warhol and Quentin Crisp.
“Today’s ‘dandy’ or ‘dude’ is stylish, always well dressed and original,” he says. “He forms his manners perfectly, while attaching particular importance to refined language and leisure activities. Many modern dandies still wear a cane to complement their outfit.
Calling himself “a great British dandy,” Robin Dutt is an art curator, writer and lecturer working with The Guardian, Elle, Marie Claire and the BBC World Service. He is currently working on a book exploring the legacy of the dandy.
“A cane is the stylish partner of the night, especially during a visit to the theater or the opera,” says Dutt. “It adds to the sense of the occasion. With the dandy in mind, the cane is an extension of the wearer’s personality, style, intention, and poise.
In defense of the dandy division, Dutt insists that the walking stick has been belittled in the hands of a “pretty gentleman or fat”. He defines them as 18th and 19th century examples of male types who “ape their superiors, but destroyed the effectiveness that any cane could have lent” because of the way it was carried.
“Several fashion and pop videos do indeed associate canes with this ‘pimp’ excess of fur coats and oversized hats and swagger to prove a point,” Dutt adds. “But, the element itself gets lost in the translation. A gentleman will always be a gentleman, no matter how big his purse is. He carries a cane with aplomb and people know that.
Like Moss, Dutt partly blames the umbrella for cutting the cane during regular use.
“Inevitably, time interferes with everything,” he says. “The popularization of the umbrella has a lot to do with the disappearance of the cane because, although special canes could hold a sword, a map, a musical instrument, a watch, a compass or a pile of brandy, it was an artifact to help walk. An umbrella is a dual-purpose cane that provides support and shelter.
In the age of cellphones and smartwatches, Moss wonders if canes could become popular again if they were improved with a little technology.
“In my new book there are many patents for rods and illustrations of versatile rods or gadgets,” he says. “They include torches, musical instruments, music boxes, artist’s watercolor sets, cameras, tools and measuring devices. Thus, miniaturization can easily accommodate tracking devices or music players if there is a market for a modern walking stick.
Citing the decorative and functional identity of the cane, Dutt claims that a pedometer, calorie burn tracker, satellite radio, phone, or other gadgets we use today can fit into the button. a very contemporary cane, perhaps equipped with a light to hail a taxi, a chip to allow purchases or a recording device to dictate a company report or new pages.