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Tootal Recall

Stuart Bailie | 13:57 UK time, Tuesday, 12 February 2013

I was recently looking at a weekend newspaper when the image of a well-presented gentleman caught my eye. He was wearing a seersucker jacket and a crisp, complementary shirt in baby blue. His chino pants were flat-fronted and he wore a cravat with a fetching print. Nothing wrong with that, but when I looked up, I realized that the attire belonged to Nicholas Parsons (89), the voice of Just A Minute and granny-pleasing presenter of Sale Of The Century. And I then asked myself, how did I get here?

Once I looked to the punk fire-starters for my style. I wore magenta striped socks because they were endorsed by Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers on the cover of 'L.A.M.F'. I learnt to use my mother's sewing machine to convert my flares into drainpipes. I had a DIY screenprint operation in the garage to make my Clash T shirts. I made a 'Sid Lives' badge on the day that the Sex Pistol died, and wore it to the local youth club with unassailable cool . Now here I am, several decades along, no longer copping ideas from NME's Tony Parsons, but from his namesake Nicholas.

Still, it's hard to resist an attractive bit of neckwear. The gold standard for rock and roll has been the Tootal scarf, maintained by Paul Weller, Liam Gallagher, Steve Marriott and inevitably, Robbie Williams. The brand goes back to the nineteenth century and was a dapper accessory with the RAF before mod culture appropriated the look. The cravat actually goes back to Croatian mercenaries in the seventeenth century, impressing Parisian royalty and then the court of Charles II. According to the new issue of GQ, the cravat is "your neck's best thing" and are recommending a Louis Vuitton number for £220.

The likes of Peckham Rye and Nicholson And Walcot are servicing a more discerning clientele, including Martin Freeman, a hobbit with panache. Alternately, you can prevail with vintage versions from Tootal and Sammy, manufactured in Rayon and Viscose ("wash as silk"), in patterns of paisley, geometric and ersatz oriental. Good enough for Nicholas, and acceptable for necks in the city.


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