It has come to our attention that there is a lot of fuss and panic over some new disease that causes people to buy entire shelves full of lavatory paper and don face masks. Since this publication is in the habit of offering what we feel is useful sartorial advice to gentlemen and ladies, we feel it is expected of us to offer an appropriate sartorial response to Covid-19.
The initial government advice regarding the spread of coronavirus is for citizens to wash their hands adequately, steer clear of densely populated public places and wear gloves – so far, so Chap; although the gloves recommended are the blue synthetic ones that doctors and nurses wear, which would be difficult to pair with a boating blazer.
The most alarming suggestion to the public is that they stop shaking hands with one another. The Chap feels that a tradition dating back to mediaeval knights should not be abandoned willy-nilly, and that to do so could effect a change to social niceties that remains long after the disappearance of this beastly virus. So we advise readers to combine the two advice points listed above, to wit, not shaking hands and wearing gloves, into shaking hands while wearing gloves. Naturally this flies in the face of gentlemanly conduct, but in times of medical crisis, it seems it has become a question of survival of the chap with the nattiest gloves. Ladies are permitted to keep their gloves on when making introductions anyway, but we would advise an upgrade from lace gloves to something sturdier such as chamois leather.
When it comes to face masks, a knotty sartorial conundrum is presented – what are the correct colours when in Town or country? A tweed face mask would obviously offer excellent protection against floating droplets of unpleasantness, but would this be appropriate in Town? The suggestion that no-one will see you on the deserted streets of our cities does hot hold water, for there is every chance that the local bobby will observe one incorrectly attired. White seems to be the colour of choice, though at rather prohibitive prices for the chap on a budget. Your original WWII gas mask could come into its own, as they pair very well with a belted trench coat and flannels. And if attending a black tie occasion (unlikely, it must be admitted) then a white face mask will pair excellently with your white pocket square. Red socks are of course still permitted with black tie.
One of our readers had the wizard wheeze of donning a 17th century mask, originally designed to protect doctors from plague victims. The chief physician to Louis XIII, Doctor de Lorme (1584-1678) was responsible for its design, along with its accompanying outfit of a leather overcoat, breeches, a cane, a wide-brimmed hat, gloves and boots. To add further protection, the beak of the mask was stuffed with aromatic herbs further to protect the good doctor from what was politely named ‘miasma’. If the spread of coronavirus reaches epidemic proportions and we are confined to our homes, this might be the only suitable outfit for a Chap to don when taking his morning constitutional.
Hand washing seems to be top of the list in order to prevent a pandemic of coronavirus, and this is something where chaps can take the lead. Doctors are at pains to emphasise that the anti-bacterial handwashes being scooped off supermarket shelves in their thousands are in fact more or less useless against a viral infection. Alcohol hand wipes, however, are assured to do the job. No alcohol hand wipes to hand, sir? Then simply carry a hip flask with you at all times, splash a little single malt whisky on your pocket square when in public places and use it to wipe your hands. You will of course give off an almost permanent odour of single malt whisky, but you probably do anyway.
Pipe smoking comes into its own during a pandemic too. A particularly pungent Latakia tobacco fuming away in one’s briar will create clouds of such acrid smoke that any strains of Covid-19 will turn on their tracks and possibly even dissipate entirely (though there is no scientific evidence to prove this).
So it turns out that, far from being ill-prepared for a coronavirus pandemic, most chaps and chapettes are already sufficiently protected via the clothing and appurtenances that adorn them all the time, whether the nation is in the grip of a new virus or not. For the slightly more flamboyant, the outfit may be embellished with some Victorian frills and silk, and the face mask adorned with a few choice metal fittings, which will provide added protection against coronavirus, as well as providing employment during self-isolation as a part-time scarecrow.