There's something about the British aristocracy that emits a strong whiff of unbridled decadence. Perhaps I have entitlement envy? I always seem to cross paths with inebriated posh boys at weddings who seem to be able to do that whole elegantly wasted thing so well, so unapologetically.
With their worn-out hemp espadrilles and their vintage cherry-red marching jackets with polished brass buttons, they wander around in an opiate-induced fug, a cross between Little Lord Fauntleroy, a spice zombie and the poet-reading ghost of Pete Doherty’s ruined liver – as high as a kite but still delectably polite. If a private education does one thing, it’s to underline the importance of decorum even in the face of one’s own impropriety caused by some seriously strong dope.
One of my favourite set of novels to revisit annually is Edward St Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose series – Melrose himself a character adapted for the screen last year and inhabited by the wondrous Benedict Cumberbatch to much acclaim. On the surface, Melrose seems to encompass that very British cliché of being sort of a noble (ish) junkie, a man who, despite dealing with untold depression and tragedy – not to mention crippling substance abuse – comes across as someone whose MO is underlined by a certain loucheness, a certain attractive élan. (I'm nothing if not flippant about the impact of hard drugs on one's health and mental wellbeing, I'm afraid. I blame Hunter S Thompson and Darren Aronofsky's Requiem For A Dream, although one could easily point the finger at any number of New York guitar bands post 2001.)
The vibe is helped by Aubyn’s wickedly sharp prose, of course, but it’s also indicative of the sort of man the writer was trying to illuminate. Everyone has met a man such as Melrose at some point in their lives. Maybe at a party, a swanky 40th held in a Cotswold pile, at Burning Man or in the hospitality tent behind The Park stage at Glastonbury. He’s part Mick Jagger, part Monty Don and part the lead singer of The Kooks, all wrapped up like a modern-day Withnail. Cool, sure, yet also unquestionably rural.
It’s a particular type of high/low elegance; such a man personifies a type of style that is unpretentious yet still purposefully aloof. Kate Moss’ boyfriend, one Count Nikolai von Bismarck, himself a photographer, is just such a man if you ask me – chic, as posh as Eaton Square and brimming with threadbare decadence. The count’s outerwear is miles better than most at the moment: he wears a long, oversized blue overcoat as if he was born in the damn thing, which, let’s face it, he may well have been.
Rolf Slim-Fit Cashmere Overcoat from Salle Privee, £2,370
You may have seen the count walking silently under the radar on the arm of Moss these past couple of years, head down, his shoulders a little hunched and his backlit blue eyes hidden behind a square pair of killer shades. He's almost always in a suit. Not a too-narrow piece of tailoring that shows a clawing need to highlight his trendiness, but a suit that is perfectly traditional. The suits are bespoke, no doubt, but ones that fit rather than ones that pinch and pull. The count has poise and grace. He's proudly upper class and yet also quietly so. Less Tatler, more Cotswold Life.
Wool And Cashmere-Blend Overcoat from Dunhill, £2,395
Yet it’s the coats that are the scene-stealers for Moss’ debonaire count, showing us a way of tackling the winter chills without having to invest in an oversized puffer or full après-ski attire. Of course, you’ll need to adjust your own style and grooming accordingly: a constant cigarette hanging off your bottom lip, wildly foppish hair always one night’s raving away from full dreads and cheekbones as ruddy as you can pinch them. Count Nikolai, for all your posh-boy-gone-chic wardrobe antics we salute you.