Little Werfel’s Shoes

Today is International Red Cross/Red Crescent Day and a good day to revisit this picture.

orphan shoes red cross

Werfel’s new shoes by Gerald Waller

First published by Life magazine in 1946 with the caption:

Werfel, a six-year-old Austrian orphan, has just received his first new pair of shoes as part of the post-war relief effort of the American Red Cross.

It’s an incredible image.  Here we have a little boy who has come through who knows what horrors, who has lost his parents, who is facing an uncertain future but is still capable of total joy.  Little things really do mean a lot.

One should always keep in mind that before fashion, before style, before choice, shoes are a basic human right.   No child needs to go shoeless in this world and yet they do.

Sharp dressed man – Samuel Beckett

Today is Samuel Beckett’s birthday and so a good day to check him in my list of style influences.   Beckett is one of my favourite writers but he also had a distinctive style.  Although no dandy, the simplicity of his dress is admirable, as pared back and unadorned as his writing.

Samuel Beckett style icon

Beckett posing somewhat model like for Paul Joyce

Of course, Beckett had two things going for him: he was tall and thin, and he had an amazing face that improved with age.  One could say that, like his plays, his dress was sparse and elegant, with the darkness lightened by the powerful humanity of his gaze.

John Minihan’s classic image of Beckett (via

Above and below, two classic images from the same shoot in Paris in 1985 by by John Minihan.  A wider selection or available on his own website.

A more relaxed image of a (relatively) younger Beckettvrelaxing in Italy below features a Gucci shoulder bag – he was carrying a man-bag over 40 years ago!

Samuel Beckett Gucci Bag

Samuel Beckett, S. Margherita Ligure, Genoa – 1971 (via

He could do formal wear too, when the occasion demanded.  Below is Beckett at an opening night in a classic combination of dark suit, white shirt, and dark tie with subtle pattern.  I also like the way he pushes his glasses up on his forehead, a habit to be seen in many photographs of him.  I know it is bad for the arms of your glasses but it is something that I often do myself.

Beckett at an opening night in 1970 by Reg Lancaster

Although Beckett’s preference seems to have been for dark tones – there are very few colour photographs of him – he did not stay exclusively on the dark side as can be seen below,

Beckett on the set of “Film” in 1964 by Steve Schapiro




Fashion Statements #7 – “This? Penneys!”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. And for the day that’s in it, one of the great Irish fashion statements:

“This? Penneys!”

A variation of which can be seen in the below video at 0:27 along with a selection of other great Irishisms.

This really is a very common saying in Dublin, albeit mainly among women and, nowadays, with an extra layer of irony. What I like about it is the combination of self-deprecation and self-congratulation. On the one hand it’s saying,oh, this old thing, sure this only came from Pennys and it only cost €5. On the other hand it’s saying, look at me, I picked this up for next to nothing and I look so good you think it’s far more upmarket.

[NB. Penneys trade as Primark in the UK and EU.]

What to wear swimming in the sea

what to wear swimming in the sea

Traditional Irishman swimming at the Forty Foot in Dublin.  A classic photograph via the Irish Times.

The sea, the snot-green sea, the scrotum-tightening sea.

James Joyce, Ulysses.

I love saltwater swimming.  Time was I would swim all year round but now I limit myself to the months from St. Patrick’s weekend to Hallowe’en (March to October).  While it is possible to swim all around Dublin Bay, I am also fortunate that my parents have a cottage overlooking the sea on Ireland’s Copper Coast so I have regular weekends of swimming and surfing.  Technically, this is the romantically named Celtic Sea; in reality, it is an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean.  At this time of the year it is, as Joyce implies above, extremely cold.

So what does the well dressed older man wear for a bracing dip in the ocean?  You can, of course, as traditional swimmers do in Dublin, wear nothing.  Alternatively, you could chose a pair of slimline Speedos that showoff your manly physique.  Or you could consider a more sedate pair of shorts that are more age appropriate while retaining some of the glamour of Sean Connery in Dr No.  But for me this is a time when function trumps form.

The old(er) man and the sea

The old(er) man and the sea

Until the water warms to something approaching body temperature, I stick to a wet-suit.  I prefer the shortie option shown but that does leave the lower arms and legs exposed to the cold.  This particular wetsuit was rescued from a bargain bin in Lidl for less than the price of a good book.  Surfers, sailors and serious saltwater swimmers may prefer more established brands but a budget brand is perfectly adequate for short dips.

I find a swim cap is essential dress all year round.  In cold weather, your options are either head in the cold water or head out of the water but in the cold wind.  Neither option is particularly appealing and a cap will help keep the head warm and dry.  I also wear a swimming cap in good weather as, being a little thin on top, it prevents sunburn.

Finally, depending on location, some form of footwear may be necessary.  My local beach is home to weever fish, small 15cm fish that lie under the sand near the low water mark protected by poisonous spines along their dorsal fin.  While not fatal, the sting is extremely painful.  Fortunately, the stings are not too long and a sandal or wetsuit boot is usually sufficient to prevent the sting reaching your skin.

Early evening swim in the Celtic Sea

Early evening swim in the Celtic Sea

What to wear swimming in the sea?  Whatever, you like.  If you are serious about swimming then appearance is probably a secondary consideration.  If you want to look good in and out of the water?  That will have to wait for another blog post.