Picking up my new Meyrowitz reading glasses the other day, I notice, on the left arm, the word “Finch” carved into the resin in white lettering. And though I didn't ask Shiels at the fine eyeglass shop in Royal Arcade for this aide memoire (I am not quite at that age yet), and though I know my glasses are hand-made, I am surprised at the subtle addition – if not surprised by how pleased I am.
You see, I have a great and somewhat unabashed affection for personalised monogramming. If you are tempted to stop reading now, I wouldn't blame you. I just cannot seem to help myself.
Last week, for example, my wife noticed for the first time and with horror the name tags on the front inside flap of my Brooks Brothers shirts, and we've been married six years. She did know that the shirts were custom-made, but she'd somehow managed to maintain a modicum of connubial blindness when it came to my sartorial foibles. Still, she managed only a small grimace, and the allowance that it was “pretty cool”. After all, most people wouldn't see the point, or even notice the inside name tag.
These Brooks Bros shirts are not as fine, as course, as the Charvet or Budd shirts I wear mostly with suits, which have “CPF” neatly monogrammed on the front left side, north east of my navel. The Brooks are for casual summer wear with blazer and jeans or even swimming shorts. I order mine from Tom at Brooks Brothers on 44th St in New York.
Tom's most famous European client was “l'avocato” Gianni Agnelli, the late Italian industrialist and former Fiat president, who would order in bulk the soft Oxford button-down collar I also use. Agnelli favoured an off-white tea-coloured shirt that I also tried. It made me look like roast pork. He also dressed “commando”, but I have not followed his sartorial lead in this respect.
All of which brings me back to those initials carved into my new specs. “Why”, I thought to myself, “do I like crests and monograms so much?” What is this obsession I have with branding everything I own? My note pads from Smythson, my shirts, dressing gowns, even, many years ago, my polo saddles? I have plates with family crests, unworn signet rings and little-used silver with my wife's family's monogram, all zealously guarded. What deep psychological weirdness does this represent? Do I really want to know?
Maybe, I muse, it is because an ancestor was granted arms. Of course, as my mother told me, the Turnbulls on her side also had titles and crests for saving the king from a charging bull. Perhaps it's pure snobbery. Almost certainly it is a yearning for a sense of place in society.
And a certain kind of delayed adolescent rebellion might come into it. I don't think my father had a monogram on a thing he owned. It's understandable: he was an actor, and thus his face was his monogram, if that makes sense.
I'm not the only one with the problem, though. When my good friend Lord White – or Gordie – came to live in Los Angeles, he had the bottom of his pool painted with his crest, followed thereafter by his cars, all of which sported neat little crests by the door handle. Even in Beverly Hills it was, for a man of great charm and good taste, a little too much, and I teased him mercilessly. He would reply regally, “But it's what I have been granted, and I am proud of it”.
In this vein, I grant myself my right to my monograms, and if I were a lord or a duke I would probably be selling you my branded perfume: Aqua Finch with our crest, a hungry social-climbing griffin, stamped on the side of the bottle. Besides, I wear no other discernible brands except on my sneakers, which are not bespoke, unfortunately. Other people's logos or brands interest me far less than my own, unless, of course, they are paying me.