“There are probably greater painters than Noël, greater novelists than Noël, greater librettists, greater composers of music, greater singers, greater dancers, greater comedians, greater tragedians, greater stage producers, greater film directors, greater cabaret artists, greater TV stars. If there are, they are fourteen different people. Only one man combined all fourteen different labels – The Master.”
So said Lord Mountbatten’s eulogy for his dear friend Noel Coward. But he might well have added a fifteenth attribute: stylist. Because The Master’s sartorial flair came to characterise an entire corner of European life during the first half of the twentieth century, and define the gentleman’s dress code for a generation of Englishmen.
Described by TIME magazine as holding an inimitable combination of ‘chic and cheek; pose and poise’, Coward married British understatement with a kind of pantomime dandyism. A sartorialist often caricatured for his florid buttonholes, golden tie pins and flowing cravats, Coward’s most precious accessory was, in fact, a robust vodka martini. ‘I am not a heavy drinker.’ he once said during a confrontation with a disapproving hostess: ‘I can sometimes go for hours without touching a drop.’
In the wardrobe: A double breasted Dior tuxedo; a camel great coat; a maroon velvet smoking jacket.
Off the record: ‘Work is much more fun than fun.’
Defining look: A silk dressing gown over a gold Cartier bracelet.
Never seen without: A cigarette; a minor European royal; an utter conviction in his genius.