How and when to wear a cane

Whereas a gentleman carries an umbrella or a walking stick he “wears” a cane. The umbrella and the walking stick are functional accoutrements; but a gentleman’s cane is a finishing touch to his wardrobe. He should give equal attention to the selection of his cane as to his choice of wardrobe, the nature of the day’s business being uppermost in his mind.

When meeting with mother, bank manager, agent or soccer chums there is clearly a call for a different presentation of the self. Consider, would this do to meet mother? Or this to meet your bank manager? Though this should certainly let the boys know who is the leader of your gang?

While phrases such as “never brown in town” may have been cast aside it does not take a manual of etiquette to know that this cane might be entirely inappropriate on a first date, while this might just make you the hero of the hour should you and your date encounter a sticky moment.

But we should consider not only how and when to wear a cane but also “where” it is right and fitting, indeed lawful. The Crown Prosecution Service’s Code for Prosecutors states: As a general rule, subject to the sufficiency of evidence, it is not in the public interest for persons to go about armed with offensive weapons.

For while the constabulary may consider it entirely appropriate for great uncle Hubert in his ninetieth year, or even cousin Jack in his twentieth but with a sprained ankle (howsoever the injury was acquired) to sport a Malacca; it may be quite another case if you or I, being sprightly of limb, should be observed taking a jolly swing at an errant dandelion unwisely poking its bloom between the paving stones.

For guidance on this issue let us turn not to a lawyer, for we need to save our pennies for another cane that will go so excellently with our new suit, but to the man who made an art of dress:

We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he
does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless
thing is that one admires it intensely.
All Art is quite useless
Oscar Wilde: Preface to “The Picture of Dorian Gray”

And so (and I think this may be of use should a legal defence be required) when choosing a cane the only consideration should be that with a cane in your hand you look more becoming than without. If you are to look more becoming with your cane you must choose one that is the right length and the right weight. It will be the right length if it aids posture; causing neither a stoop nor an arching of the back (the phrase “like a bantam cock” should never pass within your hearing). It will be the wrong weight if, when hailing a taxi, it flies from your hand, or at the end of the day you are relieved to put it aside.

There are two choices to make when selecting a cane: new or antique. In this era of functionality a search for “new canes” will produce many providers of medical accessories but few of beauty: an exception is WalkingSticksOnline. The Rock and Goth Shop stocks one design; though possibly for a limited market as may be deduced from their name.

Antique it is then: and there is no better place to begin than CaneQuest, a veritable Wiki of Canes! From there follow the link to Canemania 2008, the 6th International Cane Collectors Conference (Paris, 9-11th October) which will be hosted by Laurence Jantzen possessors of a truly fabulous collection of canes.

Having acquired one’s cane then how does one wear it? Few ageing relatives are able to guide us so we must turn to a man who knew perhaps better than any other how to express himself with a cane: Fred Astaire, from whom one can learn everything one needs to know about how to handle a cane. When Ginger Rogers wasn’t in his arms Astaire turned a simple cane into the perfect partner. And that, after all, is what your cane should be – a perfect partner.

Mr Peter Delaunay

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