The rake

The modern voice of classic elegance

StyleApril 2017

Three Months with The Rake x Grenfell Despatch Rider

One of menswear’s favourite photographers, Robert Spangle’s military background means he can spot a garment that works in every terrain a mile off. Or, indeed, a thousand yards…

captionPhotography by Zach Dodds.

Some designs you take for good, and for granted. The best of these, those that become staples of the wardrobe and the suitcase, are bought at face value, but with use find exponential utility, and in this irreplaceable value. A single trip (albeit lasting 115 days, and spanning every mode of transport, from motorcycle, taxi, bus, train, 25 flights and lastly a horse) can render one garment so proven that you would no more leave it behind than you would your passport. That garment is my The Rake x Grenfell Despatch Rider.

With three months of rain forecast for London, Milan, and Paris, driving snow in Kiev (with a light chance of Russian military aggression), hail and sub-zero temperatures in NYC, Stockholm, and Oslo, and a bizarre mix of torrential rain and 28 degree weather in Spain, I knew my next trip would require outerwear nothing short of nature-proof. To this end, I found the Rider unimpeachable.

In the trench department, the ankle-brushing Rider lacks nothing. A waterproof natural weave (synthetics make me break out in taste, sorry), an extended, fur-lined collar that covers to the ears, throat latch, detachable plaid wool lining, and a robust belt, with the added bonus of a) being blue in colour, and b) being of the fitted variety that wouldn’t raise eyebrows when walking by l’Ecole De Femmes or get shot at by jumpy gendarmarie marines when rushing down the street, late as usual, with a camera tucked away in its waterproof interior. Notably, it is not the standard tan of the traditional trench. Having decided to spend as much time living (not to be confused with making a living) out of a suitcase, my wardrobe choices narrow. And not wanting to be confused with the all-black uniform of the serious photographer, designer, darling artist, poet, or tech start up, I’ve stuck to hues of blues. You would be hard-pressed to find another colour that carries the values of honesty, beauty, ennui, royalty and working class ethics across a majority of cultures on earth.

With wear, the nuances of the Despatch Rider unfolded unto me, the perfection of design reaching that rare point of exponential utility. Features I dismissed or overlooked solved sartorial problems I wasn’t even aware that I had.

  • grenfell-despatch-rider-coat
  • gaziano-and-girling-cedar-calf-urban-commando-boots
  • ray-ban-original-wayfarer-rb2140-901-black-with-green-lenses

The fur collar comes in handy after a day of riding in heavy rain between photoshoots and the evening’s events. The collar can be removed to dry overnight while the Despatch Rider carries you dry through the night. Likewise, it can easily be whisked away into the interior pocket. Paris is beautiful in the rain, but most tourists’ resolve is water soluble. By soggy day five of continuous rain, even my spirits were dissolving. Still I ventured out, camera in hand, and only after riding for a half hour did I realise I’d neglected to buckle the trench’s belt at all. To great relief I found it wasn’t lost, but hanging securely at my back affixed by an ingenious buttoning loop.

There are many things I’ve learned you can count on never being returned by a woman. Most begin with “my favourite.” Favourite T-shirt, sweatshirt, cashmere roll-neck, cowboy boots, jeans, even coffee maker. All these things forever lost but not forgotten behind the lines of femininity the world over. You must accept these things as lost and feverishly suppress their memory.  Some treasures lost on the road (first bespoke suit, mother’s Vietnam-era aviator Ray-Bans) force you to awkwardly maintain certain relationships in the hope they can one day be recovered. For these sentimental things — and a moment of forgetfulness — you will pay through the nose, for eternity, in maintenance texts.

That said, the Despatch Rider is an exception. Its size makes overlooking it in packing impossible, and its expansive snap closure pockets made it my go to airport outfit, the forgotten object point of no return. Now it certainly will be loaned, over her skirt on Sunday morning, over her slim shoulders and pulled tight over glossy hair in a sudden downpour, but it will also be returned. Playing the gentleman isn’t all play, and waiting 45 minutes outside the Chiltern Firehouse with rain coming down, diagonal, in buckets, will test any man’s willpower, especially mine. Love? Loins? Several meters of waterproof gabardine and a staunch fur collar, somehow I endured.

However, when she does arrive, and you pass muster in her company at 1:30 am on a Wednesday night, you will be ushered in without hesitation, lost in rounds of drinks and accented laughter, the weather outside forgotten. So lesson learned. Remember your Grenfell Despatch Rider, forget the weather.


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Robert Spangle

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