Unfortunate Encounter: Jack The Ripper
By Pearl Ashton Geering
It’s rubbish being a hooker in Victorian London. The only thing you’ve eaten during the last five days is sausage; the last client didn’t pay and you’ve started coughing up blood. You’re considering going back into the pub when you spot him. Tall, well-dressed carrying a gladstone, and he’s coming over to you. A rich client, someone respectable like a doctor, is exactly what you need. As original an East London look as Union Jack boxer shorts, Jack the Ripper is far easier to spot these days without the fog and gaslights. This garb essentially pays homage to the originator of European deviancy on a grand scale, the Marquis de Sade. Hetero or homo (but he’d like you to think he’s a sexual omnivore) literary references litter his style lexicography: he’s Dr Jekyll’s Mr. Hyde made flesh, a human vampire who doesn’t fade during the ad-break or when the potion wears off.
J.T.R is out to lure you through the power of suave tailoring and expensive leather accessories. Back then he wanted you to believe he was a safe option; now he wants you to believe he’s murder in the sack/stables/street corner with an equally lethal dress sense. For full-on Victoriana, it’s a black, lightweight wool silk-lined opera cloak over a dark frock coat with thin lapels, single or double-breasted, worn fully buttoned to show his fine silhouette when he helps you into the hansom. Black silk topper, preferably from James Locke. Shirt – properly called a vest dontcha know – is white, single-breasted, the waistcoat cut high at the neck, beneath which a cravat-style tie is held by a gold ring and you can see the shape of a heavy gold fob in the left pocket. The trousers are narrow with a very subtle, fine, small check, beneath which his low-heeled boots button down the side. The Gladstone is extremely heavy, and not because it’s full of vinyl for his midnight slot in Danger of Death.
This is a seriously high-risk look: unless pulled off with aplomb and authority, the master of the underground demi-Gothic world of sex and sadism will either turn you on or make you snigger. Even amidst the pretentious parading along East London pavements, this look is extreme and requires a lot of upkeep – zilch dandruff, mammoth dry cleaning and mothball annuity and anyone below 5’10” can forget it. And whilst the frisson of being hit on by a man in full quasi-respectable Empire garb might conjure up the fantasy of being turned on, tied up, lightly spanked and soundly fucked in the Royal Box, that’s just what it is: fantasy. The reality is Sebastian Horsley. If you see Jack The Rip-off at 2am on a side-street off Brick Lane, don’t ask him for a light, and don’t laugh at him. He might look like an idiot, but he might also tear you to pieces with plastic take-away cutlery and a foil curry box, just to keep his hand in.
Seasonal ref: Thom Browne in New York showed a collection that fused the wardrobe of J.T.R with a disturbingly ‘Steam Punk’ aesthetic. The models looked kind of like characters in an online game played by socially awkward men who secretly wish they could dress like their suave avatars. P&P would like to go on record saying we do not under any circumstance condone Steam Punk styling. Over in London for his MA Menswear collection Asger Juel Larsen sent his boys stomping down the catwalk in bovver boots paired with sharp and skinny leathers topped off with dramatic top hats veiled with fishing nets, ribbons and bones. Shiver our timbers.
Must Have: Height. Drama. And a cape.