And also, the long-awaited revival of cigarette holders may also be affected by yesterday's Parliamentary madness. Here's a piece of mine from the The Spectator on the most subversive fashion accessory anyone could wish to have.
The last twenty years have not been happy times for lovers of pure, unadulterated glamour. The global hegemony of Anglo-Saxon capitalism, whatever benefits its apostles ascribe to it, has done to style what The Crusades did to Arab/Christian understanding- as any glance at the baseball-capped hordes marauding down a British High Street on a Saturday afternoon will evidence.
How can we begin the fight-back? Some might prefer a national demonstration for the reintroduction of glamour. But if 2m people shouting ‘Stop the War’ failed to persuade the P.M. of the folly of invading Iraq, it is hard to see how 2m shouting ‘Stop the Grunge’ could be anymore successful. The ancient Chinese philosophers advise us to begin any great enterprise with a small step. The single most effective way for us to begin the battle for a more colourful, exciting and stylish world is to head down to St James’s and buy a cigarette holder. By smoking with a cigarette holder you are doing two things. First, you are enjoying the pleasures of tobacco in the safest way possible: a silicon filter inserted in the holder reduces the intake of tar and other carcinogens by up to 30% . Secondly, you are cocking a snook at the puritans and grunge merchants determined to eliminate the last vestiges of style from our lives. Surely, there is no single item known to man more stylish, sophisticated or downright sexy as a cigarette holder. There is also, in this age of corporate induced uniformity, no item more subversive.
Cigarette holders first appeared on the scene in the mid to late 1920s, the essential fashion accessory for any flapper or self-respecting bohemian.
An early populariser of the habit was Edith Nesbit, poet, Fabian and author of The Railway Children. For Nesbit, a long cigarette holder ‘became part of the picture she suggested- a Raffish Rossetti, with her long full throat and luxuriant hair, smoothly parted’. Unsurprisingly, Nesbit always found herself ‘surrounded by adoring young men’, dazzled by ‘her magnificent appearance‘.
The cigarette holder entered a new golden age with invention in Germany of the Denicotea filter in 1932. Described as ‘the ultimate means to reduce tar and nicotine and avoid yellow fingers’, the DA cartridge meant that smoking with a holder was not only drop dead sexy, but could, if the smoker so wished, be stay alive healthy too. As a supreme irony, a few months after the breakthrough, the most tabagophobic government in history came to power in Germany. Berlin, spiritual cigarette holder capital of the world in the 1920s, became, in 1936 the first city in the world to ban smoking in public places. In the free world, things were thankfully still done differently.
In those glorious, smoky days of the 1930s and 40s, almost anyone who was anyone could be seen smoking with a cigarette- holder. World leaders and politicians from across the political spectrum: FDR, Pandit Nehru, Joszef Broz Tito; military men like Douglas MacArthur; gangsters like Al Capone. Britain’s best selling writer of the inter-war period, Edgar Wallace made the cigarette holder his trademark, as did its most famous composer of musical plays, Noel Coward. For Hollywood or Elstree starlets of the age, smoking with a cigarette holder was almost de rigeur. Today’s ‘stars’ hold wedding parties where guests are issued matching pink track-suits and are served with hamburgers. Sixty years ago, they sat at nightclubs, sipping pink champagne and exhaling nonchalantly from their holders, as the band played on. In Britain, cigarette holders survived post-war austerity and remained in vogue for many years. That ‘one cool chick’ Princess Margaret did her bit for the cause, when, at the age of 19, she was first seen in public with her 3 inch holder; sales rocketed again after Audrey Hepburn’s unforgettable portrayal of Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Nyree Dawn Porter, Peter O’Toole, Terry-Thomas and Anne, Duchess of Westminster- owner of Arkle, the greatest racehorse of the period, were other post-war icons who must be mentioned in dispatches.
Thirty years on and the sad march of health fascism and political correctness means that while FCUK t-shirts are two a penny in the High Street, spotting a cigarette holder in use has become a rare sight. Anti-smoking fanaticism becomes more hysterical by the day: in the new Thunderbirds film, Lady Penelope is not only deprived of her strings, but her cigarette holder too, on the grounds that ‘it would not set a good example’. Forget the bad language and casual violence which pepper most of today‘s films, clearly it’s the use of a smoking accessory which represents the greatest social evil.
For those determined to resist this insidious nonsense and to help initiate a new golden age for the cigarette holder, Davidoff’s of London on the corner of St James’s and Jermyn Street must be the first port of call. The store stocks a wide selection of Denicotea and two and a half/ three and a half inch Dunhill holders,( ranging from £18-£26) into which silicon filters can be fitted, as well as an individually made meerschaum holders, without filters, which come in their own individual boxes and cost £24.50. Head-turning telescopic holders ranging from five to eighteen inches long are available from £12.50, and for those who like to get every last ounce of pleasure from their cigarette, a twelve inch black and gold tipped ejector model (£14.95) is both an elegant and practical option. Dainty five inch ’trumpet’ holders ( £12.50 ) are perhaps the call for those having to do the majority of their smoking in confined spaces, but if he/she’s buying, then one of Davidoff’s exquisite lacquered enamel, silver or gold plated holders (£73) is highly recommended. For cigarillo smokers wishing to take up the holder habit, Davidoff’s has a collection rodium plated holders from £75 to £90: if you’ve never smoked a cigarillo before in your life, one look at these beautiful pieces of workmanship will make you want to start the habit pretty quickly.
Down the road at Alfred Dunhill’s, 48 Jermyn Street, the holders on sale range from £12.90 models to three inch holders made of briar (£75). There is also a good selection of ‘trumpet’ holders. All the holders in the Dunhill ‘White Spot range come equipped with filters - further details can be found on their website http://www.whitespot.co.uk/. A good collection of meerschaum holders, ranging from £12.95 to £17.95 can be found round the corner at J.J.Fox & Robert Lewis, 19 St James’s Street, as well as a range of Lucite holders, costing from £4.55. For those unable to get to London, or who find their nearest tobacconist does not stock holders, there are various possibilities on the Internet. The Gothic Shoppe’ www.thegothicshoppe.com has a mouth-watering variety- including a new four and half inch model which fits cloves and slimmer cigarettes.
Wherever you do buy your holder, be sure to use it in public. Only when cigarette holders are as common a sight in our streets as FCUK t-shirts are today, will we know that the fight against the mind-numbing ugliness of modern capitalism is well under way. Yesterday’s subversives used petrol bombs. Today’s only need a cigarette holder.
NEIL CLARK/THE SPECTATOR 2004