I have many an important and historical relic from my late father: his vast collection of invaluable pipes; his 70-year-old pearl-handled razor blade; his first editions of Catcher in the Rye and TS Eliot's Collected Poems; along with 60-year-old LPs of recordings of Messrs Eliot, WH Auden, Dylan Thomas and Tennessee Williams. My father, an insomniac, would listen to these throughout the night while alternating between Churchillian Havana cigars and his pipes, and sipping Armagnac from a snifter in his wood-panelled library.
From among all the irreproducible clothing he bequeathed me (including three-piece tweed suits of such precious swatches that they'd be hard to replicate at even the most revered Savile Row tailor today), it is his robe I cherish most of all. Purchased in Italy, it is cut from a super-fine silk, in a deep burgundy and blue paisley, and still bears its label from the early 1950s: "Arbiter, Lori & Mari, Via Condotti, Rome" - and, also, in Italian, "Made in Spoleto".
It would be unimaginable for my father or men of his era not to don a robe when rising from their beds. It not only served practical purposes in terms of keeping them suitably warm on frigid evenings, but there was also an unspoken elegance to its importance in their wardrobe. It was the polite thing to wear - no one wanted to appear in front of the live-in help in their PJs or, heaven forbid, their boxer shorts. In that less artificially harried day when one didn't check their emails in the morning before greeting their wife, lover, or children, the robe was the essence of chic casual dress within one's home, worn both in the morning and evening over their nightwear - or in my father's case, a pair of white soft Indian cotton pyjamas with blue piping from Brooks Brothers. Changing into such an ensemble in the early evening signalled to his own psyche that the working day was done and it was indeed time to relax, whether reading in front of the fire or writing a letter to friends.
The elegance and practicality of the robe has become something of a long-lost art in men's style and dressing. In an age when most of us are obsessed with accoutrements and accessories, we should rediscover our genetic roots and realise that the robe is not just an accessory, but a way of living.
Even the thought of fetching the newspapers outside my apartment door while in only a pair of boxers is a worrying prospect, and undoubtedly a far more horrifying sight to my neighbours. As such I've carried on the tradition of wearing a robe, so well illustrated in the films of Messrs Clark Gable and David Niven, sometimes to a lover's horror, but always to my personal delight. I may well wake up alone most mornings - the only staff to witness my sartorial statement being my rescued mutt and her young puppy - but I feel infinitely better in terms of my own segue into the day after donning my father's robe and reading the morning news over an espresso.