Fashion Magazine

The Swann Club

By Dieworkwear @dieworkwear

Once a year, men gather in Paris as members of the Swann Club, an invitation-only social club named in honor of the Proust hero who epitomized elegance and romanticism. Their annual nighttime soiree begins with a great meal, some port and cigars, and then moves to what they all came for. After dinner, guests remove their shoes, take out their tins of wax polish, and clear the tables. With only stockings on their feet, they wrap fine Venetian linens around their fingers, dip them in Dom Perignon, and begin to shine their shoes. Lightly chilled dry champagne, they believe, is better than water since the alcohol helps remove the extra fat in the polish, thus enhancing their shoes’ color and transparency.

The event is put on by Olga Berluti, the creative director of the 117 year-old Parisian shoe company, Berluti. If I were being cynical, I would say the Swann Club is just a clever marketing ploy. Perhaps doubly so since LVMH conveniently owns both Berluti and Dom Perignon. If I were not, I would say it’s an event put on for enthusiasts by a woman who shares their passion. The reality, I imagine, is that it’s probably something a bit of both. For what it’s worth, you don’t have to bring a pair of Berluti shoes to the event (or even own one), but you do have to have an obsession for well-made footwear.

The grandiosity of the whole thing might sound silly to outsiders, but as a men’s style and clothing enthusiast, I can’t say I’m not very attracted to the idea. It’s a bit over the top and romantic, but so what? Those are the things that make life feel a bit less dull.

I read on Ethan Desu’s blog once that he and a friend like to get together every once a while, have some tea, chat about life, and shine their shoes for a few hours. That scale of things is equally attractive to me, if not more so. Unfortunately, except for a couple of people I’ve met in my time as a menswear writer, I don’t know anyone who shares my interest in traditional men’s clothing. Certainly not enough to shine shoes for three or four hours. So, for now, I’ll continue to shine mine alone on weekends, while listening to Bill Evans and drinking a bit of whiskey. It’s not in Paris, and I use water, not champagne, but it’s relaxing and enjoyable nonetheless. Perhaps I’ll call mine the Ephrussi Club, named after Charles Ephrussi, the man who Swann was loosely modeled after.

The Swann Club

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