The pipe of a (dandy) man

Author Marco Capone contributor
Amount of Images 2 Immagini
Calendar 18/02/2019
Time passed Tempo di lettura 4 min

One thing is certain: it is not for everyone. The dandy style, probably “the style” par excellence, does not admit mistakes. Of any kind. After all, style, as we know, is not something that is easily constructed. It is innate, we each have one of our own. It is therefore useless to force upon us a clothing style that does not reflect us: the dandy style is innate, as Baudelaire said.

Dandyism is not even, as many believe, a wild taste of dress and material elegance. For the perfect dandy, such things are only a symbol of the aristocratic superiority of his spirit.

The dandy is attentive to beauty, to the eccentric (without exaggerating), to the quality of what he wears. Dandyism is a lifestyle and must be sought in every detail.

That’s why those who profess dandy only wear tailored suits, perfectly cut, tailored shirts treated in detail by expert craftsmen. Fine fabrics finished by hand, of course. In recent years, dandyism has also dusted off a very old fashion, that of smoking a pipe.

Smoking with a pipe has the sole purpose of satisfying one’s personal pleasure for taste, smell and contact, both visual and tactile, with the object itself, in the most varied forms and characteristics, with the different varieties and mixtures of tobacco available and with the various accessories that make up the indispensable corollary. Smoking a pipe is, in short, a dandy habit. And it is also purely intellectual.

“A rebel dandy, who has explored the world, is certainly Gianmaurizio Fercioni, the first tattoo artist in Milan.”

Fercioni opened his studio in Milan in 1974 and in a fifty-year-long career he has tattooed everyone: from the scions of the best Italian aristocracy to the prisoners of San Vittore prison, passing through Eros Ramazzotti and pieces of history as Winston Churchill.

A Million Steps

As a good dandy, he obviously counts his pipe among other vices; he always carries it around with him in his jacket pocket.

“Life can be a game or a tragedy. A pipe in the mouth helps to play a little with that bit of culture that allows us to fully enjoy our existence on this earth,” said Arnoldo Foà.

The pipe was, in addition to a fine vice, a sort of symbol of male authority for a couple of centuries until it suddenly fell out of fashion in the late Seventies.

Stalin used to sign some condemnations in the USSR by smoking his pipe, Einstein loved to keep it in his mouth between a mathematical formula and another, just as Beethoven and Bach let themselves be inspired in their compositions by the sweet smoke.

Georges Simenon built the figure of commissioner Maigret right on the pipe, as well as Elzie Crisler Segar, the inventor of Popeye, gave him an accessory from which the sailor never separates, like spinach.

Even the unforgotten President Pertini was addicted to pipe smoking. He had an amazing collection of about eight hundred pieces, which mysteriously vanished. There were very unique pipes, entirely handmade, like those given to him by Mitterand.

Hemingway, Pavese, Jean-Paul Sartre and our Giorgio Gaber also appear in the list of pipe lovers. John Coltrane chewed the mouthpiece of his pipe when he did not chew the saxophone that made him famous.

“Bearzot smoked on the sidelines while he gave orders to his ‘Azzurri.’”

Smoking the pipe is an art, the skill of smoking tobacco and emitting a particular effluvium into the air, without burning the wood nor the “devotee”’s hand.

In the past, as in more recent times, the pipe was identified as a class accessory: it is smoke for connoisseurs. Nothing to do with today’s banal cigarettes, the spawn of our frenetic, modern times.

“Preparing the pipe is a ritual that can not be done in the car, during a lunch break, while talking on the phone or while sending an email. It takes time and, above all, passion.”

Pipe smokers describe this moment as a preliminary, savoring the next and long taste of the smoke that will come.

First, we examine the tobacco, to understand if there are any “ribs”, the ribs left by tobacco. If present, they must be removed because they burn badly. To correctly load a pipe it is not enough to simply fill it and remember that a good load depends on a good smoke.

A Million Steps

Initially, the difficulty in keeping tobacco on is often the result of a badly loaded pipe. The main problem is to insert the tobacco in order to obtain tobacco that is neither too pressed nor too scarce. To test the loading just put the pipe in your mouth and drag: you should feel a slight resistance.

If there is none (you generally hear a slight “whistle”), the tobacco is not sufficiently pressed. If you can barely drag, it is too pressed. In both cases, it’s advisable to empty the pipe and start again. Practice filling your pipe without lighting it and then try dragging.

“When he ignites his pipe, the attention to the flame of the sulfur which should be sucked up to the bottom of the stove at the next drag, kickstarting the slow transformation of tobacco threads into embers, must not make him forget the explosion for a moment. a supernova exploding in the Great Magellanic Cloud at the same time ― that is, a few million years ago,” wrote Italo Calvino.

For all this, the pipe seems to remain confined in a time that was, in a bygone universe, in a black and white world of leather armchairs, chimneys ablaze and glasses of scotch, held between the lips of storm-challenging mariners or the corner of the green table, in the mouths of strategists, philosophers and enlightened men.

To this day bastions of pipe smokers, capable of awakening a real movement, resist.

There are even “slow smoking” competitions, that aim to find out who can keep the embers of tobacco burning in the stove for the longest time. And to win, you really need as almost intimate relationship with tobacco, a true capacity for concentration, a patient relationship.

Calm, delicacy and a little skill are pivotal in the pipe-smokers’ bible: on the other hand, things that are too easy give no satisfaction. Smoking a pipe remains and always will remain a vice: of past times, for (the happy) few.

Opening photo with Tony Dallara by Benzi/RCS/Contrasto, and in-text photo with Paolo Becchi by Roberto Caccuri/Contrasto, and by Ludovico Bertè portraying Gianmaurizio Fercioni, interviewed by A Million Steps

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