Chap Olympiad 2008: The Ticket Trail

By Jo Last edited 169 months ago
Chap Olympiad 2008: The Ticket Trail

After the fun of last year's Chap Olympiad, there was no way Londonist was going to miss this year's event, scheduled for Saturday July 12. Having watched the Chap's website with an eagle eye, awaiting announcements as to arrangements for the 2008 event, we were eventually rewarded with an official statement giving details of how to guarantee entry this year.

The Olympiad's organisers have taken the unusual step of requiring aspiring participants and on-lookers to complete a kind of pre-event treasure hunt in order to gain entry, with visits to seven shops (well, six shops and one theatre - see map), code phrases to deploy in each location (sample: "I'm looking for a raincoat that will withstand several hundred spilt martinis"), and a certain amount of detective work needed to work out the event's location. As in previous years, entrance to the Olympiad is gratis, although the idea of collecting all seven directional clues - a kind of pre-Games game - is novel. See after the jump for how Londonist got on with the arduous task, involving as it did trips to some fascinating and venerable emporia in the posher bits of the city...

We started at Piccadilly’s Criterion Theatre, currently showing The 39 Steps. This first stop was the most embarrassing - we asked the ticket girl for help in finding our missing umbrella, as instructed, to which she just looked at us blankly; the fellow at the general enquiries desk was far more helpful, and gave us our first clue, on a small strip of paper. With nothing else really to see or do in the Criterion’s lobby, we left sharpish, and headed off down Jermyn St to our second stop, Geo F. Trumper, a wondrous and fragrant seller of gentlemen’s grooming accoutrements. We were discouraged politely from taking a photo inside the shop, but it was a mirror-panelled hall of delights, although the lack of price tags rather told us that the rudest shaving brush was out of our price range. Still, worth a return visit just for the smell.

Still on Jermyn St , we went next to R.E. Tricker, vendor of high-quality brogues - and as our picture shows, they currently have a sale on. The portrait of the Queen on the wall set the tone - indeed, R.E. Tricker shoes the royal feet.


Heading down St James’s St to JJ Fox & Robert Lewis, our fourth stop, we stepped inside with a touch of trepidation - dressed in jeans and t-shirts, we looked out of place in this smoker’s dream of a shop, with its serried rows of pipes and mind-boggling array of cigars and tobacco varieties, established in 1787 and formerly patronised by Emperor Napoleon III and Churchill, among others. However, we were soon set at ease by the friendly staff who, after handing over our clue, showed us the downstairs sampling room/museum; the Oscar Wilde case was a particular highlight. The impecunious Irishman died owing a shade over £37 to the tobacconist, which, at the time, was equivalent to a typical annual salary. Yikes.

A short stroll down the road took us to Lock & Co., an Aladdin’s cave of millinery finery. The silk top hat in the window was very Chap, but we were disappointed to learn that silk toppers are only available second-hand, since the last workshop to produce them, in France , closed in the late 1970s; all modern top hats are brushed felt instead which, while charming in its own way, lacks the glossy brilliance of silk. Nelson shopped here, we think.

Our penultimate stop before jumping on the Tube was to Mackintosh in Burlington Arcade; after a short but sweet visit, we wandered down the Arcade, marvelling that there are, in this world, people rich enough to own strings of polo ponies and fly them all over the world and that there is a shop dedicated to them, and admiring the shoes in one display case. Not usually the shoe-fetishist type, the shark’s fin design nevertheless stopped us in our tracks.

Our final stop was Old Hat, all the way down by Putney Bridge. A veritable treasure trove of vintage tweed and second-hand sundries, it yielded our final clue, which concluded, appetisingly, with the instruction to shake out a picnic blanket and crack open the champagne. Music to our ears. After collecting all the clues, we think we have a pretty good idea of the ludic spot; and after all the fun we had collecting, we suggest that you put on a sensible pair of shoes and follow the trail yourselves, and hope to see as many of you at the Olympiad as possible. Toodle-pip!

Last Updated 01 July 2008