Unlikely Style Icons: Mr Toad

Jeremy Langmead on why fashion is following the master of Toad Hall

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I went to a wedding last weekend at Hardwick House in Oxfordshire, apparently the inspiration for Kenneth Grahame's Toad Hall in Wind in the Willows. The Elizabethan manor, surrounded by meadows that lead down to the banks of the Thames, was once home to Sir Charles Day Rose. The colourful baron had ebullient enthusiasms for fast cars – "Poop! Poop!" – real tennis, horse racing and aeroplanes. He died in 1913 from a heart attack induced by the excitement of flying in one of the latter at Hendon Aerodrome.

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The reason I mention this, besides expanding your literary references, is that Mr Toad's wardrobe – colourful checked tailoring, tweeds, flat caps, and oversized camel-toned wool coats – is remarkably similar to many of the looks designers showed for this winter. Unsurprisingly, none of them cited Mr Toad as inspiration – he's never quite made it as an official muse alongside Kurt Cobain, Andy Warhol and James Dean – but the evidence is there all the same.

Italian labels such as Barena, Isaia and Massimo Piombo designed bold plaid blazers in a variety of rich colours, Gucci and Richard James sent out equally bold checked suits, Burberry Prorsum, Ami and Officine Generale went for oversized overcoats in checks or camel, while Wooster + Lardini and Acne have thick tweed jackets in Toad-ish patterns or colours.

Finally, hats of all shapes and sizes have had a resurgence in popularity over the last year or so. I'm not convinced by the plethora of fedoras this winter (a little too statement-y for me), but the flat cap seems a respectable and practical nod in the right direction. Italian milliner Borsalino has a smart navy wool one that would do for work or weekend, whilst Musto Shooting has an on-trend checked tweed example which is very Mr Toad indeed.

Of course, pop all of these on at once and you may look a little cartoonish, but a bold checked blazer or overcoat will help beat the winter gloom, give this season's popular greys and blacks a bit of a lift, and update your wardrobe in an instant. Since I like to shop what I preach, I have bought a sprinkling of the above in order to road-test the trends before I recommend them to you. I know, I know, I mustn't let you all take advantage of my good nature. I promise it's the last time I'll selflessly buy an eye-wateringly expensive Tom Ford grey herringbone jacket just so that I can be sure you all might like it, too. In fact, the camel Bottega Veneta overcoat I wondered about on your behalf was a step too far, as well.

My bank manager certainly seems to think so; especially when you also tot up the amount reached by adding a Brunello Cucinelli gilet, a pair of Tod's suede Chelsea boots, a Saint Laurent pinstripe suit and a grey Tom Ford cotton-jersey sweatshirt. My credit card is so max'd out that I fear from now on it's TK Maxx for me. (There are actually some good bargains to be found there; I find the Brent Cross branch in North London the most fruitful.)

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