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Was London's 'Chap Olympiad' Actually the Lamest Thing Ever?

It looked like a car crash of twee, sinister nonsense.

Some people at this year's Chap Olympiad, pretending to play tug of war with someone's fake moustache (Photo via Flickr user Chillisauce Ltd)

As if Britain wasn’t broken enough, the Chap Olympiad rolled into town at the weekend. It's a giant fancy-dress picnic hosted by The Chap, a bi-monthly magazine dedicated to making men look like total arsewipes and women look like servants. Apparently a hundred people turned up to Bedford Square Gardens in London; all of them seemed to fucking love moustaches and they were all dressed like a weird mixture of Mary Poppins and 12 Years a Slave. The sort of Londoners for whom every night bus journey is tantamount to waterboarding, basically.


If you haven't guessed yet, I'm not a big fan of the Chap Olympiad. Here's why I think it's just about the worst thing in the world.


The Olympiad features a myriad of activities, including umbrella jousting. As you can see in this video, some absolute fucking joker has captured a part of the joust, but they’ve filmed it in old-timey black and white, because that's how things were in the good old days when children died in chimneys.

Other events on the day include moustache wrestling, cucumber sandwich discus, tea-pursuits, something called "briefcase phalanx" and, perhaps worst of all, "not playing tennis". The game involves two people sat in chairs, swinging tennis rackets at a ball suspended on a wire as casually as possible. If this sounds totally convoluted and stupid and weird, it’s because that’s exactly what it is: depressing swingball for cunts.


There wasn’t a tsunami of tweets about the event, obviously technology goes against the principles of the chap, a man who prides a twiddly 'tache over the progression of humanity.

#ChapOlympiad #ginfuelledstiffupperlip

— Jonathan Watkins (@jonathwatkins) July 13, 2014

This tweet, however, contains the only hashtag to ever give me PTSD. It is straight up the worst thing anyone has ever written, and not just because it's hopelessly twee. What has gin – the Chap-era life destroyer of choice for depressed and desperate women – got to do with stoicism? #ginfuelledstiffupperlip makes about as much sense as "Keep Calm and Carry on Shooting Up".


Naturally, at a festival celebrating the canyon-esque class gap of the late 19th century, words like "civilized" are tossed around pretty liberally. Look at the photo. It's all so pleasant. Of course men dressed in tweed suits and wearing monocles would never hurt anyone! When has a man in a top hat ever done anything bad? Oh yes, that’s right, for about 200 years non-stop.


A list of words I've found used in connection to the Chap Olympiad on social media: spiffing, old chap, splendid, chumrades, jolly good, vintage dog, eccentric, tally ho, finery, foreigners, skulduggery, Blitz party, Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer.

These words should be seldom used, and when they are used, only to mock posh people when they’re being pricks. They should never be used aspirationally. While I didn’t attend the Chap Olympiad, I have this horrible image of everyone attending refusing to break character. A hundred people pretending, en masse, to be a stranger from a different time, like one of those living history museums, except no one's getting paid to be there. Christ, I can almost feel the point of their elbows in my ribs, eyebrows raising up and down as they say "Tally ho!" and "That’s not bully!" while some mug chucks a cucumber sandwich around like a discus.


(Photo via Flickr user Chillisauce Ltd)

Here’s a woman with moustache-shaped hair, stood next to a suitcase of moustache wax. Perhaps the thing that confuses me most about Chapworld is that I have no idea where the women fit into all this. The magazine's raison d’être is to return men to a state of indolent, long lost dandyism, providing you have enough disposable income to dress up like a fox hunter’s great granddad. But for women, the time of the dandy was one of lock and key oppression. No voting, no showing your ankles, ridicule and pity befalling you if you don’t marry and have children as soon as physically possible, being owned by your dad, then by your husband and then dying in childbirth. The world at this time wasn’t exactly a tea party for ladies, so why pay £20 to sit in a field pretending it was?



(Photo via Flickr user Chillisauce Ltd)

There’s something oddly sinister about the Chap Olympics. It’s not quite a fancy dress party but it’s not quite cosplay, either. It lacks the piss-taking innocence of a Halloween shindig, but doesn’t possess the die-hard seriousness of kids dressing up as anime characters 'cuz it’s their life. It’s a weird subculture of nothing, a moment of madness shared among its participants, like a ritual murder.

Of course for some the ‘tache wax stays on, as do the monocles and top hats, and that's life for these quasi eccentrics. For the rest though, it seems more like an uneasy display of imperialism, a hark back to an unfortunate and internationally grim part of British history. Sure, there’s no "flay the asian" contests or what have you – the "shouting at foreigners" game was dropped this year – but it’s implicit in the idea of the dandy, of your means dictating your status above others, stamping on the wrists of infant shoe shine boys to go and get your cravat readjusted.

Still, for £20 a ticket, or £35 including entry to the evening Blitz party, I guess you can't knock it.


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