The stick

Whether or not it is a hangover from the days of carrying a sword by one’s side that gentlemen are fond of sporting a stick when walking, the custom is of some legitimate continued interest to those in need of a stick.  The stick affords balance; and, it is something to lean on. It may also constitute an element of sartorial pleasure but that once fetching limit is now thankfully mostly redundant. Some men simply prefer to carry an umbrella which ostensibly forms two purposes (although the customary twisting about of the ‘brolley for show and as an expression of rhythm is a not uncommon).

This pictorial representation of a proper fit for a stick is the closest I’ve come to settling this otherwise sticky wicket. Adhering to this prescription is required for the favourable unification of comfort and utility.  With repeated usage the stick becomes an adjunct to one’s body; so correct calculation of the fit is important. It may be helpful to recall that in a moment of urgency most hardware stores will allow precision cutting of a stick. It is important to use a fine toothed saw to avoid damaging the veneer of the stick.

Like so many of men’s hobbies – whether collecting stamps, stemware or plastic farm animals – there are moments when the collection itself overtakes its purpose. Owning a variety of sticks and umbrellas comes with it the necessity of an umbrella stand and of course the ensuing geography surrounding its location, whether for example in the drawing room or the vestibule. It is even possible within this paradigm to include not only the very popular bumbershoot (aka umbrella – alteration of umbrella and parachute) but also the folding walking seat (or, shooting seat stick with brown leather folding chair).  The latter device is particularly useful at cricket matches or car rallies, or wherever one is obliged to remain indolent for a prolonged period. Its only disadvantage is that when assembled for travel it is not likely properly adjusted for use as a stick (being low to accommodate the preferred seating).

What one does with a stick while not in locomotion is a matter of decided interest and manifestation. Instinct will likely predict that the stick will remain within one’s grasp or nearby. Depending upon the perceived celebrity of the stick (in particular the composition of its handle) the device may enjoy heightened demonstration, such as when seated the handle of the stick affords an alter upon which to assemble one’s clasped hands, meaningfully placed immediately before one as a depiction of ineffable wisdom.  The handle will under these circumstances be more fully revealed; and the fabrication may inspire artistic interest or curiosity.

Certainly there are sticks for everyday use and for special occasions (such as weddings for example). The varieties of urbanity and rusticity are limitless.  Often the sticks capture cultural significance such as Scottish or English heraldry. Animal heads are frequent creations for handles; and silver and copper are a common appearance. If you can remove yourself from the authentic wooden build, there are adjustable metal canes but what they gain in particality they lose in artistry.

What remains as an inescapable thread is whether one should have a stick or collection of sticks at hand for unpredicted eventualities such unanticipated immobility. Recall too that the retail popularity of sticks is questionable at best. You’re not likely to find a corner store that sells sticks. And if you’re looking for a bespoke expression of the product, you’ll require time on your side. While it is tempting to regard the necessity as no more compelling than an engraved signet ring or cuff links, the application of foresight is more than merely sartorial. I won’t say it is akin to having a plunger at hand but the blunt advantage of availability is not to be dismissed. The stick is something for which there are no imitations; and, in a moment of need, having the properly fitted equipment at the readiness is an incalcuable advantage.

Finally it deserves remark that using a stick opens doors.  Literally.  I have had to train myself to expect the hitherto unaccustomed privilege of doors being opened for me when I approach tethered to a stick. Even though in my own mind I have not descended to the level of a cripple, the public image is different.  The image of an old man with grey hair bent over a stick is neither obscure nor undefined; it is a instead a succinct summary of ineptitude. Rather than compete preposterously with the charity of the chap on the other side of the door, I have trained myself willingly to accept defeat and hobble through the parted doorway. It is a small concession; but nonetheless gripping for the recipient of such benevolence.