I wish that canes were still in fashion.
Canes, they have such a dignified elegance to them, or at least they used to. Now-a-days they usually look cumbersome and are made out of less beautiful materials and serve a very functional purpose… And that is good, but why should canes be reserved for the elderly and the injured? Canes, used to be an accessory, for men mostly but there was a time when even women got their own stylish stick (17th century)! Word has it that Catherine de Medicis had a cane, and well, if the queen has one, then all the ladies soon soon will too.
Often with sculpted handles made out of silver or porcelain even sometimes encrusted with jewels, these were not just a mere walking sticks, they were a statement of style, class and personality, referred to as des cannes d’agrément.
Those canes used primarily for aide in walking were called les cannes orthèse. We will not dwell on those here.
Canes were also often useful places to store things, these were called les cannes à système. These I find to be the most fun! They are like a sort of gadget-cane. I think they would appeal greatly to our gadget-loving modern non?!? Some of these types of canes were made to conceal a sword inside, others had more interesting and light-hearted items concealed in them… like a « lorgnette » a type of spectacle for seeing close up, or a cigarette holder complete with lighter and ashtray. Genius! You could have also had a writer’s cane with inside a place to store ink, a feather and all of the trinkets necessary to doodle and scribble your poetic thoughts to your lady-love whom you glimpses strolling in the park. There were even farce (joke) canes with confetti, or even firecrackers! Ha! What they certainly could think of for a little fun and silliness, even in the old days.
But there is one particular cane that caught my intention and inspired this post… I saw it on the Hermès website… a canne-ombrelle. A n umbrella-cane. From the collection of interesting things from the past of Emile Hermès, commes this stunning object that is embellished with a pommeau (handle) « Opéra » style, made from Meissen porcelain, and pheasant feathers., with a silk interior, used to protect it’s carrier from the sun… Most likely used by a woman, during a hunting session that she probably joined in (as an accessory I am sure, not necessarily to actually hunt), this cane may have given her a slight cross-dresser’s attitude of sorts… I bet she smoked thin cigars, knew how to shoot a gun (but didn’t do it to kill animals, and probably like to ride without the lady’s side-saddle too… La classe!
So now if your next accessory is going to be a cane, you might be wondering where to find one? I found one on Ebay, for 180 euros… with a swan-carved handle and a lace exterior, très joli, but the seller did not indicate from when this one dates :
There is also an intriguing boutique in the Passage Jourffroy in the 9th that sells all sorts of curious canes, and objects. It reminds me of a place you might find described in a Balzac novel… but they’ve only been there since 1975. Nonetheless, it looks authentic and charming.
There is also an antiquaire that I saw in the Louvre des Antiquaires, that also deals in antique canes and such… I wonder what kind of client address book he has…
A true cane historian, check out his website for a full briefing on the illusrtious history of this wonderful accessory.
Although I am an enthusiast about the cane as an accessory even in our modern culture, I am not very hopeful that it will catch on very much… In the not too distant past, Dali was know to strut around with one, but then he also had a pet ant-eater too, didn’t her??? It seems only Goths, Romantic nostalgics and people in costume usually carry them these days. Oh well, a girl can dream…