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Feig on the Road: London Calling

Part six of Paul Feig's sartorial tour of the press junket.

Oct 8, 2013 | 12:09 PM

[Paul Feig's daily travel journal continues. To see what all the fuss is about, download "The Heat" in digital HD today, or pre-order it on DVD or Blu-Ray, available October 15.]

June 13th – Did a lot of press today, both on camera and with reporters for newspapers and websites. We have the London premiere of "The Heat" tonight and I'm both excited and nervous. You never really know if a comedy is going to play well in another country. You especially don't know when they dub it into another language, because many of the verbal jokes change completely in translation. But even in a country that shares our language, there are enough cultural differences to make it unclear if what an American audience laughs at will be the same as what a British audience laughs at. But I'm going to find out tonight, ready or not.

Suit worn during junket: my gray Anderson and Sheppard three-piece, this time with a lavender Anto shirt and a patterned purple Tom Ford tie. Now that I'm in the country that birthed my bespoke suits, it all feels right. My mother's side of the family is British and so coming to London is always like coming home. And the closer I am to Savile Row, the more danger I'm in of going bankrupt. But at least I'll be well-dressed at the soup kitchen.

Had an idea to spice myself up on the red carpet. When I was here a few weeks ago, I visited one of my favorite hat shops in London, a place called Bates Hatters. It's in the back of a clothing store on Jermyn Street called Hilditch & Key. It used to be a stand-alone store at the other end of the block, a tiny place that had been there for at least 100 years. But a few years ago, the rents all went up and someone wanted to take over the block of buildings that Bates was in and turn it all into one big department store. And so Bates moved into its current location and is now run by a very personable Frenchman named Jean-Luc Guitard.

I've always been fascinated by bowler hats and how they make certain Brits look extremely distinguished. It's definitely not a look for everybody, and I've always been curious to know if I could pull it off without it looking like a costume. Most of the bowlers you find in hat stores are exactly that—prop hats made to look like bowlers, but without the structure and materials that a true bowler hat is made out of. 

When I went into Bates, I saw some bowlers on display and tried on a grey one with a black band. It was like Cinderella finding the glass slipper. It fit perfectly. I've seen real bowlers in antique stores and they were always too small, but I also noticed how hard and inflexible they were and so always assumed that they wouldn't be comfortable or even have a chance of molding themselves to my head. When Jean-Luc came over, he told me that he designed these bowlers himself, and showed me that he has the hat makers bend the sides of the brim up more than normal so that the hat becomes more of an oval shape around your head.

It also makes it look a bit cooler, to be honest. It becomes slightly more rakish, and if you then add a bit of a tilt to one side when you're wearing it, it becomes what I believe to be a very updated look of an old-fashioned style. I could be completely off my rocker but when I put it on and looked at myself in the mirror, I thought it looked really good on me. Perhaps my British DNA had designed my head just so it can house the chapeau of my ancestors. Whether that was true or not, I bought that hat and never looked back. I even wore it for a photo shoot for Variety and thought I looked downright dapper in it.

And so today I decided that I would wear a bowler to my London premiere.

Since I left the grey one I bought a few weeks ago back in L.A., I headed back to Bates to get another one, this time in black. Jean-Luc was there and had one in stock in my size and I bought it. Then, I had another idea.

I headed over to my other favorite store in London, an amazing old place called James Smith and Sons. It's an umbrella store that's been there for as long as Bates Hats has been around. They stock everything from expensive handmade umbrellas and parasols to canes and walking sticks. I own several of their umbrellas and usually succumb to buying another one whenever I'm in town. I love the craftsmanship of them but even more, they satisfy my lifelong desire to use a walking stick whenever I walk the streets without actually carrying a walking stick.

I have no idea where my obsession with walking sticks came from—it's been with me forever. But to walk around in your 20s and 30s with a walking stick either makes you look like you have a bad leg or you're out of your mind. Or at least that was my fear. And so swaggering around with an umbrella was a way to have a nice walking stick without it looking like it was just that. As long as there was at least one cloud in the sky, I could justify my affectation under the guise of not wanting to get wet should a freak rainstorm materialize. However, once I hit 40, I began to warn all my friends and family that when I turned 50, I was going to allow myself to start using walking sticks without self-consciousness or guilt. And so I have.

James Smith and Sons gets antique walking sticks all the time from various estates and other sources. And so each time I go in, there's always something new to see and usually buy. As always, I found an amazing stick, this one from 1897 with a dark wood shaft (no giggling) and a beautiful silver handle that is textured almost like snakeskin. It's perfectly balanced and the right height, and so it is now going to accompany me, my Anderson and Sheppard double-breasted pinstripe suit, and my bowler to the premiere. I mean, if I can't dress like this in London, where the hell else can I? —Paul Feig

Read more of Paul Feig's travel journal, and check back tomorrow for the next installment. In the meantime, you can download "The Heat" in digital HD today or pre-order it on DVD or Blu-Ray, available October 15.

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