The Secret Pigeon Charm at £650
This week, I thought about pigeons. Mainly, a £650 pigeon that was spotted on the arm of Sarah Jessica Parker. No, the actor is not starring in a new version of Mary Poppins, the more it’s a shame (I would like to see what she could put in her carpet bag); instead, she’s reprising her alter ego Carrie Bradshaw, with filming a second series of the sex and the city after And just like that recently started.
The pigeon is actually a handbag, a resin clutch that debuted on the JW Anderson menswear Fall/Winter 2022 show in January. It has since become the subject of a cult obsession as people try to spot it in the wild. There was a wave of excitement in September when singer Sam Smith wore the pigeon to a show during London Fashion Week. Smiling smugly in a simple black blazer, they were reminiscent of a modern-day Francis of Assisi – albeit the version who is the patron saint of shining eyes and stale bread.
Not since Beatrix Potter slathered a tailcoat on a rodent has a public threat looked so cute. The author herself was quite disparaging about the charms of the pigeon. They feature in his 1907 history The Story of the Faithful Dove, but she found the pigeon too “namby pamby” and refused to illustrate the work. It should probably be cancelled. If only Potter had been looking at the city instead of the hedge, she wouldn’t have missed the bird’s potential so wildly.
Watch it now. This latest SJP sighting finds our pigeon flying across the Atlantic in search of bigger portions and a whole new level of fame. His starring role in the HBO drama is a coveted opportunity: he could become as well-known as Carrie’s Fendi “wand” or the iconic Bradshaw bodice.
I’m not sure why I like it, but every time I see the plastic pigeon with its flippant collar, it makes me smile. It also reminds me that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen another example of the species that has such intact feet. Obviously, I can’t stand them when they beat my croissants or peck at the coasters when I’m sitting in the pub. They’re usually gross, but in a week of relentless market panic and global terror, the Pigeon Clutch has given us a piece of darling bonkers.
Daft is rare these days, there’s little room for foam or fun. Even John Cleese changed the silly rides and silly falls to join the seething opinion-mongers of the right-wing broadcaster GB News.
The pigeon’s designer, Jonathan Anderson, tells me he wanted to celebrate an animal that “surrounds us” (there are about 400mn of them in the world), the one we are used to and either love or hate. “I like the idea of a pest being raised to haute couture,” he tells me, returning from a dinner party celebrating craftsmanship. “They are such a part of city life. Would we even like the city without the birds?
Anderson has a romantic outlook. Like many tourists in London, as a young child visiting from Northern Ireland, he was taken to feed the birds in Trafalgar Square. But such activities are far from unique to British culture: you can go get pecked by flying rodents in every major city, from Rome to Taipei. Carrie Bradshaw likely identifies with the pigeon as an icon of New York, a totem of brave survival unlike Truman Capote’s elite swans. By the way, fashion loves a bird as a symbol. Christian Dior liked to adorn his muses with hummingbirds. Schiaparelli chose the dove.
The pigeon, on the contrary, is a dirty and common scavenger. But aren’t we all right now? I can certainly relate to the vermin of London every time I twist my body into the contortions required of anyone trying to get to work. After such a long period of easy calm in the city, I have had to relearn the art of directing pedestrians, where I look completely unhinged about a goal, walking past stragglers as they shuffle on my path. The city is teeming with tourists. The energy is back! Life throbs in our urban centers, and it’s as filthy and pestilential as it’s ever been.
Anderson designed his pigeon so that it “must be cradled, or carried like a precious object”, and right now I would like to be treated the same way. I want to be elevated above normal. “The pigeon is the underdog who sometimes becomes a hero,” says Anderson. We are all the pigeon. He could speak for all of us.
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