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Brighton Beach in England

Martin Morrell

Photo: Martin Morrell

"I can tell a good suit right away," he said. "I look at how it fits: if it's not cut right, the trousers are a bit baggy, the way it folds on the chest, then it's a high-street off-the-peg number. With a bespoke suit, the trousers are made to fit, the size of the lapels is perfect, the length of the side vents is just right, and the trousers ride like jeans over the thighs and kick out slightly so you can wear them with boots."

Dizzi still travels up to London, his hometown, to visit his tailor, but he'll never leave Brighton. "London has had its day," he said. "The individuality's not there any more. There's more individuality in Brighton."

BRIGHTON'S INDIVIDUALISTS TEND TO CONGREGATE around the narrow and atmospheric streets of the Lanes and North Laine, which follow the old medieval street patterns. Here, there are antiques shops and clothes shops a-go-go. You can find—according to your whim—a suit of armor (Lanes Armoury on Meeting House Lane), leather-free footwear (Vegetarian Shoes on Gardner Street), or a belly-dancing outfit (Mystique on Union Street).

Chris Eubank, Brighton's most famous and recognizable celebrity, can often be spotted shopping or posing in the vicinity. His clothing contradicts Brummell's celebrated maxim that the cut of your suit should not draw attention to itself—Eubank favors spats and a monocle. His pronounced lisp doesn't prevent him from quoting Kipling at length at every opportunity. But don't tease him about it—he was middleweight boxing champion of the world in 1990.

Wandering around Brighton by day, I was struck by the thought that a town, like a person, is known by its enemies as well as its friends. Queen Victoria hated Brighton and sold the pavilion, after clearing out most of its contents (many of which have since been returned). Both in Victorian times and more recently, Brighton has accepted tastes that were outside the mainstream. Gays have always had an affinity for Brighton: Oscar Wilde and Bosie came here for trysts, and there are supposedly people in the pubs of Kemptown who still know Polari, a secret gay slang that began as a Neapolitan sailors' dialect. Under the surface of Brighton, there are plenty of people who came to find refuge here in less tolerant times.

One eye-catching figure who may pass you on a bicycle on the seafront is Drako Zarhazar. In some parts of the world, his appearance alone would spark riots. Drako is in his sixties. His shaved head has a blue tattooed triangle on the top; he sports a waxed Salvador Dalí mustache, facial piercings, and bright blue eyebrows.

I visited him in a run-down housing estate on the fringes of the city. Drako (born Anthony Banwell) took his name from a man who shared an Italian prison cell with him. "That's my arm, that's me," Drako said, pointing out fragments of his anatomy on a postcard of a Dalí painting. A dancer, Drako once modeled for the Surrealist painter.


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