Sunday, August 7, 2011

Vintage Photos

This is my uncle, John Barron, standing on the shore of the village of Equihen, France, where he and my father grew up.


John was a true sartorialist; when the other kids were running around in shorts and espadrilles, he would carefully craft an ensemble to wear to the beach. His cravat here is probably one of my grandfather’s oversized handkerchiefs. One of John’s best friends was a Parisienne who came to Equihen for her summers; she scandalized the village by promenading down the main street in beach pajamas. It was the first time the village women had seen a lady wearing trousers.


John was killed in a torpedo attack during World II. A couple of years ago, I got to see his diary, which was filled with expressions of longing for his boyfriend, a British army officer serving in South Africa. It was the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever read.


Robert B.





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  1. Lisa

    August 7, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    Wow. Thank you for sharing the beautiful photo & his story.

  2. Ana Teresa

    August 7, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    I love these family stories. Rumor has it that my great-great-grandfather run with my great-grandfather from Portugal to Brazil, and changed his last name from Penedo Maia to Basilio. And that’s how my name is Ana Teresa Basilio. Who knows…

  3. Luis

    August 7, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Such a wonderful picture and story. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Kayla

    August 7, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    this has to be my favorite vintage photo post so far. the commentary was touching :’)

  5. Caroline F

    August 7, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Wonderful photo with a well written and interesting story, thank you for sharing!

  6. DStone Magazine

    August 7, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    You’re uncle looks amazing! I have to find some vintage photos at my grandma’s house.

  7. William B

    August 7, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    The hauntingly beautiful photograph, accompanied by the fascinating clip of the man’s life makes this my favorite of all your vintage photo postings, and the most emotionally poignant for me.

  8. Mills42

    August 7, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Now I’m heartbroken for him, too. What a wonderful remembrance. Thank you for sharing his story.

  9. Margaux

    August 7, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    An interesting photo… I love his classy style even at the beach. He looks like he was an interesting guy. Such a heartbreaking story.

  10. theoutfitdiaries

    August 7, 2011 at 4:47 pm


  11. CBC

    August 7, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Interesting phot and interesting read!! years ago it was so much easier to be scandalous!!

  12. My Style Canvas

    August 7, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Wow what amazing style. And you know he must have had a good sense of humor too. So sorry to hear what happened to him, and that he was separated from his love.

  13. Captain Tungsten

    August 7, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    Splendid story and swell photograph :)

  14. Georgina

    August 7, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    What a gorgeous picture… It amazes me how, with all the advance technology in cameras that we have today, such a great photograph can be taken with the simplest and outdated of equipment.
    That is a lovely story, and one you must be immensely proud of. I know I am always filled with pride after hearing old family stories.

  15. FrancescaG

    August 7, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    Love how he rolled up his pants. And love this pic!

  16. dragon fruit

    August 7, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    this is truly an amazing photo and i love the story. beautiful

  17. CBC

    August 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    the writer Mary McCarthty wore tuberose which at that time was use at furnerals!

  18. Mery

    August 7, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    One of the best posts here, ever. Thank you for sharing.

  19. visa

    August 7, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    Fantastic Read.Sartorialist getting personal nowdays.

  20. The Bohmerian

    August 7, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    What a great photo! Love the story, pose and those wonderful cuffs.

  21. Simone

    August 7, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Bellissima foto!

  22. Nicole Aube

    August 7, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    The above comments I’ve read so far have little trace of sympathy. You touched me. The photo alone, without knowing about its subject, would have been a relic, a “vintage” photo reminding us of past exuberance of style. In a few sentences, though, you have told us the complete life of this man, and now the photo lives, because it is of him. We care about him, we understand him and sympathize with him to the point of pain. This photo doesn’t just depict a memory anymore, but figures into his story, functioning as the sad irony that those who make others smile with their outward style (and whose style *is* smiling) are victims of bare bones suffering inwardly. Thank you Robert B.

  23. Bad Joan

    August 7, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    Gorgeous photo and interesting story. Sounds like artistry runs in your family!


  24. jennifer

    August 7, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    Thanks for posting such a lovely photo. And yes, heartbreaking indeed.

  25. HannahAlyse

    August 7, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    Everything about this photo is beautiful! The clothes, pose, setting, attitude, I love it all. The story was fabulous and makes the pic more captivating…

  26. Barcelona m'enamora

    August 7, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    He’s stylish…and the story is really sad.

  27. Dorothy Chartrand

    August 7, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    Very touched by his storey.Wonderful family photos you have…they are very ineresting characters…My family is so dull.They would have been the ones all shocked by the jammies on the beach! Glad to say I’m the one my family is shocked by these last few decades and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

  28. Lydia Fleur

    August 7, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    This is such a touching story. even though your uncle’s story, tragically, didn’t end happily, it is still heart-warming to hear stories of true love enduring such a turbulent time like a war. my grandparents were penpals for 4 years throughout the war (my grandma wrote to him, her best friend’s big brother, as a favour to keep him company), and by the time they first met at the end of the war, they already knew and loved eachother inside out. I’ve vowed to one day write a book about their love.
    Your uncle looks like a true gent, too. what wonderful, unusual proportions and how smart!

  29. Simon

    August 7, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    What a brilliant, heart-breaking story. These vintage photos are all incredible, but when put in context they seem to swell even more.

  30. James

    August 7, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    Interesting photo and story. I would have never guessed this guy to be gay from just that picture.

  31. Michele

    August 7, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    Beautiful photo and touching story. Thanks for sharing!

  32. annabella

    August 7, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    Gifted Fine artists..both your Uncle and the photographer (perhaps your father?). Love everything about the photo, especiallly his dramatic, silly pose props and ‘finery’. This man knew how to have fun!

    People should be doubly impressed with these exquisite photos from the war eras, when finding joy and style, and a decent camera and photography skill, with the little that was at hand was not for amateurs. There is a ‘living for the moment’ that comes across so wonderfully in these war era photos.

    His Heartbreaking diary story brings me to tears. How wonderful it was left and you to read it. We all want to be heard.

    Thank you for sharing your noble uncle, Mr. John Barron’s magic and something of his heroic sacrifices, Robert. and thanks Scott for posting.

  33. Nina

    August 7, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    Love vintage photos. I used them for my seventies post “Free as a Bird”. Check out my new post of my shoot for BEAUMONDE with Erdem designs, as well as old posts on my trip to cannes and meeting with Cavalli :)


  34. Maia

    August 7, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    A special photo made very touching by that backstory. Thank you for sharing!

  35. The Foolish Aesthete

    August 7, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    Fantastic image, style, and story. I wish we’d see more gentlemen taking this much care with their outfits these days.

  36. antique engagement rings

    August 7, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    Again I love your photos.. just wonderful!

  37. Sue

    August 7, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    Thanks so much for elevating this whimsical photo with such a heart touching story. You brought this man to life with just a few words. I also felt very moved and I think your uncle would be thrilled to now be on Sartorialist!

  38. The Tailored Two

    August 8, 2011 at 1:21 am

    I saved this photo to my computer as inspiration. What style, this shot is really beautiful.

  39. Sara

    August 8, 2011 at 2:26 am

    one of my favorite posts here. such a lovely, fun photo, but the story was very touching. thank you so much for sharing.

  40. bunkaboy

    August 8, 2011 at 2:31 am

    LOVE these old photos!!!! so whimsical :)

  41. Leonie

    August 8, 2011 at 2:59 am

    Amazing picture and amazing text! It must be so interesting to read a diary from such a long time ago…
    NEW OUTFIT POST: At Robson Square

  42. mon sac byme

    August 8, 2011 at 3:14 am

    Heart braking story !!

  43. SUzy

    August 8, 2011 at 3:18 am

    amazing story and photo, thanks so much for sharing.

  44. HMB

    August 8, 2011 at 3:22 am


  45. Alessandra D'Itria

    August 8, 2011 at 3:34 am

    Out of all the vintage pictures this is probably one of my faves..!!!

    Alex’s Box

  46. Maria Teresa Oliveira

    August 8, 2011 at 3:41 am

    amazing post!!!

  47. Rosie

    August 8, 2011 at 3:52 am

    A fantastic photograph that even makes me wish that I could meet him. And with the story, it’s so special.

  48. Marcela

    August 8, 2011 at 4:50 am

    The picture is lovely, it is a fitting picture to the story that follows ( even though it’s a sad story)
    Nice post, that was a great Sunday post, I am sorry I did not see it yesterday.

  49. ms jane

    August 8, 2011 at 5:14 am

    My favourite so far.

  50. annabella

    August 8, 2011 at 5:29 am

    A further note for Robert B., the eloquent caption author and nephew of the pictured whimsical sartorialist and heartbroken war hero, Mr. John Barron.

    This whimsical vintage photo and your brief, beautifully written story touched many of us deeply. You write with such skill and soulfulness. The story reads like the opening lines of a great literary work! Do you have a blog/site where we could read more of your writings?

    Thanks again for submitting and to Scott for posting. I too think your Uncle would be delighted to be featured on ”The’ Sartorialist!

  51. clarity enhanced diamonds

    August 8, 2011 at 6:40 am

    A very sad story but its such a nice photo and amazing you can see the diary!

  52. Evana

    August 8, 2011 at 6:40 am

    He sounds like an amazing man, I am so sorry for your loss.

  53. beesandbugs

    August 8, 2011 at 7:07 am

    That’s a wonderful story, thanks for sharing! And the photo is great, I really loved it :)

  54. Kate

    August 8, 2011 at 7:26 am

    What a gorgeous photograph&text combination. So glad that Robert took the time to submit the story to accompany this shot; it really is simply beautiful. <3

  55. Clara Turbay

    August 8, 2011 at 8:01 am

  56. Santana

    August 8, 2011 at 8:04 am

    wow! your uncle must’ve been a real character.

    and the story… although sad, to me it just shows how incredible and amazing are the lives of people we will never know. no matter how close or distant they were/are.
    wear it with a smile and pride.
    it will give your uncle the credit he so clearly deserved.

  57. Kerri

    August 8, 2011 at 8:09 am

    Thank you for posting such a great picture. The back story made me cry.

  58. claudia

    August 8, 2011 at 9:32 am

    what an amazing place to grow up. beautiful.

    x claudia

  59. Anonymous

    August 8, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Wow! Amazing photo and story of this man’s life. I think these vintage photos take Scott’s blog to a whole other level. I’d like to give a special thanks for these people who are sharing these personal photos and stories. ;-)

  60. huytran

    August 8, 2011 at 10:26 am

    So touching and wonderful story of your uncle’s. I’d love to listen to his feelings. Best.

  61. Boris

    August 8, 2011 at 10:31 am


    This is the most beautiful and inspiring post I’ve ever seen in this site. Thanks for sharing.

  62. lindayoga

    August 8, 2011 at 10:54 am

    Once again, divine photo and such a beautiful story.

  63. Alison

    August 8, 2011 at 11:38 am

    This is beautiful. How tragic and romantic. I’m trying not to tear up in my cubicle.

  64. Chris

    August 8, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    A beautiful picture – the outfit, the pose, the background, everything is perfect. But most importantly thank you for sharing with us the story of the man in this picture, it is heartbreaking but at the same time brings him so much closer to us. Also, it was very well written. This has to be my favourite vintage photo entry – by far.

  65. Elseneur

    August 8, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Dear Robert,
    thank you kindly for sharing this intense story. Thank you. All my respect to John.

  66. Victoria Regia

    August 8, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Heartbreaking and absolutely beautiful. Thank you very much for posting!

  67. Angie Muresan

    August 8, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Robert, the photo of your uncle is enchanting, and the story heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing. Your writing is beautiful. Perhaps one day you’ll write your uncle’s story down for all of us to read.

  68. Kacie

    August 8, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    I love this. I love the background information. I really brings the photo to life.


  69. Emilie

    August 8, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Your uncle looks like a swell guy! What a lovely use of photography and styling. A heart-wrenching story come to life, indeed. Thank you for sharing!

  70. Bec

    August 8, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    one of the best things i’ve ever read and seen, a great photo and a touching story. he’d probably get a kick out of what you get to do now :)

  71. Brendan

    August 8, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    Great pants… I love how they are baggy but he still looks very elegant and put-together. Seems like baggy pants never have that effect on men anymore.

  72. Em

    August 9, 2011 at 12:32 am

    Dear Robert B., what a truly moving post, which reads like a tragic novel, but with the intensity, and the beauty of truth. Thank you for sharing.

  73. Lauren

    August 9, 2011 at 1:21 am

    That picture is truly a joy to see and the story so heart-wrenching and beautiful at the same time. That little glimpse into your Uncle’s life and love was so wonderful of you to share. Mr. Barron seems to have been quite an interesting man and would I’m sure be quite happy to have a nephew that would write so thoughtfully about him.

  74. Camilla

    August 9, 2011 at 5:34 am

    I love your uncle!

  75. Annabelle

    August 9, 2011 at 10:12 am

    What a great picture — and a sad story. He looks like he must have been a charmer.

  76. jy196

    August 9, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Thank you for sharing the touching story and the evocative photo. It underscores the senselessness of war, and what a waste of talents, personalities, and rich and interesting interior lives that were lost as a result. What a charmer your uncle must have been, and what an interesting life he would have led, but for.

  77. art deco engagement rings

    August 9, 2011 at 11:30 am

    I keep coming back to your vintage photos.. just love looking at them!

  78. rob

    August 9, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    I have goosebumps over the story.

  79. Ashley

    August 9, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    I just want to say how much I adore this vintage photo series. Just love reading and looking at all of them.

  80. Gersende

    August 9, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Simple & elegant. Something between Chaplin and Fred Astaire.
    Soleil, sourire. Que de légèreté.

  81. Beet Salad

    August 9, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    THIS is why submitters should always attach as story about the photograph. This is a true treasure! Thank you, Robert!

  82. Kenny

    August 10, 2011 at 1:33 am

    What a moving story. I hope my journal entries move my nephew and nieces too :)

  83. WhiteRice

    August 10, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    What a beautiful man!

  84. mk Milano

    August 10, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Thanks for sharing this story…

  85. Martine

    August 10, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    Great story. He sounds like a great person. I am sure he and his English officer lover are together now. I wish I could have met him. And his outfit looks great. I love the close fitting coat and looser trousers.

  86. Annabella

    August 11, 2011 at 6:37 am

    To Robert B. and your Sartorialist Vintage Photo fans,

    Wanting to know more of the heart rending story of your charming and whimsical Uncle John, I googled his name and Equihen France, and was delighted to come across your wonderful Flickr photos and more of your eloquent writings about his full, but tragically short life. The finding of the diary, the letters..more tears. You also write so movingly of the fascinating history of your family, their life at the French seaside and how the heart break of war colored their lives.

    Here then, from your flickr pages, for your appreciative audience to enjoy, are more photos of your handsome, stylish, Uncle John. He is indeed, always beautifully and whimsically turned out. No one has ever worn a “hankie the size of a dinner napkin” ascot with such panache! Here too, are more of your compelling writings that with loving skill bring this gentle man, devoted boyfriend and war hero to life and once again dazzle our eyes and touch our hearts.

    Thank you Robert. Your Uncle John must be very proud of you.

  87. the coolbirth kid

    August 11, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    love the photo,
    and was instantly drawn to it.
    it nearly ruined my day,
    and yet,
    it made it too.
    the story tore me down and then put me back together,
    it was so touching.
    it’s amazing how a few lines can contain a whole life.
    i would like very much to read more of john barron’s diary,
    and the things he felt and loved.

  88. melissa lee

    August 11, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    We will all have an ending… So, nice to see how he lived between life and death…


  89. Barley Maiden

    August 13, 2011 at 10:49 am

    What a great photo! I love the subject of this, its a very warm feeling!

  90. kristi

    August 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    I am so touched by this man’s story I keep coming back to look at this picture and read again and again. Thank you so much for sharing, Robert B., and please write a book about him! He seems like such an interesting an inspiring figure. I hope you were able to know him in life.

  91. ana

    August 20, 2011 at 4:18 am

    Great story!!

  92. Eva

    August 20, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    You can tell he has a great spirit about him. Really taking life for what it’s worth. Thanks for sharing that story :)

  93. Tackydidaxie

    August 21, 2011 at 12:01 am

    what a brilliant photograph. I would love to hear more about this story. It is very intriguing. thank you for sharing!

  94. Forall Serendipity

    March 16, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    My word, he looks like fun! His charisma oozes from this photo! Fun and dapper styling.

  95. Clymdraws

    October 23, 2013 at 10:34 am

    ..I just saw this and was incredibly moved. He looks like such a wonderful, free spirited and expressive man.

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