Being Willy Wonka at #JDHorizons

By | October 31, 2018

Willy Wonka - Brian Inkster (rooftop of Courthouse Hotel, London)I have been meaning for some time (well since 17 May 2018) to write this blog post. Today, being Halloween, just might be an apt time to publish a post about dressing up as someone else.

Readers may recall my post about The Golden Ticket to #JDHorizons (a ‘break the law – make the law’ conference by Janders Dean). Well this is the follow up post I promised to that one.

JD Horizons Golden Ticket

What I didn’t say in that post was that there was small print on the invite to the #JDHorizons Conference (printed on the chocolate bar wrapper). That small print got smaller and smaller the further down the wrapper you got until the last paragraph in the smallest of print read:-

Should any individual delegate wish to participate in the licking or salvation on wallpaper, you will be removed. Because that’s just not cool. You’re not in Willy Wonka’s factory. Come on now. Be serious. Should you wish to attend dressed as Willy Wonka, you will receive a life-long pass to #JDHorizons.

We’re not joking.

If you are going to follow instructions to the letter on a VIP invite you should, of course, actually follow them. I wouldn’t lick the wallpaper at The Courthouse Hotel in Shoreditch (the venue for #JDHorizons) but I would go there dressed as Willy Wonka!

Guising (dressing up in disguise) comes naturally to a Shetlander. We do it at Up-Helly-Aa and at New Year (never mind Halloween).

Naturally if I was going to be Willy Wonka I had to do some research on his appearance. So I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl and watched all three films. Three films you exclaim! But surely there are only two? No… there are three:-

1. Willy Wonka & The Chocalate Factory starring Gene Wilder.

2. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory starring Johnny Depp.

and….. wait for it…..

3. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory starring Tom and Jerry.

My Amazon recommendations are still all over the place with children’s books and DVDs several months later! Nanny McPhee & The Big Bang Box Set anyone?

So my detailed research revealed that there were certain items of clothing that any self respecting Willy Wonka must wear if you follow the original author’s description of the eccentric chocolatier:-

He had a black top hat on his head.

He wore a tail coat made of a beautiful plum-coloured velvet.

His trousers were bottle green.

His gloves were pearly grey.

And in one hand he carried a fine gold-topped walking cane.

So as long as I got those key elements correct (or near to as I could) then I could improvise with the rest of the outfit.

Quentin Blake who illustrated Roald Dahl’s books gave Willy Wonka a large bow tie (white with red spots) and a yellow waist coat.

Quentin Blake's illustration of Willy Wonka

Gene Wilder’s Wonka had a brown (rather than a black top hat), a flowery shirt and a golden cravat. Bottle green trousers were abandoned.

Willy Wonka - Gene Wilder

Johnny Depp’s Wonka had a Paisley patterned shirt and a special ‘W’ brooch as a neck piece. His coat was red rather than plum. Bottle green trousers were again abandoned.

Willy Wonka - Johnny Depp

Tom & Jerry’s Wonka looks just like the Gene Wilder one.

Willy Wonka - Tom and Jerry

Indeed the cartoon follows the format of the original film with the addition of Tom & Jerry and some of their chums.

Willy Wonka - Tom and Jerry

What would Brian Inkster’s Wonka look like?

Well I happened to have a long velvet coat in my wardrobe from Ted Baker which I hadn’t worn since my wedding day. It wasn’t plum but a dark blue. It would fit the part though.

My wife is a director at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow so I obtained access to their wardrobe and props room. Black top hat and cane sorted!

I ordered Boodun running gloves online that were a grey colour (if not exactly pearly grey).

Now I just needed bottle green trousers to complete the Dahl look before contemplating other embellishments. So off me and my wife went to Slater Mensware (the Glasgow store being the current record holder for the “World’s Largest Menswear Store” in the Guinness Book of World Records). Surely they would have bottle green trousers.

When I presented the store assistant with my requirements he suggested that they might have every other colour of trouser possible but he didn’t think they had bottle green. It wasn’t a popular colour at the moment. But we could have a look.

So we went with him in search of the all essential bottle green trousers. Alas there were none. However, my eagle eyed wife spotted some tartan trews. They were a dark green and blue tartan. Perhaps a Black Watch tartan. Looked almost bottle green. I would be a Scottish Willy Wonka in London!

By this time the assistant in Slater Menswear was becoming curious as to my need for bottle green trousers. I explained everything much to his amusement. By the time I had tried on the trousers he had retold the story to many of his colleagues one of whom suggested he might accompany me to London as my Oompa-Loompa!

So the core elements to the outfit had been acquired. What else might I add to it.

A trip to Mr Ben Retro Clothing resulted in the purchase of a multi-coloured waistcoat and a paisley patterned cravat (in homage to the Johnny Depp shirt and Gene Wilder cravat not to mention the Paisley snail).

I already had a pair of orange shoes from Camper that were very suitable as Willy Wonka foot ware.

I had patterned coloured socks.

I also already had a nice pair of prescription sunglasses from Niche Optical Tailor. Willy Wonka, of course, donned dark glasses when entering the Television-Chocolate Room.

I had a blue shirt from Thomas Pink. It took cufflinks. I ordered special Wonka Bar ones from Mixed Up Dolly.

I also ordered a ‘W’ Willy Wonka Brooch from Acme Brand Replicas in the US. A replica of the Johnny Depp one. Unfortunately it got detained in customs and didn’t arrive in time for the event.

Willy Wonka - Wonka Brooch

I might wear it as a lapel badge at #JDHorizons 2019! However, even without that I was now Willy Wonka.

Willy Wonka - Brian Inkster

On the way to the venue, in a  taxi, dressed as Willy Wonka the taxi driver enquired as to whether I was the door man at the Courthouse Hotel!

On arrival I checked in at the delegate desk. I was asked my name and responed: “Wonka, Willy Wonka”. For a moment the nice lady checking the delegates in ran her finger down towards the Ws!

I had been wondering how many of the 250 or so delegates had read the small print on the invite and acted upon it. How many Willy Wonkas would be in the room. It soon transpired that there was only one… me!

That is maybe not a big surprise. Although one might have thought lawyers would read the small print they clearly often don’t. They are also risk averse. Dressing up as Willy Wonka to go to a legal conference just might be a step too far.

At my law firm, Inksters, we send out Christmas hats each Christmas with small print on the hat encouraging pictures to be tweeted of recipients wearing the hats with prizes to those who tweet the best pictures following the theme of the year. Many people tweet pictures of them or their children or their pets wearing the hats but very few take in what the theme of the year is and tweet prize winning pictures of that theme.

Some delegates assumed I was a professional actor employed to be Willy Wonka by Janders Dean. One delegate remarked that they had seen me speak at another conference and I didn’t usually dress like this did I?

Willy Wonka - Brian Inkster with ice cream

Justin North’s son who arrived after school to #JDHorizons thought I was the real Willy Wonka. Justin did tell him not to worry as I wasn’t the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as he presented me with a bottle of Dom Perignon for my efforts.

Willy Wonka - Dom Perignon etc #JDHorizons

It was a lot of fun being Willy Wonka for the day. Revealing the attention to detail of the Wonka Bar cufflinks always went down well.

Willy Wonka - Wonka Bar Cufflinks

So what about the conference you ask? Was it any good? Was it worth going to all that effort to get a free pass to every other #JDHorizons for the rest of my life? Yes and Oh Yes I say. I would have given a review of the conference on here but I don’t think I could better Caroline Hill’s splendid review of #JDHorizons at Legal IT Insider. So please do read that.

But in brief summation: #JDHorizons is very different from other legal conferences. There are more speakers (as Caroline highlights a gender balance of those) packing shorter, punchier talks into the day (that element reminded me a bit of the Reinvent Law Conferences). There is no AI, blockchain, futurist hype allowed or if it was no one even squeaked it. Most of the talks were highly engaging and interesting (Caroline highlights some of the better ones and I would agree with her choices). The conference food and drink was second to none: From Breakfast Martinis to afternoon fizz with cakes, sweets and ice cream in between and a good lunch to boot.

Willy Wonka - Breakfast Martinis at #JDHorizons

Being Willy Wonka went well into the evening with drinks at the rooftop bar at the Courthouse hotel (where the picture of me at top of this post was taken) and a few of us moving onto the Hoxton for drinks into the early hours. Many of the customers at the Hoxton wanted selfies with Willy Wonka although walking around Shoreditch as Wonka I didn’t really feel out of place.

Willy Wonka - Selfies in the Courthouse Hotel #JDHorizons

I go to quite a few law conferences and often review them on here. I have become more select in recent times about the ones I will attend (especially when AI and/or blockchain hype dominate the agendas). Although I commented recently that conferences may have reached a turning point where such hype is concerned.

As the only Willy Wonka life-long pass holder to #JDHorizons I will certainly be making use of it like a pensioner who has just received their free bus pass.

I’m looking forward to #JDHorizons 2019 already. I reckon it should be a condition of entry that everyone other than me has to dress as an Oompa-Loompa! But I doubt many will read the small print and Janders Dean will be lucky to have one Ooompa-Loompa in the crowd. Perhaps that store assistant from Slater Menswear in Glasgow?!

Oompa-Loompas at #JDHorizons

As Willy Wonka said:-

Willy Wonka - A little nonsense quote

See you at #JDHorizons 2019!

Image Credits: Willy Wonka drawing © Quentin Blake; Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Film © Paramount Pictures; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Film © Warner Bros; Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Film © Warner Bros.


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