brummelA style icon, society’s most self-possessed ruler and fashion’s most notorious dandy: just the word Beau is synonymously linked with the sartorial elegance and simplistic fashioning of George Brummell. Lucy Swan takes a look at the original dandy.

The characteristics of Brummell carve him out to be the most enigmatic and elegantly wasted innovator of menswear in the last two centuries. Beau Brummell -as he is remembered- is an inspiring example of the power and potential possible with the right amount of determination and dedication.

Brummell’s father William was a shop keeper and worked extravagantly hard to move on socially, which he eventually achieved, being appointed as Private Secretary to the Prime Minister of England. 

Beau entered the world at 10 Downing Street on 7 June 1778. His Father was comfortably earning enough to send Beau and his brother to Eton, where Beau was well received. There, the first signs of his fastidious nature, for which he would be famed, were beginning to show. When the weather was wet, Beau would avoid the streets so as not to get dishevelled and always took great care of his dignity.

It is after Eaton that Beau became the society sensation that has inspired generations of ‘new dandies’ and the Peacock Revolution of the Sixties. Beau was already well acquainted with the Prince Regent (future King George IV), a relationship which flourished  Beau’s social status. Other friends included several other wealthy, established characters of 18th century London, and it were these contacts which allowed Beau to move in the highest circles before creating a name for himself, which did not take long.

Customarily in the 18th century, men wore powdered wigs, perfume – due to infrequent bathing -, knee breeches, heavy make-up and extravagantly embroidered satins accentuated by high heeled shoes. Brummell, however, never conformed to the institutionalised fashions of the society men around him and created a simplified, yet wholly more elegant, ensemble for himself.

beau-in-1815Beau’s daily bathing routine meant that he did not succumb to the need for perfume or make-up, instead opting for perfectly coiffed, natural hair, eliminating wigs from his instantly recognisable aesthetic. Plain, dark wool coats kept him warm, elaborately tied cravats of cream linen, highly polished boots and slim, fitted trousers finish of the look which acted as a catalyst for menswear, evolving into the two piece suit we all know today.

His extravagant and high maintenance look has been referenced throughout several highly styled eras, including the Peacock revolution and the suited and booted mods of the Sixties. The mods’ dapper appearance was a direct reference to the Dandyism of the fin de siècle or the end of the 18th century, when men were the flamboyant characters of society.

 

 

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