Friday, August 15, 2008

Thank God for the Beau

I intended to include this post in our “bad boys” series, but George “Beau” Brummell really wasn’t bad. In fact, he did a lot of good things — for men’s fashion, for interior d├ęcor, and for cleanliness. And he did it all with an amazing amount of style.

Beau Brummell was raised to be a gentleman, even though his father was only a government clerk who became a private secretary to a member of the aristocracy. Young Brummell attended Eton and made many influential friends. Once he arrived in London, his cool impudence made him a favorite in the upper levels of society, and before anyone knew it, he had become the leader of all things fashionable.

In fact, Brummell dictated men’s fashion. He threw off the lush embroidery and fanciful materials of the late 1700s and aimed for a sober but perfect dress. He was the first to wear evening dress of black coat and breeches. He ordered that cravats were only suitable if they were starched. He brought pantaloons (which became trousers) into fashion. The men’s suit today still follows the basic design laid down by the Beau. It was said that the Prince came to his house merely to watch him dress and begged him for advice.

He decreed that simple lines and lack of ostentation should rule inside the home as well. He encouraged the proprietor of White’s to install a bow window so he could sit and watch the ladies go by. I keep imagining him and his cronies using the Olympic style of rating.

“Ah, Lady Bessborough. 9 for execution and 10 for style. That’s 90 points overall. Perhaps I’ll deign to attend her ball next quarter day.”

He also started a craze for bathing. It was rumored that at least one royal duke could only be bathed when he was unconscious because he hated bathing so much. Brummell brought cleanliness and fastidiousness into fashion. And I’m sure a number of people breathed easier because of it!

Unfortunately, the Beau had two major failings: his love of gambling and his lack of skill at it. His mountain of debt forced him to flee for the Continent in 1816 before he could be arrested and thrown into Debtor’s Prison.

So, perhaps he was a bit of a bad boy after all.

8 comments:

ambeen said...

I just learned about him in a lit class last semester. We joked that he was the first metrosexual. :P

QNPoohBear said...

I really learned a lot from Beau Brummell: The Ultimate Man of Style by Ian Kelly. It was rather too graphic though. Has anyone seen the recent BBC movie version?

Regina Scott said...

I have the Kelly biography in my to be read pile. Sorry to hear it's graphic. The one-man play in London was supposed to be pretty good.

QNPoohBear said...

Blogger Regina Scott said...

I have the Kelly biography in my to be read pile. Sorry to hear it's graphic. The one-man play in London was supposed to be pretty good.


Let's just say I learned more about syphilis than I ever wanted to know. It is a very interesting look at the Regency era though and I learned a lot.

Oregon Regency Society said...

Ah, Beau. I adore this site. I'm going to add it to my blogroll.

:)

Oregon Regency Society said...

Incidentally; there's a BBC production about him that has yet to be released here. You can see a glimpse here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHcKxAPCKug

Cara King said...

I wasn't impressed by the "Beau Brummell: This Charming Man" television production (the one with James Purefoy) but it was way better than that dreadful old Hollywood movie! :-)

And I think he was definitely a metrosexual!

Cara

Regina Scott said...

Welcome, Oregon Regency Society! I came across your website by accident when I was researching. Very interesting activities! I hope to try one some time!