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Men’s Fashion at the End of the 18th Century: Beau Brummell and the Great Male Renunciation

As the end of the 18th century approached, the industrial revolution continued with new inventions, and these innovations were reflected in fabric quality and sewing techniques. Bourgeois family heads now became busy workers who spent long periods of time at work. They needed comfortable clothes. These developments had previously led to a great simplification of the clothes of English men, who were influenced by the French court fashion and wore brightly colored silk trousers and jackets that ended at the knee, ruffled and lacy shirts, and wigs. Under the influence of the spirit of the neoclassical period, women wore white, thin, not puffy clothes that resembled Greek statues and ancient columns, while men wore silhouettes that emulated the “ideal body” of Ancient Greece. Trousers have become longer and jackets are in dark colors, short in the front and long in the back. Thanks to the flexibility of quality wool fabrics, clothes fit more comfortably on the body, the athletic ideal male body was underlined, and the Dandy style emerged. These trouser jackets, worn with boots during the day, were worn with silk stockings and high-heeled shoes at night. This change would later be called the Major Male Waiver. Because there has been a great standardization and simplification in men’s clothing, which was at least as ornamental as women’s in previous periods, and the state of being ornamental has now been left only to the woman who is responsible for sitting at home.

Beau Brummell and the Great Male Renunciation

Beau Brummell, born in 1778, played a major role in the spread of this style. Brummell, who graduated from Eton College and was a close friend of the prince during the Regency Period, is quick-witted, arrogant and very fond of his appearance, and is also called the first influencer in men’s fashion that history knows. Her style is based on quality fabric, precise cuts and understated elegance. His daily attire is similar to that of other gentlemen of his time; he consists of dark coats and full-length trousers. He wore a blue coat – usually wool – camel waistcoat, off-white linen shirt with white tie, buckskin trousers and dark riding boots. In the evenings he often wore a blue jacket, white or black vest, black ankle-length trousers, striped silk stockings and black shoes.

Above all else, Brummell preferred clean shirt underwear and a carefully knotted tie. Starched neck ties used with very high collars were his trademark. Brummell, whose motto was “To be truly elegant, one must remain unnoticed,” is said to have spent 5 hours a day dressing. His meticulous habits, such as cleaning his teeth, shaving, and taking a daily bath, create a guiding influence on the high society. The Prince is known to have spent hours in Brummell’s dressing room watching him go to the morning toilet. He uses the inheritance he inherited from his father to live such an unemployed life, but he has bad habits such as spending a fortune on clothes and gambling.

Due to his falling out with the prince and his growing gambling debts, Brummel fled to France in 1816, where he had to live in exile for the rest of his life and died there in misery of syphilis in 1840. There is a statue of Brummell on Jermyn Street in London, and many stories and films referencing him. He is a very important and extraordinary character to understand the spirit of that period in England.

Deniz Önder