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The Fashionable Gentleman

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Regency gentlemen had a serious obsession with fashion, especially after Beau Brummell arrived on the London scene. More about him next week.

During the Regency, knee breeches gave rise to trousers, although it was a good long time before trousers were accepted at Almack’s Assembly Rooms. By 1816, after Brummell’s flight to the continent, trousers became all the rage, with breeches reserved for very formal occasions (except for older gentlemen who did not adapt well to change).

Pantaloons and trousers were made of light colors, such as buff or yellow, and clung tightly to the body. Pantaloons had side slits with buttons to keep them tight, and straps under the instep to keep them in place.

shirts

A gentleman’s shirt tended to be long, shapeless, and white. Over the shirt would go the waistcoat (white for evening wear, colorful and eye-catching for day wear). An elaborately-tied cravat would spill over the shirt and waistcoat. Over that would be a dress coat with tails—cut in a straight line from the waist down), or a morning coat or riding coat, which also sported tails, but was cut away in front. Following Waterloo, a frock coat with a military design became popular for informal occasions. Over all of this would be a great coat, worn all year round, often with capes of various lengths along the top.

cravat

greatcoat

greatcoat

morning coat or riding coat

morning coat or riding coat

Black boots were the daytime shoes of choice for a Regency gentleman, particularly Hessians, which were knee boots that sported a tassle in front. Hessians were worn over the trousers, but at the end of the Regency, Wellington boots, which were worn under breeches, which were tied at the foot, became popular. For evening wear, black pumps—perhaps made of the new patent leather—and silk stockings were worn. Hoby was the bootmaker of choice.

Regency gentlemen wore top hats of various shapes and sizes, and hats made of beaver were quite popular. Lock’s was the hatter of choice for the exclusive Regency gentleman. Gloves, jewelry (cravat pins, rings, and fobs), snuff boxes, quizzing glasses, and scents were also important to a gentleman’s toilette. Thanks to Beau Brummell’s fastidious cleanliness, bathing also become de rigueur in the Regency.

Beau Brummell

Beau Brummell

Just as Regency ladies required a personal maid or abigail to assist them with dressing and care for their wardrobe, gentlemen required the services of a valet.

For further information:

Kristen Koster

Laudermilk, Sharon H. and Hamlin, Theresa L., The Regency Companion, Garland Publishing, 1989.

The Regency Gentleman series

The Regency Gentleman: His Upbringing

The Fashionable Gentleman

The Rise and Fall of Beau Brummell 

Gentlemen’s Clubs in Regency London

Captain Who?

Gentlemen’s Sports in the Regency

The Gentleman’s Passion for Horses

Riding to the Hounds

The Regency Gentleman’s Passion for the Turf

A Regency Gentleman: His Upbringing

Privileged children were born at home, typically with the aid of a midwife, and immediately handed over to a wet nurse, since upper class ladies did not nurse their own children. Brought up by servants or dependent relatives, children saw their parents rarely, always accompanied by servants.

Later, a young gentleman might be tutored by a local clergyman or by a hired tutor or governess. When he could read and write, he would be sent off to public school, such as Eton, Rugby, Harrow, Westminster, Winchester and Charterhouse. The course of study centered on the classics, the French language (used often in polite society when servants were present), drawing and fencing. However, life at public schools could be traumatic.

Eton

Eton

In spite of the outlandish fees charged by these exclusive schools, the accommodations were abominable. Sleeping chambers were cold and damp, food barely edible and scant, and the older boys bullied the younger ones unmercifully. The older—and bigger—boys forced the younger ones as servants—a system known as fagging—and often such treatment resulted in revenge against a headmaster who allowed such brutal bullying to occur. Headmasters, too, were known to cane a boy’s bare buttocks until it bled.

The idea was that a boy who could survive public school and learned the meaning of obedience could be trusted to command—servants or regiments— or succeed in whatever place in Regency society he was fated to take.

Following public school, our young man could go on to Oxford or Cambridge, although he could devote himself to other pleasures—eating, drinking and wenching—as well. Most university students did a fair amount of both.

On the Town

Prior to the Napoleonic Wars, a young man would go on a tour of Europe with a tutor (“bear-leader”) to sample the pleasures of Europe. During the Regency, a young man was more likely to take up a commission in the army (particularly if he was a younger son) or simply learn his way around London, therefore earning his “town bronze.”

A young gentleman was expected to be skilled in fighting with fists, swords, and firearms, as well as gaming. Coolness, courage, and a “stiff, upper lip” were essential for a young man about town. He was also expected to be stylish enough to be accepted into gentlemen’s clubs and ballrooms, including Almack’s Assembly Rooms. Gentlemen, too, were scrutinized by the patronesses before being issued the coveted vouchers.

Other frequent amusements by young bucks might be parading up and down Bond Street and “accidentally” tripping people with their canes, catching the edge of a lace gown with their spurs, or quizzing people with their quizzing glasses. These young men “raising Cain” were the scourge of the night watchmen with their tricks on unwary passers-by.

And then there were their “bits of muslin” or wenches. A young man was expected to marry for money or connections, make sure his heir was his, and then proceed to find passion with a series of mistresses. While discretion was expected, most of society turned a blind eye to these foibles, at least on the part of gentlemen. Ladies’ behavior was much more closely scrutinized.

Laudermilk, Sharon H. and Hamlin, Theresa L., The Regency Companion, Garland Publishing, 1989.

The Regency Gentleman series

The Regency Gentleman: His Upbringing

The Fashionable Gentleman

The Rise and Fall of Beau Brummell 

Gentlemen’s Clubs in Regency London

Captain Who?

Gentlemen’s Sports in the Regency

The Gentleman’s Passion for Horses

Riding to the Hounds

The Regency Gentleman’s Passion for the Turf