It was the arbiter of Regency men’s fashion – Beau Brummell (1778-1840) – who recommended that men’s boots should be polished with champagne and a man should take no fewer than five hours a day to get dressed. Though Brummell is accused of dandyism, the truth is that he was not a man to favour poppies on his China silk waistcoat or heliotrope stripes on his peach-coloured britches. No. Brummell’s style was understated. Dark coats, full-length trousers, pristine shirts and a gloriously cascading cravat. Okay, maybe that explains the five hours a day spent in front of a mirror…
Beau Brummell is a 19th-century pop culture icon. He appears in novels by Georgette Heyer, TC Boyle and Arthur Conan Doyle, and he stars in his very own detective series by Rosemary Stevens. Forget fragrance lines by JLo and Nina Ricci, Brummell has his very own rhododendron: the Rhododendron Beau Brummell (does what it says on the tin, I guess). Unapologetically blooming, with what is referred to in gardening circles as a ‘ball-shaped truss’, the scarlet blossom was hybridised in 1934. Brummell has also inspired a watch, a poem, a line in a musical (Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats), and a Billy Joel song.
So, why am I going on about Beau Brummell? Men like Brummell and others of the dandy set favoured tailors on Savile Row, a street – no, a holy grail – of gentlemen’s fashion in Mayfair which now includes none other than Alexander McQueen – the new addition in bespoke menswear. Savile Row is home to bespoke. Bespoke means clothing that will ‘be spoken for’ by individual customers, so that you get clothing tailored to your style and fit and – from a tailor worth his or her salt – for your personality. Says Sarah Burton of this new move, ‘It feels like a homecoming.’ She says that McQueen started as an apprentice on Savile Row and always wanted to open a flagship store there.
The label has collaborated with Huntsman to produce a Prince of Wales check trouser-suit and a cashmere overcoat for their first collection. Of course, it wouldn’t be McQueen if the collection didn’t have a sense of pastiche spicing up the paraphernalia – skulls and horns and wings, you know the like – that graces the premises. Victorian influences include looks that range from aesthete to the nonpareil, lord of the castle to various military references. The premiere collection launches in October 2012, and will be showcased in a menswear show in January.
The newest Alexander McQueen store can be found at:
9 Savile Row