History of the Fashionable Coat, the Spencer

Lord Spencer by John Singleton Copley, 1800, Named for the Spencer coat
Lord Spencer by John Singleton Copley, 1800, Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Spencer coat dates from the 1790s. It was originally a woolen double-breasted, short-waisted outer coat without tails that was “cut according to its cloth” and adopted by British military officers. Although there are varying elements in the story about exactly how the Spencer coat came about, most people claim the coat originated from a bet put forth by the British Whig and politician, George Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer, who is also the person for who the coat was named.

Although the Earl was perhaps best known for his fine book collection, he was also known to indulge in a bet or two. One bet he indulged in occurred in 1795. While talking to friends, the Earl wagered he could create a useless and ridiculous coat that would become fashionable and be universally adopted. His friends being wagering enthusiasts thought it was a bet the Earl could not win, and they decided to accept it never thinking that such a coat would become fashionable. Continue reading

Cravat Tying Tips for the Georgian or Regency Gentleman

Cravat Tying Styles, Author's Collection
Cravat Styles, Author’s Collection

Cravats came into fashion during the Georgian Era and remained popular throughout the Regency Era. One gentlemen of that era noted the cravat “is not just a mere ornament … [but] is decidedly one of the greatest preservative of health — it is criterion by which the rank of the wearer may be at once distinguished, and is of itself  a letter of introduction.'” Therefore, to make sure a gentleman made a good impression with his cravat, there were numerous ways devised to wear them. This also resulted in various cravat wearing, cravat caring, and cravat tying tips.

Here are some cravat typing tips suggested for the fashionable Georgian or Regency gentleman: Continue reading

Hats to Fit a Man’s Personality in the Georgian and Regency Era

Hats were Named for Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, Courtesy of Wikipedia
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, Courtesy of Wikipedia

In the late Georgian and Regency Era, hats were more than an element of fashion. There were so many hat styles, any man of any shape or size could find a hat to fit his physical features. But hats were not just designed to fit a man’s physical characteristics; they were also designed to fit a man’s personality. In fact, it was noted that “a man may be readily summed up … approved of or condemned by his immediate fellows [by what hat is put upon his head.]” For this reason men wanted to wear the right hat to give the right impression.

Some hats were unique just like their wearers. Others were elegant, and some “exceedingly comfortable” or “admired for the ease and simplicity of style [more] than for any peculiar character[istic].” Certain hats offered nothing more than nice proportions, whereas some hats were noted as being gentlemanly or displaying “character.” Among the hats designed to fit the eighteenth and nineteenth century man’s unique personality were the Clericus, the Eccentric, John Bull, the Regent, and the Wellington. Continue reading

Stories of the Trousers Known as Inexpressibles

Inexpressibles: A Young George Bryan "Beau" Brummell, Author's Collection
A Young George Bryan “Beau” Brummell, Author’s Collection

“That part of the dress which it is now unlawful to name, seems of old to have had the singular virtue of discomfiting witches and demons. Every one may have heard how the bare vision of St. Francis’ inexpressibles put the devil to flight.” This was one nineteenth century description of men’s trousers, known as inexpressibles, and they likely acquired the name because they were extremely erotic and fit so tightly they showed every nook and cranny of a man’s sexual organs, posterior, and muscular legs. In fact, they would have accentuated a man’s sexual organs even more if extra room had not been allowed in one thigh, which created a pocket where a man could position them.

Even with the pocket, inexpressibles left nothing to the imagination. Wearers created the image of a naked Greek God, as inexpressibles were usually pale in color. At least one person noted inexpressibles were a natural evolution:

“[They emanated from] small clothes to tights, from tights to inexpressibles, from inexpressibles to unspeakables, and from unspeakables to unmentionables, from unmentionables to shorts, from shorts to etceteras, from etceteras to continuations, and so on through antifeminines, remainders, masculines, and nether integuments down to the Quaker periphrase lower garments!”

But whether or not that was true, one fact was true, eighteenth and nineteenth century inexpressible wearers had a variety of opinions about inexpressibles. Continue reading

Tie-wig, Bob-wig, and Bag-Wig of the 1700s

A Gentleman's Wig, Public Domain
A Gentleman’s Wig, Public Domain

Of all the fashions of the 1700s, perhaps the wig most resembles “character of that period, embodying the artificiality, the mixture of dignity and affectation, and the pompous conventionality.” The wig did not suddenly appear over night but rather grew into popularity until at one point wigs were so fashionable, if you wore your own hair you tried to make it appear as if it were a wig. During Louis XIV’s reign big flowing wigs were popular, but towards the end of Louis XV’s reign in 1774, smaller wigs became fashionable, until even they disappeared.

Many of the wigs gentlemen wore were created from real human hair, and it was common for fashionable beaus to keep their wig looking perfect by carrying in their side pocket, “a tortoiseshell wig-comb…for constant use.” It also became common for people to sell their hair to earn extra money. In fact, at one point, real hair became worth so much, people who had long flowing locks were sometimes threatened or attacked for their hair. 

In the 1700s, all sorts of wigs came in and out of fashion. Among the fashionable wigs of the times were three: the tie-wig, also known as the Ramillies (sometimes spelled Ramilies) wig, the bob-wig, and the bag-wig. Continue reading

Men’s Boots – Hessians, Wellingtons, Bluchers, and Ankle-Jacks

George III in 1762, Courtesy of Wikipedia
George III in 1762, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Boots have been worn by men for years because they are hard-wearing and long-lasting. During medieval times, riding boots started to be used in heraldry. In the nineteenth century, because boots generally had a bootstrap (a loop at the top on either side), the saying developed “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” meaning a person could succeed because of his or her own efforts or perform a difficult task with outside help or aid. Early in the reign of George III, the close-fitting gentleman’s boot became common. Between the late 1700 and 1800s, popular boots were the Hessian, Wellington, Blucher, and ankle-jack. Most of these boots were created from “grain leather, the flesh side being left brown and the grain blackened … [and] in currying this sort of leather … it went through an ingenious process of contraction, to give it life; so that the heel of the wearer might go into it and come out … easier … [and it caught] snugly round the small of the leg, in a sort of stocking fit.” Continue reading