Statue of Brummell in Jermyn Street

George Bryan Brummell (1778-1840) was an Englishman who became the ultimate arbiter of fashion. His style was emulated by all men of society, including the royal princes of the time, and his influence continued long after his death, right through to today.

"Beau" Brummell's charisma evidently developed early, as he was able to achieve the astonishing feat of surviving several years at Eton school without ever being caned or involved in fights with other boys. He was always considered charming company. He later became friends with George, Prince of Wales (who was to become Prince Regent and, later still, King George IV). Before long, Brummell's caustic wit, elegance, style and sheer panache had placed him at the very apex of London (and, therefore, the world's) fashion.

Brummell's approach to clothing stood on several solid principles: immaculate cleanliness, classical simplicity, meticulous tailoring, strong contrasts, and a total eschewal of showiness. The clothes, he maintained, should serve to get the wearer noticed, and not be noticed in their own right. The revolution he wrought at the turn of the 18th century forever put in the past the powdered wigs, excessive lace, flamboyant embroidered tailcoats and swinging waistcoats of the Georgian era. Indeed, Brummell and his contemporaries were decidely unlike the mincing fops and macaronis of that earlier generation. His circle were known as the Dandies, young men about town who wore what is now recognised as the defining Regency male clothing, tailored to emphasise an athletic male physique, simple, sober, and, above all, manly. The ever-popular and romantic look of Mr Darcy, of 'Pride and Prejudice', is a well-known example.

Brummell's choice of dark tailored jacket, crisp white shirt and neckcloth, and his introduction of trousers (as opposed to breeches) into the male wardrobe, influences formal menswear still. The dark business suit and white shirt are direct descendants of Brummell's look.