A marriage of fashion with a particular attitude or affectation is nothing new. Back in the 17th century the overdressed fops tried to impress, then came the macaronis with their effeminate aura. But it was George ‘Beau’ Brummell (1778–1840) and his dandyism which had a lasting impact on men’s appearance.

An 1805 watercolour caricature of Beau Brummell.
An 1805 watercolour caricature of Beau Brummell.

Compared to the social circles he would later ascend to, Brummell came from a non-aristocratic background. His mother – Mary Richardson – was the daughter of the keeper of the lottery office, and his father William Brummell rose from being son of a valet to being prime minister Lord North’s private secretary. The family lived in apartments at Downing Street, London, when George was born – an auspicious address to start life from.