I jot down notes on potential weirdos and one my list is Beau Brummell. What is weirder than a dandy? Or just fashion in general? Then I started to read about him and realized that to someone in 2018…. he’s only sort of weird.
Beau Brummell was famous for….being famous. Except he did it without Instagram, Facebook or even a computer because he was born in 1778. He’s like the original Kardashian. Just without all the selfies.
Beau was born George Bryan Brummell to a middle class family and was the very epitome of a dandy. A dandy is an old timey version of a hipster or a metrosexual. A man who is very focused on his clothing and appearance. In addition to the physical looks the dandy would cultivate a persona of leisure, elegance, and wit. Looking through the lens of history he seems very much a caricature of what I picture the aristocracy to be like in the 18th and 19th century.
Though the clothing and the style may be odd, this idea of a person whose only goal is to focus on their appearance and to live a life of leisure is not one unfamiliar to us. As a matter of fact, it is a little amazing to think that one achieved this before the onset of technology.
Though Brummell was born to a politician in a middle class family, his father hoped he would become an aristocrat. He was sent to Eton where he quickly became a trendsetter. He rubbed elbows with the future George IV who was so fascinated by Brummell that he enjoyed watching him get dressed.
See, you knew that there was going to be a weirdo in here, didn’t you? If you have ever found yourself wondering how people occupied themselves before Words with Friends, here’s your answer. They spent hours watching other people bathe and get dressed.
Becoming famous for just…being famous in the 18th century did not involve finding as many followers on social media as you could. You just needed to find one or two really well placed patrons that were willing to watch you…get dressed. Yeah, it is still kind of creepy, isn’t it?
Brummell got very lucky by snagging the friendship of the future king. He ended up having a significant influence on the high society at the time. Things like brushing his teeth and taking a bath every day were apparently very avante garde at the time. You have to really admire a guy who brought what we consider basic personal hygiene to everyone’s attention.
Even though Beau Brummell has come to be associated with style and wit, he eventually had a falling out with the Prince of Wales. He was shunned from society and quickly ran out of money. With debts mounting and a huge gambling problem, he fled overseas. With no funds to support his lifestyle. You know, pimping ain’t easy! It’s also not cheap. He eventually died in a state of dishabille.
Though he was not the only dandy parading around the aristocracy. Probably not the only one that George IV watched attend to his “toilette”, his legacy has lived on. In fashion, and literature he is often the first name that comes to mind when someone speaks of a dandy. That feels fair though, since he brought things like bathing and brushing your teeth and made them fashionable.