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Thank you for listening to the Rest is History. For bonus episodes, early access, ad-free listening, and access to our chat community, sign up at restishistorypod. Com. That's restishistorypod. Com. Hello, everybody. Now, could there be a better way to spend Father's Day than by watching the great Tom Holland on stage dressed as Anne Boleyn? I didn't know he was going to be dressed as Anne Boleyn. That's very exciting. So listen, Tom and I will be performing at Hampton Court Palace, and it's very soon. It is on Sunday, the 16th of June. And if you hurry, and I really do mean hurry, there are a handful of tickets left. What we'll be doing is we will be discussing the shocking and gruesome and colorful and thrilling stories of the Tudas. Now, we will be telling the story through six executions. So we've chosen the six best Tuda executions and the way in which they open open up all kinds of stuff about the Tudas. The producers I read in the copy that Theo has given me are convinced that they will get me to dress up as Henry VIII. I would not hold your breath. I mean, Thomas Cromwell, maybe.


Henry VIII, I don't know. Anyway, listen, it's Tom and me on stage delving into the stories of the terrible Tudas. We'll be at Hampton Court Palace. Amazing venue on Sunday, the 16th of June. We can't wait to see you. So get your tickets at therestishistory. Com.


If you're Father is always regaling you and anyone who will listen with the same old facts about Churchill or Napoleon, why not get him? And let's face it, you are present.


Father's Day is just around the corner, which is very exciting for those of us who are fathers or have fathers. And a happy coincidence, Tom, what an extraordinary coincidence it is. The Rest is History book is just out in paperback.


And what makes that coincidence very happy is that the book is packed to the brim with the most colorful, bizarre, fascinating historical questions that you may well never have thought to ask, like what was the most disastrous party in history? Which British politician plotted to feed his lover to an alligator? Why was a Brazilian Emperor mistaken for a banana? Fascinating questions all, Dominic, are they not?


Very good, Tom. It is sure to make your next family outing much more entertaining for all involved, and it is available in bookshops everywhere now. Oh, Jeeves, I said, about that check suit. Yes, sir. Is it really a frost? A trifle too bizarre, sir, in my opinion. But lots of fellows have asked me who my tailor is. Doubtless in order to avoid him, sir. He's supposed to be one of the best men in London. I'm saying nothing against his moral character, sir. I hesitated a bit. I had a feeling that I was passing into this chap his clutsches, and that if I gave in now, I should become just like poor old Aubrey Fothergill, unable to call my soul my own. On the other hand, this was obviously a cove of rare intelligence, and it would be a comfort in lots of ways to have him doing the thinking for me. I made up my mind. All right, Jeeves, I said. You know, give the bally thing away to somebody. He looked at me like a father, gazing tenderly at the wayward child. Thank you, I gave it to the undergarner last night. A little more tea, sir?


So that's Bertie Worcester and his gentleman's gentleman Jeeves in Jeeves Takes Charge, which was originally published in 1916. It's the story in which Bertie and Jeeves first meet. Pg Woodhouse's classic couple. The dynamic at the heart of his stories that delighted so many people for so long. Tom, are you a Jeeves or a Bertie?


I think I am probably more of a Jeeves.


Really? And what are you possibly basing that claim.


I prefer understated sophistication, Dominic, rather than flash excess.


Is that why you're doing this podcast in braces? I'm looking at them right now.


I'm wearing a suit, and it's a suit with braces. And every gentleman knows that the hang of trousers is better with braces than with a belt.


Although I noticed a soft-collared shirt with a suit.


Well, that's just the little hint of rebellion. The little hint of artistic license. I think Jeeves would let me get away with.


Try A little too bizarre, sir, in my opinion.


Are you Bertie or Jeeves?


I'm probably much more Jeeves-like. I hate anybody who dresses in an even remotely unconventional way.


In a flash way, a flamboyant way.


Yeah, exactly. I dislike such people instantly. So definitely much more of a Jeeves.


So this discussion is germane from a historical point of view, isn't it? Because today's subject is the subject of the suit. And it struck me that That passage sums up what has basically always been a dynamic in the history of the suit, because the suit is a uniform. Of course. It's the official wear of men in Britain, in the West more generally and increasingly across the world.


It's literally derived from uniforms as we'll discuss, isn't it?


We will be coming to this because we're going to be looking at how it evolves and where it ultimately comes from. But you have there the sense that it's a uniform for the elites. So Jeeves' sense is that there is a correct way to wear a suit. It should clearly be a certain cut, a certain style, and that you express your elite status through understanding the rules that govern the tailoring of a fine suit. And against that, there is the sense that the suit is something drab, that it bleeds you of character, that it renders you something anonymous, a drone, not in the sense of the drones club that Bertie Worcester belongs to, but a worker bee Where they wear very extravagant suits. Yes. But that people might try and rebel against that, show themselves to be a character by wearing a loud check suit or something like that. And I think that in both of them, there is an expression of an anxiety or perhaps a consciousness that men's formal clothing compared to women's formal clothing is incredibly boring. Would you say that's a reasonable take?


I think in men's clothing, there's maybe been a great anxiety about transgression. Not that that's not there in women's clothing, but I think men are more more tightly circumscribed. The palette of colors has become much more restrained, hasn't it, for men than for women over time in the last 300 years or so. You look at a photo from the 1950s or something, and people are wearing often a very limited range of colors. I mean, basically all gray, dark blue, black, and so on.


But even today, if you think of weddings, men always look boring compared to the women. Or say the Oscars, the red carpet.


Yes, that's a good example.


They have amazing opportunities to dress up any way they like. And men, he's got a slightly darker tuxedo or whatever. I thought it would be interesting to have a look at why that is, why men's clothing is so circumscribed compared to women's clothing.


Yeah, but Tom promised me you're not going to use the word tuxedo again.


Yeah, but you do on the red carpet when you're in Hollywood, don't you?


I wouldn't. When I'm in Hollywood, I don't use it.


Well, we will very much be focusing on the origins of the suit, which is in England, I'm proud to say. But it is globally ubiquitous, isn't it? It is. But it is also, I think, very, very culturally contingent. If you think the broad sweep of clothing right the way back to ancient Egypt, or Samaria, or China, or whatever, or Rome with the toga, it's It's crucial for the way that it molds itself to the body because generally, clothing has hung in robes, so the suit is much more fitted. Again, this is pretty recent development seen in the broad sweep of history. In origins, it's a very European style of dress. I'm afraid, Dominic, that although the suit, as we understand it, I think, develops in England, of course, the word is French.


Yes, it has an element of following something or succeeding something, which I guess the point of a suit is that the different components depend upon one another. They're not just random bits of clothing.


Exactly. Yes, they're coordinated, and generally, they're from the same material. The word emerges in the 14th century, which is a time when something really interesting is happening in the history of fashion, that for the first time, really, in history, in Latin Christendom, the understanding of fashion is evolving at an increasingly rapid rate. This isn't something that's really happened before, as far as we can tell. The reasons for that, I think, are tied up with the development of weaving, of the wool industry, that that nexus between England and Flanders that we talked about in connection with the Hundred Years War. That seems to be propelling the sense that styles of clothing are something that can change decades decade to decade. And I imagine also the Black Death might have had- You want to show off because you might be dead tomorrow.




If you think about examples of 14th century fashion that we've already mentioned on the show, we had Chaucer with his extraordinary-Short tunic. Yes. Yeah. His buttock displaying tunic.


And a tunic you'd wear queuing up for a Newcastle nightclub. Exactly.


And also we had that summit between Richard II and Charles II, the King of France. What was interesting about that was that it was Richard II, who was the show pony, the clothesource. He was endlessly changing his robes.


And he's all about display, isn't he? And that must depend upon access to fabric. So obviously, you mentioned wool. But also there must be dying more cheaply. There must be technological change. There must be skilled tailors. You must have the economic and technological basis from which fashion becomes the superstructure, as it were.


Absolutely. As yet in the 14th, 15th, through into the 16th century, there's very much an emphasis on sourcing the various elements of what becomes your suite of clothing from different suppliers, so button suppliers or rough suppliers or whatever. There isn't the sense of a tailor coordinating it, and the tailor actually is still quite low rent. In the late 16th century, there was a trade guide to the shops and merchants of Venice, and it says anyone can add decoration, and this is why tailors always learn from their customers and carry out whatever task they ask for and nothing more. So the sense of a tailor as a almost menial role, he's simply there to facilitate.


Which is interesting because we would never make that argument now, right? Because now there is a deference to the tailor. Anyone who's ever had something even changed by a tailor or a seamstress or whatever. They're the experts. The expert is king, not the customer, right? But in those days, the customer was king.


Absolutely. And I think in part, that is because across Europe, clothing serves as a signifier of class. So pretty much everywhere, there are sumptuary laws, so laws specifying what class of person can wear what. The sense is that the ability to command very, very lavish materials, exquisite jewels, is a marker of aristocratic status. But what's interesting in Protestant countries, so you think of Rembrandt's paintings of the Dutch burgers, they're sober. The same thing is happening in England with the Puritans. Even in the Elizabethen period, you were starting to get Puritans who are are condemning the extravagance of court dress as ungodly, unpatriotic, and unmanly. This is something that through the, say, into the Stuart period, and particularly in the build up to the Civil War and then civil war itself, it becomes a massive, massive signifier of where you stand on the ideological spectrum.


So growing up as a child reading ladybed books and history textbooks and things, you would have the Duke of Buckingham on the one with his enormous legs, very fancy stockings and a doublet or whatever he's wearing.


And a codpiece.


Yeah, very richly automated. And then the other hand, there's famous pictures that you'll often see on social media of Puritans disapproving of maples in the 1630s, and they're wearing incredibly drab black suits. But interestingly, those suits would still have been quite expensive, right?


Yeah, because black is very prone to fading. So to be able to maintain a black suit of clothing is itself a marker of status. But it's obviously making an ideological statement. If you reject the jewels and the roughs and the silks of the court, you are saying where you are relative to the growing tensions in the Civil War. So there's a brilliant comment by Oscar Wild, who, of course, is very interested in fashion. The Cavaliers and Puritans are interesting for their costumes and not for their convictions. I mean, it's a joke because, of course, the convictions are expressed through the costumes.


Yeah, absolutely.


This, I think, is the context for the invention of the suit, which I had not realized until I started researching this. We can pretty much date the invention of the suit to a precise moment. It comes after the Civil War, after the Republic, after the restoration of Charles II. It's on the seventh of October, 1666, which, of course, is a month after the Great Fire. That is the context for it. Samuel Peeps, in his diary, records it. The King have yesterday in council declared his resolution of setting fashion for clothes which he will never alter. It will be a vest. I know not well how, but it is to teach the nobility thrift and will do good. So a vest. So a vest is what will become a waistcoat in British English. But it's the long, reaches down to the knees or below the knees, and it follows the line of the coat and is worn underneath it. And so the result is basically the three pieces of a suit. You have the coat, what will become the jacket. You have the breaches, which are obviously worn with stockings, and you have the vest, which over time will become a weight coat.


I think the sense that it is designed to be sober, and as Peep says, to teach the nobility thrift in the wake of the great fire, where there is anxiety morally about what the fire might mean about God for its purposes, but also anxiety about the future of the economy with the capital in ashes, that's an aspect. But it's also specifically to boost the wool trade, which remains an absolute motor of the English economy, and also to foster a distinctively English sense of fashion. And of course, Charles II, even while he's in cahutes with Louis XIV, who's over in France and Versailles-ing away, he wants to uphold the dignity of his own court.


But there's an interesting thing here because there's a real interplay between the English and French courts, because it's also Charles II who brings the tie to England. So there's been a great fashion for cravats, as they were called. And they were called cravats because they were supposedly inspired by Croatian mercenaries, mercenaries from the military frontier, fighting the 30 years war. Hrvatska, cravate.Fascinating. Yeah.


And there's a guy in 1680 called Randall Holmes, who was a heraldry expert, who said, A cravate is another adornment for the neck, being nothing else but a long towel put about the collar and so tied before with a bow knot. This is the original of all such wearings. But see, even at this point, they're changing because he says, But now, by the art and inventions of the seamsters, there are so many new ways of making them that it would be a task to name much more describe them. Thrilling. So already people are wearing the ancestor of a tie. They've got that from France, and ultimately, so they think from Croatia, hence the name.


Well, so this is the issue, I think, that the English court is very much in the shadow of the French court, which is why Charles wants to develop his own style. So obviously, he can't stop people adopting cravats and French fashions and so on. But his attempt to establish a distinctively English style, Louis XIV's response to this is to dress all his footmen in it.


Oh, no. How do meaning.


But Charles II sticks to his guns. And listeners may be wondering, I mean, Charles II is the merry monarch. He's famous for getting off with the orange sellers and ladding around. Why this emphasis on relative sobriety? So David David Kutchter, who has written the brilliantly named book, The Three-Piece Suite and Modern Masculinity. He sums it up as a royalist appropriation of a Republican opposition to fashion. So essentially, what Charles is doing is trying to neutralize Republican opposition to the image of the court. He's aware that the court's image is negative. He doesn't want to go the full Puritan, but he wants to try and flick a V sign at Louis XIV while simultaneously appropriating aspects of Republican opposition to the court.


So it's a brilliant visible example of Charles II's Political Balancing Act.


Yeah, it's the via media. And also what this is doing is undercutting the pretensions of the commercial classes in London, because in the wake of the Civil War, there's no prospect of sumptuary laws. There's no prospect of the court being able to legalize restrictions against what people outside the court can wear. So merchants in the restoration are dressing up exactly like courtiers. And so Charles is essentially trying to undercut them by leaving them looking as though they belong to yesterday's fashion. So I think that that is what is going on. And the consequence is that it establishes a sense of anti-fashion as being fashionable. And it's something that's bred of the politics of Restoration England. I mean, it's really fascinating. And effectively, it means that overt displays of masculine luxury, rather as the Puritans have been saying back in the Elizabethan period, are seen as markers of effeminacy and unpatriotic excess.


So some listeners will remember the podcast we did about the roast beef of old England and the distrust of foreign fricassees and ragus. This This is not dissimilar, right? The plainness and sobriety.


Yeah, I think it's really similar.


And especially styles that are inspired by, let's say, the Royal Navy in the 18th century.


Oh, completely. Yeah.


They are seen as this is Protestant manliness. A protestant man, a patriot, does not wear a ludicrously extravagant Frenchified cravate.


No. So it's basically inconspicuous consumption. The more inconspicuous your displays of consumption are, the better it is. And as you suggested, in the 18th century, this fashion, which emerges from the court, spreads across the whole of the country. And it is absolutely driven by the fact that there is an echo of this style in military uniform. Officers, red coats, naval officers, they're being drawn from across the country. And so when they retire or go back home, they are taking this style. And then it becomes something that people across the country, far from London, far from the court, are then able to adopt. I think the other massive influence on it, which it has been since the 16th century, radical protestants. In the 18th century, it would be Methodists, it would be Quakers. John Wesley, the great founder of Methodism, in 1760, he published this tremendous sounding pamphlet, Advice to the People, called Methodists, with regard to Dress.


I use that as my fashion Bible even now.


I know. It's very Sandbrooke. Buy no velvets, no silks, no fine linen, no superfluities, no mere ordinance, so ever so much fashion, wear nothing, though you have it already, which is of a glaring color, or which is any kind gay, glistening showy. Nothing made in the very height of fashion. Nothing to attract the eyes of the bystanders. Neither do I advise men to wear colored waistcoats, shining stockings, glittering or costly buckles or buttons, either on their coats or on their sleeves. I mean, that is the authentic voice of Jeeves, isn't it?


Nothing to attract the eyes of bystanders. A trifle too bizarre, sir. And throughout the PG Woodhouse stories, whenever Bertie tries to do anything slightly unconventional, an interesting a new color, a new pattern, Jeeves just says, no, Jeeves is a man of low church, sartorial inclinations, isn't he?


Yes, absolutely. And it becomes political because, of course, there is a reaction against this. There is a constant reaction against this. So the vest, this long robe that's underneath the coat, as listeners to a very early episode we did on how Persha has influenced everything with Ali Ansari. And Ali said how this is ultimately Persian. It comes to England via the Ottoman court and then through the increasing exposure of the British to the mogul court and mogul fashions. There is a sense of, although Charles II had specified that it should be black, There are opportunities if you have a familiarity with the Ottomans or the moguls to go the full Oriental, flamboyant patterns and things. So that is an aspect. Nabobs would go for that. People who've become rich in India. And that, of course, is making a political statement. The classic example, though, of people who are dressing up as a way of flicking a V sign at respectable society is the figure of the pirate. You think of Long John Silver or Jack Sparrow. The whole point of why pirates are dressing up like that is to make a sartorial expression of how contentuous they are of the norms of society.


Or is that something that is projected onto pirates by illustrators? In other words, if you really are a pirate, maybe you don't have access to that many very fancy cravats. But if you're drawing pirates, you want to portray them as outlaws outside the bounds of conventional sobriety, you would draw them in that way.


No, I think the character, let's call it the Fop, because you get it with highwaymen as well. Yes, of course. The sense that extravagance in dress is a mark of criminality. And so over the course of the 18th century, it means that extravagant displays of dress become more and more politically offensive. And the classic example of this is one that we did ages ago, the macaronis.


Anglo-italian relations, the macaroni.


So this is in the 1770s, and it's a style for very, very tall, powdered wigs. You can't put your hat on top of the wig without somebody going up on a ladder to put it there. A hat's very small and sharpened before the bow of a Thames Worry, waistcoats, Out of All Taste, and the Oxford magazine. And I think we quoted this in the episode that we did.


We did. I remember this quote, a brilliant quote.


That there is a animal, neither male nor female. So again, that sense that to wear extravagant Jess is effeminate. A thing of the neutre gender lately started up among us. It is called a macaroni. It talks without meaning, it smiles without pleasantry, it eats without appetite, it rides without exercise, it wenches without passion. And macaroni is an Italian word, so it's associated with the continent.


Yeah, the luxury of continental Catholic Europe.


Exactly. And so that also breeds a suspicion for France because the French court had always traditionally been the arbiter of fashion. And again, it's what you're saying about roast beef, that to wear a sober suit is to brand yourself as a patriotic Britain, despising Catholic absolutism and flammery. And also, I think in the Byron episodes, we talked about the virulent panic, almost, about sodomy. And again, I think that this is getting tied up, that if you are wearing a flamboyant vest, then you're going to come under all kinds of And of course, that reflects the fact that women are not subject to these strictures. So women can continue to dress in a style that would have been recognizable, I think, to people at Charles Ist's Court, whereas men, that's not the case. And I think there is also a sense in which it is imposing an increasing sense that men are dressed to do things. So they're dressed to fight, they're dressed to stand on ships, they're dressed to march off to war. Whereas women are being laced into corsets and stays and vast voluminous skirts. Actually, it's clothing that is very, very difficult to do anything in rather than sit and look beautiful.


Well, the point is, isn't this the point? That thing that Wesley said, nothing to attract the eyes of the bystanders, because you'll be doing things. For a woman, the assumption is you will not move and you will attract the eyes of the bystanders. Your job is to be looked at, and that is the difference.


Absolutely. And so if as a man, you are attracting the gaze of the bystander through your extravagant dress and through impractical forms of clothing, then you are like a woman. Particularly in the Napoleonic Wars, where there's such a premium on masculinity, then that becomes very, very threatening to the moral standards of a society at war.


Because a total war, people are mobilizing in a way unprecedented against Napoleon. There's a huge popularity of naval fashions and so on in the Navy, generally. But interestingly, it's during this period that we have the rise of the dandy, don't we? So kicking against that.


I don't think it does, because I think there's a quantum difference between a fop who's all mincing canes, beauty spots, powdered wigs, and a a dandy because the dandies are refining, not subverting. Interesting. This British fashion for inconspicuous consumption. Okay. And this is where the idea of the bespoke Savil row suit, which Jeeves would be all over. This is where it gets refined. And of course, the guy who is classically associated with it is George Brummel, Bo Brummel, who is the archetype of the dandy in the Regency period. He's from a middle class background, not aristocratic at all. He becomes such an arbiter of fashion that people will come and watch him dress. It's one of the great activities to do. And shall I quote a friend of the show, Dominic?


It depends who it is. Virginia Wolf. Oh, for God's sake. Really?


Okay, but I think this may be the only thing that Virginia Wolf said that you might approve of. Okay. So talking about Bo Brommel, his clothes seem to melt into each other with the perfection of their cut and the quiet harmony of their color. Without a single point of emphasis, everything was distinguished. Actually, Bo Brommel is the auditor of fashion because he is synthesizing understatement and making it a thing of beauty. So it's Brommel basically who makes breaches unfashionable and introduces the trouser.


He's the king of trousers, yeah.


Because the trouser is a simpler form of clothing. And also he loves a cravate.


Do you know what he said of himself? He said, I, Brommel, put the modern man into pants, dark coat, white shirt, and clean linen. I dare say that will be sufficient to secure my Fame.


And he's not wrong, is he?


And actually that description, it's sad that he's using the word pants to mean trousers. So again, he's with you on tuxedo, clearly. That's quite a sober look in some ways. Dark coat, white shirt, clean linen.


It's pushing the standards of sobriety further so that everything is in a perfect balance. So his tying of a cravate, it comes to seem a work of art. But the point of it is that it shouldn't look like a work of art, which is why people want to see it.


But that said, I read he boasted that it took him five hours a day to get dressed and that he polished his boots for champagne. So there's still a conspicuousness to his inconspicuousness.


Oh, of course. Absolutely. Of course. I mean, that's the whole point. It has to be very expensive. It has to take an enormous amount of time. But it shouldn't be showy or flamboyant. That's the the key way in which this then goes on to influence how people in Britain and in America will dress, because, of course, he then starts establishing the standard. So black trousers, also, of course, white shirts, white shirts in an industrial city like London and the booming cities of the United States in the 19th century, really difficult to keep a white shirt white.


So keeping it clean is a sign of status.


Absolutely. So you have your understated the blacks, which, again, we said how they fade very easily, and the white, really difficult. You have to take it basically outside the city to get laundered. So it's just black and white.


But the interesting thing about his outfit, though, is how it combines signs of status with signs of a... Egalitarianism is the wrong word, but obviously, trousers. Lord Liverpool becomes Prime Minister at the end of the Napoleon Awards. He's the first Prime Minister, isn't he? Robert Jenkins to wear trousers. And trousers are seen as more modern, more democratic than breaches and stockings.


Yeah, I think so.


And of course, they are emulating what sailors bought. The Royal Navy, is a big influence on trousers. So the Bow Brummel-inspired outfit is a nice combination of signs of status, the white shirt, the clean white shirt, with gestures towards a liberty, we're in a new age, the answering regime is gone, all of that stuff.


Yeah. And I think that the idea that it is, I mean, democratic would be the wrong word, but that this is a style of clothing that becomes a marker of respectability. Bow Brommel is a fashion setter. But say by the, I don't know, the 1850s or the 1860s, it's absolutely become a uniform for the great armies of clarks who are oiling the wheels of British and American capitalism. They're not actually wearing suits because the uniform, it's basically black frock coats and the black and gray striped trousers. So basically the uniform of a valet, that's what it will become or someone going to a wedding. It's that thing.


Yeah, I was going to say a wedding. So interestingly, there's so many different gradations. So a frock coat, they really become standardized in the 1820s, 1830s, and they are from, obviously, dress and military uniforms. I mean, a military coat looks like frock coat, doesn't it? And then there's a more sporty version, which is the morning coat. So that's what people often will hire to wear at a wedding. Actually, that's a coat that was designed so that you could ride in it. It's like a frock coat, but you can move more easily. And then obviously, the two other descendants of the dinner jacket and the lounge suit. And the interesting thing about them is that they were both initially more informal than frock coats and morning coats.


Yeah, definitely. We'll be coming to have the dinner jacket or tuxedo. Again, we know exactly when that's invented. We'll look at that in the second half. But the lounge suit, which is effectively what most people wear today, that's something to wear in the country. It's seen as the absolute embodiment of the casual It's sporty, isn't it?


A lounge suit. I mean, hence the name lounge is like you'd wear it on holiday to Seeside Hotel in the lounge because you weren't wearing your smart formal clothes. And now, of course, people call that a business suit, but it's not a business suit, Tom.


Well, except that it is because that dynamic between Bertie and Jeeves is running throughout the 19th century and into the 20th century. And I think the classic example of that is that brilliant comic novel, Diary of a Nobody, about the diary of a clerk who He lives in Hollowway, Mr. Pooter, and is very traditional. And he wears the frock coat and the grey-striped trousers, the pinstriped trousers. And his son Lupin, who is very flash and does not wear that, wears a lounge suit. Very common. Yeah, Jeeves would not approve of him at all. So you can see that although the limits for evolution within this male uniform are pretty circumscribed, there is nevertheless scope for evolution. And of course, that's turbo-charged by the development of mass production. Oh, of course. Because up until this point, suits have been bespoke. They've been made to measure. But the development of mass production means that basically everyone, increasingly in the 20th century, city can wear a suit.


So it's really interesting to look at the tipping point of change when the lounge suit wins out. Because if you look at photographs of the Treaty of Versailles, there's some brilliant photographs of Clemenceau, Lloyd George, Woodrow Wilson, and so on. They're wearing a great range of clothes. I mean, they're all wearing dark in a verticom of suits, but one of them might be wearing a frock coat, one of them might be wearing a morning suit. One of them might be wearing a lounge suit. I think the Italian guy is wearing a lounge suit. But if you fast forward 25 years, everybody would be in a lounge suit. I think Neville Chamberlain is probably the last British Prime Minister who would have worn a morning suit. Anthony Eid and Harold MacMillan, they wear a lounge suit in the 1950s. Same with America. You can't imagine John F. Kennedy walking around in a frock coat.


Don't you think that Chamberlain's dress explains a lot about his posthumous condemnation.


Because he looks out of time.


Yeah, his wing collar and his frock coat. Yeah.


And interestingly, his predecessor, Tori's predecessor, Stanley Baldwin, had worn lounge suits. Chamberlain, he wanted to look reassuring, rigorous, a reminder of greatness. That was his persona. And ironically, of course, it's now seen as an antiquated relic.


I mean, one of the things I hadn't realized is why the lounge suit comes in, and lounge suits tend to be worn without waistcoats, is that the waistcoat is where you keep your the fob watch and the invention of the wrist watch means that you no longer need to do that.


That's interesting. Also, perhaps because places are warmer, better heated.


Yes, that must be a reason as well.


You don't need three layers anymore.


Of course, what also happens is that because the suit is the uniform of American capitalism, and because after the Second World War, American capitalism provides the model globally for business, the suit becomes an international international uniform. And even the attempts to reject it, so the Nehru suit in India would be a classic. And of course, the Mao suit in China, both of them exist in the context of the suit. They are marked by what it is that they are trying to reject. So again, it's like very modulated rejection of something, but you're still operating within the frameworks. Yeah.


David Cameron era Conservatives. They don't wear ties either.


Yeah. And I suppose It shows that just as it was America that inherited the suit from Britain and then broadcast it around the world, spread it around the world. So now in Silicon Valley or wherever, the fashion for rejecting the suit, for going for hoodies and trainers and whatever, may well spill the end of the suit's centuries long primacy.


That's a sad thought, Tom. That's one of the saddest things you've ever said on the rest of history.


I know. The barbarians are at the gates. But we don't want to finish this episode on such a somber and distressing note. So let's take a break now. When we come back, let's look at the great bastion of the traditional suit, which, of course, is Savil Row in London.


Welcome back to the Rest is History with me, Jeeves and Bertie Worcester, Tom Holland, who is talking us through the history of macaronis, fops, Dandysbo, brummel, the lounge suit, the frock coat, the tie, and so much more. Tom, as you said at the end of the first half, there is one place above all, a place that I think you and I both like very much, which is, Identified worldwide with the suit and with men's fashion. And that is, of course, Savil Row. So Savil Row, we moved quite briskly through the 18th century, but Savil Row in the West End of London is a product of the 18th century, isn't it? 1730s, that's right?


Yeah, so that's when it gets built. And it's part of the Burlington estate, which is developed over the course of the 18th century by the Earls of Burlington, who are Anglo-Irish. And Savil Row takes its name from the wife of the third Earl of Burlington, and she was called Lady Dorothy Savil. So that's where the name comes from.


Would you like to know what Savil row used to be?


Yeah, tell me.


It used to be the orchard of Burlington house. But when that all got developed, in the mid-18th century, Piccadilly, Park Lane, St. James's. I mean, that's where gentlemen's clubs tend to be.


So it's the heart of the West End.


It's the heart of the fashionable part of London. And the tailors weren't initially on Savil, because actually, I read today, there's a brilliant book called The History of Savarey by a guy called, I think it's James Sheppard. And he says, actually, initially, it was Doctors.


Oh, really? I thought it was Military Men.


No, Doctors First and the surrounding street, yes, were military tailors. So Bond Street, Cork Street, and so on. There are lots of military tailors And interestingly, a lot of those tailors were Jewish, Tom. So there's always been a link between East End Jewish London and tailoring, so producing tailors. And that was the case even in the 18th century. And then eventually, they move into Savil Row after a few decades. So lots of people may have heard of Jeeves and Hawks. So Thomas Hawks, he started actually in Soho in 1771, and he made military caps and then caps for the aristocracy. And his caps were especially good because they were toughened so that a saber couldn't cut through this cap that you would wear.


I don't think you can get that today in Savil Row, can you?


They might have them on show at Jeeves and Hawks. Jeeves and Hawks is still at number one, Savil Row.


I wish you go and find out.


Totally should.


So already by, say, the Regency period, Savil row is developing this concentration of tailoring that enables it to thrive and to brand itself. And these are the stamping grounds of Bow Brommel. So there's actually a statue of Bow Brommel not in Savil row, but on the other side of Piccadilly on German Street, which is where all the shirt makers are. Those traditions of high-end mail wear, they're centuries old, and that statue of Bow Brommel marks it. I think that to go to one of them I mean, even if you are just window shopping, it's like going to Westminster Abbey to hear a psalm or something. You are participating in an aspect of London life that is living history, that reaches back as a continuous thing for a very, very long time. It establishes itself as the trendsetter, not just for London, not just for Britain, but for the world, because this is the heyday of the British Empire. I think that London is to male tailoring what Paris is to female fashions. I think that that explains the the gendering of the two cities, because Paris in this period is always cast as female and London is always stayed and masculine and bewiskered.


And there's one stayed masculine. Well, he's not that stayed, actually, is he?


No, he's not stayed at all.


The weird thing is his public image is in some ways quite stayed because he's often seen looking very grumpy and a gigantic in Vanesa cape or something. And this is the future Edward VII, the son of Queen Victoria. Bertie. And he's often seen as the man more than anybody else who establishes the standards of male dress, and in particular, the suit. So the classic thing that lots of people will know is that he was very fat, and he couldn't fasten his waistcoat, so he left the bottom button undone. And even now, it is very common, Tom, to do up the bottom button of your waistcoat, is it not?


It is. And he is the one who also inspires in this period, the invention of the dinner jacket, and also the popularization of wearing a white waistcoat with dark dress coat. So the the Penguin look.


I've got a fact about dinner jackets that will appeal to you. The dinner jacket, apparently, is inspired by him because in the 1860s, I think, he wore a smoking jacket, which was the inspiration for the dinner jacket at cows on a yachting holiday. So let's just remember that Tom shamed himself at Cows by wearing the wrong shoes like the Kaiser. Was it at Cows? Yeah, it was.


But what's interesting is that the Prince of Wales wears the wrong jacket. We shouldn't call it a jacket, it's a coat.


Yeah, and everybody copies it.


Everyone copies it. So that's the difference between Edward VII and and the Kaiser. And it's the Kaiser's resentment of that that explains the First World War, which we'll be doing fairly soon.


So on that, this notorious coat or jacket was made by a tailor called Henry Paul. So this is your point about the globalization of British Imperial style. Henry Paul had set up in Savare in the 1840s. Henry Paul made clothes for Tsar Alexander II, Kaiser Wilhelm I, but not, I believe, II, which is a sign of his poor taste. Napoleon III, not a friend of the rest of his history, But a very great friend of the rest of his history, Dom Pedro II of Brazil, had his clothes made by Henry Paul.


Isn't that wonderful? Yeah. It's not just formal wear, so also riding habits, sportswear, and the classic tailor for that is Huntsman, which is the model for Kingsman. People who've seen the film, that's where it was shot.


Even today, Huntsman have quite a military riding look. They have the roped shoulders and high arm holes and the stuff of a a riding jacket.


In the changing room, there is a Crimean War period, Hassar's jacket, which you don't get in Marks & Spencer, has to be said. I guess the classic example of the reputation that Savil row has is that Philias Fogg, who is Jules Verne's global ob-trotting adventurer around the world in... How many days is it? Eighty days? Yeah. He lives at 7 Savil Row, so it would be the perfect address for him. But Dominic, dark times for Savil Row with the emergence of mass production.


Oh, no.


What is the future of high-end bespoke tailoring in an era of mass production? I think that it's how record shops survive, isn't it? You put a premium on quirkiness, on quality, often on sheer expense because a bespoke Saval Road suit is unbelievably expensive. But it's vinyl against digital.


Yeah. It's the sense of craftsmanship. But also, I guess what you're buying, so you go to a Saval Road tailor and there's the photos going back for decades. There's the Royal Warrants. There's all of that stuff. Often, they'll have ledgers with the names of all famous customers. The point is you're buying the history.


Yeah. So at Huntsman, they provided the funerary wear for Queen Victoria's funeral, and you can see all the details of that in their ledgers. So it's amazing. I mean, it's real history, vivid history. But I thought it would be interesting to look at two tailors that set up in the 20th century, the only two who have really established themselves, to see how they coped, how they were able to establish themselves in the era of mass production. So the first of these is Anderson and Sheppard.


That's a very great tailor, Tom.


Which is founded in 1906. So relative to most of the other houses on Savil row, very much a latecomer, and it's an absolute icon of British tailoring. But a bit like the tailors who were setting up in the 18th century that you talked about, it's founded by two people from abroad. So one of them is a Swede, Per Gustave Anderson. So hence, Anderson and Shepard. And the other one is a Dutchman, Frederica Schulte. And they team up with a trouser cutter called Sydney Shepard. So hence, Anderson and Shepard. And it is very, very... I mean, it sounds odd to say that Savaro Taylor can be self-consciously revolutionary, but it is because they repudiate the military character of the traditional Savilre suit, the kind that you get at Huntsman. And they patent what comes to be called the English drape. And a drape, of course, Dominic, is how the jacket hangs from the shoulders. And it provides a softer look. Shoulders aren't padded, lots of room in the sleeves, so you can move your arms up and down. Very flattering. I think that this is why it becomes very, very popular with people from show business backgrounds.


Even though Schulte himself was very snobbish about them, he didn't really approve of show business people. And it operates a little bit like a private club. So You don't absolutely have to have a recommendation, but it definitely helps. So Neil Coward, who's a very early convert, he loves Anderson and Sheppard suits. He vouches for Laurence Olivier, who then becomes a devote. And brilliantly, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, he vouches for Marlene Dietrich. Oh, very good. The definitive female wearer of a masculine suit. Very famous for it.


But the point of the drape and the informality. I mean, informality is a weird thing to say about several rotator, but it's less rigid than a military huntsman type car. That's structured, I suppose, is that you can move in it, of course. You can move more freely. And so the classic example of this, Anderson Sheppard is Fred Astaire. That's right, isn't it? I mean, Fred Astaire, people always say, is one of the great wearers of a suit in all history.


Yes, that's right. And so the story is that he comes and they will roll up the carpet and he will tap dance and pirouette.


I love that.


To see whether he can wear it adequately.


But isn't it right as well, though? So you talked about being revolutionary. But of course, in one way, it's not revolutionary at all, because just like the previous generation of Savoy Taylor, so Henry Pauls and whatnot, it relies on royal patronage. And in this case, it's Edward VIII.


So another Prince of Wales. So it's before he becomes king.


His father, George IV, he's very old fashioned, isn't he? He, in fact, has very firm views about the creasing of his trousers. So he creases them at the sides and despises men who don't.


Whereas his son, the future Edward VIII, is the first member of the Royal family to wear trousers that contain a zip.


That's where it went wrong for Britain.


I think that the fact that he will go on to marry an American and abdicate, I think that that future is ripped there in the adoption of the zip.


Shocking, isn't it?


I mean, terrible moments for Britain. Yeah, terrible.


I bet Prince Harry is a zip man.


Probably. Well, of course, his father, the current King Charles, massive, massive fan of Anderson and Shepher. So he gets introduced it by Diana in 1983. And he, apparently, appears in the ledger as Charles Smith, although it is important to point out that this is hearsay because the secrets of the ledger book are very rigorously kept. And he has He has an Anderson & Shepard coat that he still wears that he's had since 1983. But the best thing about Prince Charles as he was is that there's an intersection with perhaps the most famous apprentice at Anderson and Sheppard, who is Alexander McQueen, the, the Enfant terrible of British tailoring. So he was there and he boasted in the 1990s that during his apprenticeship there, so when you're a fitter, you write in chalk, don't you, on the fabric? And he said that they were making a coat for Prince Charles and he was working on it. And he scrawled in chalk, I am a C-U-N-T. Tom.


But am I not right in saying that? I mean, I know this is my pointed role in historography, generally, is to point out that things aren't true. This is in fact not true. And the chief cutter at Anderson Sheppard said, There is no way that this would have been possible. And in fact, we checked. When we heard this story, we called the coat and checked, and it wasn't true at all. Yeah.


So a good story that turns out to be true. And there, I think, essentially is what the rest of history is all about. But it's interesting. So, of course, Anderson Sheppard maintains the style that made it famous. I mean, it hasn't evolved in response to trends of time, and that's why it's a timeless classic. So Calvin Klein's big fan, Tom Ford, big fan.


I get the impression, Tom, that if the rest of history had an official tailor, you would like it to be Anderson Sheppard. Am I right?


Yeah, I think I would.


Oh, that's nice.


Although there is another tailor who sets up in the '60s, quite like one of the suits from them, but they're no longer around. But Alexander McQueen's presence on Savil Row is a reminder that high-end British tailoring is capable of generating, I use inverted commas, a revolutionary trends.




The 1960s is a real period of crisis for Savil Row. It's seen as being absolutely woefully fusty. Cecil Beaton, in Vogue in the '60s, wrote, It is ridiculous that they go on turning out clothes that make men look like characters from PG Woodhouse. I'm terribly bored with their styling, so behind the times, they really should pay attention to the fashion produced by the young Mods. And of course, Savil Row becomes the headquarters of the Beatles of Applecore, and that is where they have their last concert. On the roof, yeah. Yeah, on the 30th of January 1969, which features at the end of Get Back, the Peter Jackson film that came out last year. Two weeks after that concert, The tailor who makes three of the suits that the Beatles are wearing on the cover of Abbey Road. So only George Harrison, who's in denim, is not wearing a suit made by this guy. He opens a shop on Savil Row, and this is called Nutterers of Savil Row.


It's a great name.


And it's named after Tommy Nutterer, who is the frontman for it, who's an absolutely classic '60s figure. So he's working class, son of a plumber, hates his father, who he sees as oppressive, domineering, goes to work as a tea boy in the Civil Service. Then he sees an ad, Savil Row tailors have vacancy for youth to learn trimming, packing, and general shop duties. He goes and answers the ad, gets the job, becomes completely obsessed by tailoring. He studies at the Taylor and Cutter Academy on Gerard Street doing night classes. He's actually not very good at it. Lance Richardson, who wrote a brilliant book on this, House of Nutter, the Rebel Taylor of Savil Row, says, If a cutter can be likened to a brain surgeon, the academy taught Tommy just enough to be a nurse. But it doesn't really matter because he's very, very groovy and very, very good-looking, and he has good contacts. So he's gay, and he goes to a party at Brian Epstein's, the manager of the Beatles, where he meets Peter Brown, who is Brian Epstein's assistant. Yeah.


Ends up being a big cheese in Applecore.


Yeah. So when Brian Epstein dies, basically, Peter Brown takes over the gopher role, and he's name-checked in the Ballard of John and Yoko as the man who arranges for John and Yoko to get married in Gibraltar, near Spain. And this is why Tommy Nutter starts mixing with '60s pop royalty. So he's one of the first people to listen to Hey, Jude. And he says he thinks it's rubbish as a joke.Great.




Banter. And his brother also, John is a fashion photographer, so takes the photos for John and Yoko's wedding. And Peter Brown teams up with Cilla Black, later a TV presenter, and they basically fund Nutterers of Savil Row, and it's an absolutely massive success. And that's partly because Tommy Nutterer has this tremendous charisma and taste. He's very innovative in his designs, but also because he has this partner, a guy called Edward Sexton, who's an absolutely old-school master of tailoring. And they set up this shop It helps to modernize Savil Row because it's the first Savil Row shop that has display windows, open windows. Lance Richardson writes about it that the first Nutter's look represented a culmination of everything mod, smashing, subversive, continental, American, queer, and camp, combined with a keen fidelity to old-school Savil Row craftsmanship. So it's groovy and it's traditional. And it's not surprising that Mick Jagger loves it, Bianca Jagger loves it. Elton John. Elton John loves it, but also the Duke of Bedford and Lord Montagu. So all kinds of nobility.


So when you look at the photos of those suits from the '60s and '70s, they are very cool. They've imbibed that '60s spirit of Victoriana, haven't they? So they're quite long coats. They're quite Victorian-looking, sometimes. Gigantic lapels. And that look, that flamboyance is enduring. So in 1989, when Tim Burton makes his Batman film with Jack Nicholson as the Joker, I think it's Tommy Nutter who designs the Joker's suit.


Because by that point, Tommy Nutter and Edward Sexton have basically split up a bit like the Beatles. And Edward Sexton said, Tommy was fantastic. Nobody could touch him, socializing and bringing in the right type of clients. I've got nothing but love and affection for him as a person and a creative figure. But as a businessman, he was fucking useless. So very sad.


That's how he talked.


Yeah, it is. I listened to him. That's how he talked. Brilliant. And so basically, Edward Sexton realizes is that Tommy is an absolute liability because he doesn't understand money. He's just spending it, and he buys him out. And Tommy now goes on to design, as you said, the Joker suit, all that thing. Then he dies in 1992 of AIDS. But Edward Sexton is still going. I mean, he died last year I think.


He did Harry Style's Pink suit.


Yeah, the famous pink suit.


So I'm going to tell you a fact now about Tommy Sexton, Tom, that will please you enormously. On Saturday, we walked down Savil Row because I knew this podcast was coming and wanted to get inspiration. Also, my wife wanted to visit a shop called The Deck, which is the first tailors on Savil Row, staffed, run by, and aimed at women. We went to The Deck. Lovely, very nice. Then we went next door because We were just passing and we saw these jackets in the window and I was like, Oh, they're lovely jackets. Let's just go in there. I hadn't looked at what the shop was called. We went in. It was Edward Sexton, Tom. My God, living history. I said to this guy, I like this jacket, whatever. When he He heard me talking, he just stared at me in stuperfaction. And then he said, The rest is history. And I said, Yeah. He said, So weird. I was listening to Lord Byron this morning.


Oh, that's brilliant.


So there you go. I thought you'd enjoy that. So that's Alex Lamb from Edward Sexton, who is a listener to the Rest is History.


Okay, well, that's good. You're giving him a shout out. I would like to end this by giving a shout out to Will and Marie, who run Old Town, who are brilliant tailors. They're not on Savil row, they're on Holt on the the north Coast of Norfolk, but they're about to retire, and I've got loads of their stuff, and I've frantically ordered three more suits.


Three suits? How many suits do you need?


Well, because they're now retiring. So I need to get in there. Anyway, I know that they're both listeners to the rest of history. So, Willa Marie, thank you so much for everything you've done. All your fans love you. And sorry for that incredible self-indulgence. I hope that everyone else will forgive me.


I think everyone will forgive that. Just as we end the podcast. So the future of the suit. There's a brilliant guy on Twitter Twitter called Derrick Guy. He loves the King of Spain.


Yes, he does, doesn't he? Yeah.


He's always posting stuff about the King of Spain and comparing him with, I don't know, Andrew Tate or Jordan Peterson or somebody and saying, Look how brilliant the King of Spain is.


Was it there was a photo of him at Wimbledon or something? There was, exactly. Looking very stylish.


So this guy on Twitter is very up on the king of Spain and traditional tailoring, are very down on Daniel Craig's pink suits, which are too tight and all that thing. And everybody loves that, and it's a great thing. It's funny and all this stuff. But There's something that's obviously very self-consciously retro about it. So in other words, the suit lies in the past. And my question to you is, now that you've done all this research on the history of suits, a sentence I never thought I'd say. Where is it going? Do you think it will endure because it's the uniform attached to a particular cast and it has a status and a prestige attached to it? Or do you think it is all doomed and we are all going to be wearing hoodies and jeans in 40 years?


I think it will endure because I think that probably in business, And I speak as someone who's never really had a job. But I get the sense that if you're in business, there are occasions where you need to look smart and convey a sense that you're being serious. So even if you're a tech bro, there may come the point where you've got to go to Davos or something and give a talk about AI. And probably then you need an item of clothing that will signify that you're serious. And I think it's interesting how it does seem to me that women still struggle with that. So the female suit slightly conveys receptionist now, doesn't it?


There's a bit of a Hillary Clinton side to the female suit, isn't it? The pantsuit.


The pantsuit, and that's become very dated, which is why I think for men, the suit probably will endure because it gets you out of that problem.


Do you know, Tom, that's why I think it endures.


It's a uniform, and uniforms can be quite useful.


Totally. I like wearing a suit because I like to be inconspicuous and because I can just be really bland I don't have any taste, so I can escape being judged.


I think it's the sartorial equivalent of businessmen's English. I mean, even if Britain's obviously declined, but America declines relative to the rest of the world, English is simply too useful to fade, and likewise with the suit. But equally, just as businessmen's English is not something that you would write a book or a poem with. Also, I imagine that if the suit continues as the default uniform, there will be scope for Savil Row or for designers like Tom Ford or Giorgio Armani or whatever that can refine it. So I would guess it probably is going to India despite the best that Silicon Valley can throw at it. All right.


On that heartening note, Tom, I think we should draw a close over this. That was absolutely fascinating. A tour de force. We haven't had a tour de force for a little while on the rest of his history, so it's nice to have one again.


Oh, thank you. I found it unexpectedly interesting.


Yeah, really good. And if any of the establishment mentioned in this podcast wish to express their appreciations, I wouldn't encourage that behavior. If they do, that's great. Goodbye. Bye-bye.