This article has been transcribed from a copy of the Cardiff Times in the online collection of scanned Welsh newspapers 1804-1919 in the National Library of Wales, with grateful recognition of the free access accorded to all readers. Paragraph breaks have been introduced for easier reading.
‘Beau’ Brummell (1778–1840) was for many years the arbiter of men's fashion, and the word ‘great’ is ironic. He is unlikely to have said that ‘so long as he was well hatted, well gloved, and well booted he cared not a fig for the rest of his attire’, since he invented well-fitted trousers and jackets (thus inventing the man’s suit), and put an inordinate amount of energy into perfecting the tying of his cravat. A ‘masher’, as Samuel explains elsewhere was ‘the sort of young man who fancies that he can overcome and overawe everybody by the potency of his attractions’ (no. 47, 12th May 1888). The song, ‘Captain Cuff was sung by G .W Hunt:
‘Captain Cuff, tho' I'm not worth half a dollar
I'm awfully stiff in style, as my cigarette I puff’.
St Augustine (358-430) defined a sacrament as ‘the outward and visible sign of an inward, invisible grace’. The phrase ‘supping with a man and brother’ does not appear not to be a reference to the anti-slavery movement, which used the words ‘a friend and a brother’, but a phrase descriptive of the sense of friendship felt during a drinking bout. The first use of the phrase ‘the limbo of forgotten things’, has not been traced, though it is current around 1900. The pun on soles/souls is obvious in the context of ‘limbo’. The description of passengers ‘clinging to the successive rails and playing up them, harp fashion’ presumably refers to handrails. ‘[T]he band-box man’ is Mr. Harry Hartley, protagonist of the story ‘The Rajah’s Diamond. Story of the Bandbox’ by Robert Louis Stevenson, which first appeared in the London Magazine in 1878. By a series of apparent misfortunes, Hartley ends up in possession of a quantity of diamonds. — David Skilton
The patent cross-bar front – much in vogue just now.
GREAT man (I don't remember who it was for the moment — perhaps it was Beau Brummell; never mind, it was somebody great) once said that so long as he was well hatted, well gloved, and well booted he cared not a fig for the rest of his attire, he was sure to look like a gentleman. I quite admit that there is some small grain of truth in this recipe for being well dressed, but it is not universally true by any means. The savage tattooed masher, with a fish-bone artistically stuck through his nose, who imagine[s] that he is in the fullest of full dress when he wears only a smile and a pair of epaulettes, might see the full force of it, but I don't. I should venture to hold that a man who walked out in the most resplendent tile [hat], gorg[e]ous back-stitched gloves, and patent leather boots that he could see to shave himself in would be by no means well dressed if he had a palpable patch (a checked patch on a striped ground say) to the northern end [top] of his pants, nor would he look particularly imposing had he ail the toilette advantages spoken of super-added to a light coat on which figured a map of England in hair oil. I quite admit that an immaculate hat is one of the outward and visible signs of respectability and strict virtue, but [for] a man to feel well dressed, and therefore to assume that dignity of carriage without which no amount of sartorial aid is of much avail, must also acknowledge even to himself that he is ‘all of a piece,’ that his armour is complete. What I mean is that a man whose outer habiliments are of the most attractive can hardly think to himself that he is well dressed when he knows that beneath all the outer gloss and the veneer of his clothes his elbows are starting through a very ancient shirt that seems to find some difficulty in holding itself together, that his stockings are jewelled in not a few holes, and that his braces are a strange combination of bits of strap and string. What are patent leather boots to a man who has lost three waistcoat buttons in front, and whose trousers are ‘jagged’ and are nicely scooped out round his heels? It is the consciousness of really being well dressed that imparts itself into a man's manner and really makes him feel so. Good gloves cannot and will not go with a frayed shirt-cuff fastened together with a brass stud, for the gloves only serve to accentuate and show up the pove[r]ty of their surroundings. Then multiply this impression, and you will find the unexceptionable gloves, hat, and boots, when contrasted with a suit which is admittedly not comme il faut, only make a man look pretentiously seedy, assertively shabby.
This is the rational outcome of the hat, gloves, and boots theory.
As for gloves, very few people really know how to wear them well even in this age of elaborate displays of ‘Two Thousand Pairs of our own Ne Plus Ultra Patent Kangaroo-skin Hand Beautifiers at Is 5½d the pair (vide the ever truthful tradesman) which might be expected to bring gloves within the reach of all. A man to look well in a pair of gloves ought absolutely to be himself unconscious that he is wearing them, and not go fumbling about when he tries to pick up his change, or seem all thumbs as some men do. The man who simply carries gloves (frequently odd ones) in his hands and not on them is a self-deluding idiot who dreams that he looks respectable, but who is grossly mistaken. As a rule be is simply a nuisance to those with whom he comes [he in] contact, for he generally has a reprehensible habit of smacking his gloves about the persons of other people in order to emphasise his remarks. But he is not by one whit more an uncomfortable being than is the man who gives one an attack of nerves by eternally drawing off his gloves and pulling them on as though he were all the time the victim of a mental struggle as to whether he should study appearance or comfort. Then again, what are more hideous than the gloves with elaborate patent fastenings which are sold, the things that make one feel as though one were carrying about a small stock of machinery, the heavy, ugly, shapeless things that suggest that the wearer's fingers have somehow swelled and become discoloured.
Mark how effective gaiters are in concealing defects in boot uppers. Gaiters cover a multitude of – well splits.
Although I dispute wholly, good sir, that a man's attire is complete when he is well gloved, well booted, and well hatted, I should emphatically maintain that no man can look well dressed unless he is so. Be a man ever so gaily light the presence of a dubious tile is sufficient to destroy the effect of what should be an imposing tout ensemble. There is something essentially demoralising about a seedy hat. The palpable bulges in it, the supporting of which from the inner side has probably been attempted by means of small pieces of chip artfully sewn, suggest to the suspicious imagination that the owner of the hat has bonnetted himself whilst trying to go home by rail (that is, by clinging to the successive [hand]rails and playing up them, harp fashion) early some morning after supping with a man and brother. There is ever something disreputable about a bulge in a man's hat – it is as hard to explain as a black eye or three distinct scratches at short and almost equidistant intervals on a man's face. The hat seems to afford what is absolutely the keystone to a man's appearance, and its very gloss or want of it would seem to bespeak the degree of moral rectitude or decadence attributable to him, just as the angle at which he wears it would point to his being either a man of solid and steadfast tastes or one of rakish disposition and uneven moral balance. There is a good deal in hats – especially when a man carries his handkerchief, gloves, and spectacle case in them. I quite admit, too, as I have said, that an ancient pair of boots of the crabshell character would let down any man so far as his toilette was concerned, an otherwise natty exterior notwithstanding. But boots on their last legs (or rather feet) are not quite so fatal in this respect as are hats which have existed the allotted span and grown decrepit. Ink the seams of a bat never so carefully, endeavour with a silk handkerchief and a wet sponge to polish it never so carefully, have a new band put round it to hide the grease never so artfully, the shadow of its dissolution will cling to it still, and it will stand confessed as a ‘faked-up’ fraud. Boots ready to give up their soles and adjourn to the limbo of forgotten things can be more readily resur[r]ection sad [?]; blacking, elbow grease, and brushes are wonderful revivers, and If the[l] uppers be positively cracked the stocking beneath can be artificially inked or an ingeniously and artfully planted splash of mud (which indeed serves to bring out in a superior degree the high state of polish of the rest of the boot) can be so placed all to hide the defect. Not even the presence of heels that through long wearing down have become triangular can always wholly spoil a man's appearance, though they have some tendency to give him a shambling gait.
A disreputable billy-cock and its wearer.
That man whose saw about the gloves, &c., I have been refuting certainly went to extremes in more senses than one, did be not, good sir? For my part I should contend that a man should be either consistently seedy or the reverse. The usual idea of the British would-be-scrupulously-genteel man is that he can redeem the general faults to be found in his habiliments by a lavish and assertive display of linen – such linen, that is, as is comprised in collars, cuffs, and ‘dickies’ [false shirt-fronts], and there is something in this idea, so long as a man is not so rashly aggressive as to call down upon his head the title of ‘Captain Cuff.’ After all, sir, when one cannot be a real tip-topper in the matter of dress, there is something infinitely comfortable about consistent seediness and what's the odds so long as you're happy ? A man who is decently shabby feels no anxiety regarding rain or dust or tobacco ash or stray sparks from matches. The fact that pocketing his pipe will make him smell of tobacco troubles him not; he has no fear about bulging out the legs of his trousers when he sits down and crosses his legs in comfort; he marks not a spot of grease on his pants with any feeling of vexation and alarm he is comparatively a happier man than the band-box man.
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Last modified 10 March 2022