Jermyn Street: The Heritage Brand Hotspot
“Jermyn Street is a wonderful, fruitful place, one of the best places in the world for men to window shop,” enthuses the British social commentator Peter York. Offering shirts, British Goodyear-welted shoes and a wealth of men’s aftershaves and fragrance products, you could easily say that the genesis of the ‘gentleman’ occurred centuries ago, right here in London’s Jermyn Street.
The street sprung to life in 1664 when King Charles II authorised Henry Jermyn, the Earl of St Albans, to develop an area close to St James’s Palace. Over the years Jermyn Street’s distinguished residents have included such luminaries as Sir Isaac Newton; William Pitt; Sir Walter Scott; prime minister William Gladstone; even William Makepeace Thackeray who penned the novel Vanity Fair.
But probably Jermyn Street’s most famous son is the original British dandy, Beau Brummell, the arbiter of men’s style in Regency England, who was commemorated with a bronze statue by the Czech sculptor Irena Sedlecka, erected in 2002. As famous then as the British model David Gandy is today, Brummell was responsible for establishing tailored dressing and the wearing of trousers and neckties and earlier this year Jermyn Street Theatre dedicated a play to him entitled Beau Brummell – An Elegant Madness.
Some things never change, and over the centuries such eminent gentleman could be found in local clubs like Whites or The Athenaeum. These archetypal gentlemen’s clubs that started to multiply from the 1800s were places where you could always bank on a friendly face, stimulating conversation, a decent meal and where members, were of course, suitably outfitted.
Fast-forward to the 21st century and you’ll still come across a wealth of heritage establishments in Jermyn Street, from Britain and abroad, that bow to the every need of men whose names are as likely to appear in Burke’s Peerage as those who sign off with the more pedestrian, Esq. For example, there’s the heritage gun maker Beretta, or Taylor of Old Bond Street, a purveyor of shaving products whose windows are lined with fine badger shaving brushes as well as an extensive choice of scented shaving creams.
“Jermyn Street is unusual in uniting the two worlds of menswear, the contemporary and the traditional, without undermining any of the heritage,” says Katie Thomas, a director of the Jermyn Street Association. In June, the Jermyn Street and St James’s catwalk show included the street’s most illustrious names including Dunhill, Turnbull & Asser, Aquascutum, Crockett & Jones, Cheaney, JM Weston and John Lobb. According to Thomas, it is unique in being the only London street that hosts an open-air catwalk show attended by international magazines. She adds that Jermyn Street also boasts having more Royal Warrant holders than any other London street. These include Floris, which opened on Jermyn Street in 1730, Turnbull & Asser, and Tricker’s situated just a few steps away. Lined with multiple dark, wooden cupboards labelled with the name and size of the shoes contained within them, these are the original shop fittings from when Tricker’s arrived in Jermyn Street back in 1938.
Today, Jermyn Street is not alone in being a Central London menswear-themed hotspot. There’s Dunhill and Turnbull & Asser on Davies Street; Lambs Conduit Street in Holborn that boasts Grenson, Oliver Spencer and an outpost of J Crew; Trunk and Sunspel located on Chiltern Street in Marylebone. Then, of course, there’s Savile Row. Originally named Savile Street, it’s been synonymous with sartorial tailoring since it was built in the 1700s. Still, nothing trumps Jermyn Street when it comes to longevity, the sheer variety of men’s products and being universally renowned. And, if Beau Brummell were alive, no doubt it would meet with his approval.