St. James’s – Spiritual Home of the Dandizette
St James’s was created during the Restoration in the 1660’s after Charles II was restored to the throne. Throwing off the shackles of the Puritan hell and cultural deprivations of Cromwell when music, dancing and fun were forbidden, King Charles II ushered in a new era of cultural revival and liberation. One of his many lasting legacies began when he assigned the lands from St James’s Palace to Piccadilly, to Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St Albans to create a retail haven for ladies and gentlemen of style.
The area may have reached a peak in Regency Times but in many ways it remains unchanged to this day. Style seekers with the souls of Dandizette’s and Dandies have been drawn to St James’s ever since that famous Dandy of Dandies Beau Brummell strutted the streets.
Beau Brummell’s grandfather was a shopkeeper in St James’s who let lodgings in the rooms above to the aristocracy. Such rooms were often taken by ladies and gentlemen, including French aristocrats fleeing the terrors of France and notables such as Isaac Newton, The 1st Duke of Marlborough (when he was simple Colonel Churchill), Aleister Crowley and the Duchess of Richmond – whose image remains on the back of most British coins in the form of Britannia.
In the twenty-first Century, St James’s is still where one goes to enjoy the sight of a gentleman or lady dressed to the exacting standards of Beau Brummell. In fact the Beau Brummell dictum that “To be truly elegant one should not be noticed.” remains as revolutionary today as it did then.
In going against the grain of the 21st Century Fashion houses with their “Look-At-Me”, celebrity-driven high value disposable excess, St James’s remains a welcome anachronism preserving the art of hand-stitched suits and shirts and traditional shoe-making.
Were Beau Brummell to wander into St James’s today he would find some of his favourite shops and grocers still going about their daily business in much the same way as in the 18th Century. He could even find the dusty leather bound ledgers on which his measurements were taken and retaken as he placed orders for his magnificent trendsetting suits. Were he so inclined he could even finally pay his outstanding bills.