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Men

The wild hellraisers and mannered gentlemen who populated this era.

The Knut, or the Edwardian Man-About-Town

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Basil Hallam as "Gilbert the Filbert"
Basil Hallam as “Gilbert the Filbert” via The Sunday Times

The Regency era Corinthian, the Parisian flâneur, and the Broadway playboy had its late Edwardian England counterpart in the knut. The word was popularized in the revue The Passing Show, which opened at the Palace Theatre in April 1914, and made an instant star of its lead actor, Basil Hallam when he sang “Gilbert the Filbert,” whose rousing chorus made the song infectiously popular with audiences:

I’M GILBERT, the filbert,
The nut with a k.,
The pride of Piccadilly,
The blasé roué;
Oh, Hades, the ladies,
They’d leave their wooden huts
For Gilbert, the filbert,
The colonel of the nuts.

P.G. Wodehouse immortalized the knut, or “drone” in his particular parlance, in his works, stating (in the preface to Joy in the Morning): “The Edwardian knut was never an angry young man. He would get a little cross, perhaps, if his man Meadowes sent him out some morning with odd spats on, but his normal outlook on life was sunny. He was humble, kindly soul, who knew he was a silly ass but hoped you wouldn’t mind. He liked everybody, and most people like him. Portrayed on the stage by George Grossmith and G. P. Huntley, he was a lovable figure, warming the hearts of all. You might disapprove of him not being a world’s worker, but you could not help being fond of him…Most knuts were younger sons, and in the reign of good King Edward the position of the younger son in aristocratic families was . . . what’s the word, Jeeves?, Anomolous? You’re sure? Right ho, anomolous. Thank you, Jeeves. Putting it another way, he was a trifle the superfluous side, his standing about that of the litter kittens which the household cat deposits in the drawer where you keep your clean shirts.”

Further Reading

THE KNUTS O’ LONDON: Desperate Fellows All, and the Distinction Between the “Knut” and the “Blood” Nuts by P. G. Wodehouse – Vanity Fair (Sept. 1914)
The Last of the Nuts
Basil Hallam Radford also known as ‘ Gilbert the Filbert’

How to Get that Edwardian Look for Movember

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We are twenty days into Movember, an annual, international event to raise awareness of men’s health issues run by The Movember Foundation. Since the mustache was a quintessential feature of the Edwardian era, I have found some tips from Illustrated book of instruction, the Robinson system of barber colleges (1906) for those of you who would like to give your mustache some Edwardian elegance.

English Military Mustache

English Military mustache
This style of whisker is becoming to most any face, excepting a very short or full face. It is shaven up on the side, from the corner of the mouth straight back to 1 or 1 3/4 inches below the ears. It is trimmed short–about one half inch long on full face and from 1 to 1 1/2 inches on a thin face. With this whisker the mustache should be rolled well up and combed out loose and brushed back, or the curling iron may be used to give it an easy bend.

Russian Point Trim

Russian Point Trim
This style of beard is very becoming to a thin face or to a pointed or narrow chin. It is trimmed 1/2 to 3/4 inch long on the side, according to the full of the face. Gradually increasing in length to 1 1/2 inches at the center of the chin. On the side of the chin clear up to the mustache it is cut to give the chin the proper shape, and trimmed under the jaw to bring it down to a feather edge on the neck and also on the cheek when the beard grows up high and thick. The top of the cheeks and lower part of the neck may be either shaven or clipped, then the edge of the beard featheredged to blend with the shaven edge. The mustache is slightly bent with a curling iron, or with the fingers, then combed or brushed up loosely.

Van Dyke or Business Man’s Style

Van Dyke
[This] is one of the most popular both in style and comfort. It is very largely worn in hot weather; it gives the profile of the face in a more clear way than most any other style. In addition it is a trim that is easily accomplished by taking care to have the point terminate exactly below the center line of the chin, and the length of the hair gradually diminish to a point nearly opposite the corners of the mouth. From there to the hair line above the ear it should be closely cropped and cleverly blended into the hair line.

Lord Dundreary Trim

Lord Dundreary
Old but stylish and becoming to a tall man and dignifying to the appearance of the wearer, hence suitable to a professional man. This beard runs down to the corner of the mouth and the chin is shaven straight down, a little wider on the neck. It is slightly trimmed at the ears, from the hair down tot he end of the jaw below the ears; then the straggling hairs clipped down to avoid bushiness and the ends of the whiskers trimmed to a point. This should be done twice or three times a month. The hair on the temple should be trimmed down to blend with the whiskers. In dressing this bear, it should be oiled with a little brilliantine, then brushed down from the ears and brushed back from the chin.

The Gentlemen’s Clubs of Edwardian London

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Gentleman's club, 1906

Club life was life to an Edwardian gentleman. There he could unwind, dine, play cards, smoke, and chat in a wholly masculine enclave–some even provided temporary quarters for its members down from the country (or in dire need to avoid their London home). The Edwardian era was the apogee of the gentleman’s club (one could posit that the entrance of women into the workforce and rise of the women’s suffrage movement chased gentlemen into arenas where women could never penetrate–though at the same time, the Edwardian era also saw the establishment of co-ed clubs). The Edwardian man could belong to as many or as few clubs as he liked, each catering to his politics, his personal interests, and his sporting activities.

The crème de la crème of clubland were situated along St. James’s Street and Pall Mall. There one could find a mix of long-revered traditional clubs with newer additions–though all were extremely aristocratic. St. James’s was the site of the famed White’s, Boodle’s, and Brooks’s clubs, as well as the Conservative, Junior Army & Navy, Devonshire and the New Oxford & Cambridge. Pall Mall boasted the very aristocratic Guards’ Club, the Army & Navy, Marlborough, Carlton, Reform, Travellers’, Athenaeum, and the Junior Carlton.

White’s was the most prominent club of all, but it was a purely social club. Boodle’s was also social and non-political.

The major political clubs were Brooks’s (Liberal), Carlton (premier Conservative club), Junior Carlton, and the Reform.

The military had clubs for every branch and rank, but the Guards’ club, whose membership was restricted to officers of the Guards Division (Coldstream, Grenadier Guards, and Scots Guards), was the toniest of them all.

The top sporting clubs were the Travellers’ (of which one was required to have traveled 500 or more miles away from London to be eligible to join), the Turf, the Automobile, Hurlingham, Ranelagh, and the Royal London Yacht Club.

The other leading social clubs were the Junior Athenaeum, the Marlborough (formed by Edward VII when Prince of Wales), Beefsteak, Portland, and the Savile.

In any one of these clubs, alliances were formed and solidified, and like-minded men could gravitate towards one another for a nominal annual fee (a gentleman always paid his club [and mess, if he were an officer] bills before any other debt, at the risk of social ruin!). At one point, during the Constitutional crisis of 1910-11, the gentle balance between one’s political persuasion and one’s social circle tipped wildly towards sticking with those who shared one’s politics–to the detriment of the peace within purely social clubs. Nevertheless, the gentlemen’s club remained a bastion of civility and aristocratic privilege, and many in other social classes mimicked its manners and mores.